Whether your guests love them or hate them, QR codes have been sticking around at restaurants. They are an easy choice for restaurants looking to collect data and build loyalty, but guests who still like holding paper menus may need some extra encouragement to improve the experience of using the codes. Consider harnessing QR codes to connect guests to additional nutrition and allergen information for a menu item or retail food product. Add to the surprise factor of your gift cards by using a code on the cards that directs the recipient to a photo or video of their gift online. QR codes can also put your paper menu to shame by helping guests experience menu items before ordering them: Food Management reports that at the Pensacola Beach Hilton, they’re using QR codes to show their menu alongside video previews of select dishes and drinks.
When you’re trying to upsell a guest with an appetizer or a dessert, you have a better chance of transforming their hesitation into agreement if you can show them exactly what they might be missing. Tableside tech can be helpful here. While a tablet can be a time and labor saver in a restaurant, it can also serve as a virtual dessert tray or a sneak peek into your kitchen if you can use it to present quality photos or even video of menu items being prepared. Are there dishes on your menu with a high wow factor – or ones that are especially profitable for you? How can you boost their profile with guests through the tech you currently use?
According to a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association, 65 percent of restaurant operators say they lack sufficient staff to support customer demand. As a result, when customers call in orders or reservation requests to restaurants right now, more of those calls are being transferred to lines supported by artificial intelligence. There are clear benefits — it’s easier to collect guest data, and a bot won’t get rattled during a busy shift or miss upselling an order. However, even the most established brands have been experiencing some growing pains with the adoption of this technology in recent months. Would your guests be amenable to connecting with you via AI? If not or you’re not sure, could you incentivize guests to place orders online or via app instead?
Rising costs, along with the struggle to attract and retain labor, are hastening the automation of a wide range of restaurant tasks. While up to now, most kitchen automation has been supported by human intervention, newcomers to the market are blurring the lines between quick-service/fast-casual restaurants and sophisticated vending machines that can serve warm food and drink. In the process, they are gaining the ability to keep costs low for customers. Newly launched Mezli, for one, has been called the world’s first fully autonomous robotic restaurant. It serves up a full hot menu of healthy grain bowls, sides and drinks without any human intervention — and their bowls start at $6.99.
In recent months, three restaurant ordering platforms were the target of cyberattacks that led to the theft of more than 50,000 payment card records from at least 311 restaurants, according to the cybersecurity firm Recorded Future. The records, which were stolen from MenuDrive, Harbortouch and InTouchPOS, were posted for sale on the dark web. While cyberattacks have become so frequent across industries that they don’t necessarily make headlines for the individual businesses affected anymore, helping your restaurant become a more difficult target can go far in helping it avoid an attack. Talk to your tech vendors about the evolving best practices for avoiding a breach or managing one if it happens. It’s important to patch and update software regularly, encrypt sensitive information, upgrade devices that are no longer supported by the manufacturer, enforce strong passwords and multi-factor authentication for everyone logging on to your system, develop and enforce strong security policies for employees using their own devices at work, and train staff on an ongoing basis about the best security practices that can prevent a breach. Your insurer can also advise you on cybersecurity protections and coverages, both to help you prevent a breach and to get your business get back up and running promptly if it does experience one.
While so much customer-facing restaurant technology has been adopted in the past few years, many restaurant kitchens are still playing catch-up. If your kitchen is a place in your business that is struggling with inefficiencies, consider adopting tech that applies manufacturing processes to it. The Spoon reports that companies including Powerhouse Dynamics, Perfect Company and Orbisk are handling such tasks as monitoring kitchens in real time to optimize labor allocation, ingredient portioning, food waste reduction and other aspects of operation.
While restaurants aren’t yet offering guests fully personalized menus, that kind of customization is an enhancement that’s likely to be a more common aspect of the restaurant experience in the coming years. Those businesses with a treasure trove of guest data at their fingertips will be in the best position to capitalize on the change. Right now, you can take steps to strengthen the historical information you have to draw from. How can you tap the technology you have to better understand who your guests are, what foods and promotions they are drawn to, and when they like to order from you?
While virtual restaurants have created helpful new income streams for restaurants, they haven’t been immune from problems. Copycat scams, inconsistent application of health and safety standards and intellectual property infringement have occurred in some places, threatening public perception of the industry. In the interest of addressing those issues and bringing consistency to virtual restaurants, the Virtual Restaurant Association was formed recently. It is seeking to provide free memberships to virtual restaurant companies that demonstrate their commitment to health and safety, brand integrity, intellectual property and profitability. If you have launched a virtual restaurant or are thinking about expanding your business with one, consider following the development of the group at virtualrestaurantassoc.org.
Much like restaurant operators juggling an assortment of disjointed equipment and software, consumers often have a range of apps cluttering their smartphone screens. There are multiple accounts to track and nothing is connected. Getting a consumer interested in signing up for yet another app in this environment can be a hard sell. According to a new study from PayPal and Pymnts.com, there is considerable interest in “super apps” that connect retail, restaurants, grocery, banking and a range of other essential and nonessential services. Such technology could also make it easier for restaurants to reap benefits from their affiliation with complementary brands. Consumer trust in cybersecurity is one stumbling block standing in the way of such technology, but expect new offerings to emerge. In the meantime, consider how you might benefit from tech solutions that eliminate app clutter for guests and offer consumers an even more streamlined purchasing experience that includes their favorite brands — including and beyond restaurants. It could give your business a boost when it comes to attracting and retaining guests.