Restaurant kiosks are labor savers, particularly if operators use their full range of applications. Beyond handling mobile ordering and payment, restaurants can use kiosks creatively to reinforce the brand experience, entertain guests and steer people toward particular menu items. According to Savor’s Restaurant Technology Ebook 2023, restaurants are using kiosks to prompt guests to sign up for their loyalty program and provide updates on rewards. Some are using kiosks as interactive consoles that help guests pass the time with games that include branded content. Kiosks can serve as autonomous beverage service stations, allowing guests to customize and pay for their drinks. You can also promote particular menu items on kiosks by featuring mouth-watering photos and descriptions of the profitable items you’re hoping to sell on a given day.
Making staff feel appreciated – and more likely to engage with the business and remain on the job – isn’t just about offering tangible rewards. The little things you can do to recognize a job well done, or acknowledge personal milestones like birthdays or work anniversaries, can all help you boost morale and make employees feel like they are making important contributions to the broader team. Harness your employee-facing technology to automate email messages and other alerts so you can trigger these communications as needed without a lot of manual effort.
Is your restaurant adopting more guest-facing self-service automation and technology to streamline service and ease labor challenges right now? If doing so feels like you’re making your service less personal, there are steps you can take to ensure your guests feel like they have been receiving your best service — whether it’s from your app or from a member of your staff. A recent report from Automation & Self-Service suggests customizing the user interface: For example, increasing font sizes and presenting content in a wider range of languages can make the user feel more confident when interacting with your brand. Then encourage the guest to create an account on your system so you can offer personalized content and recommendations related to their tastes and ordering patterns. This will speed up their subsequent ordering processes — and also improve your chances of increasing their check sizes with items they enjoy. You can then use that data to send them promotions that are likely to connect with them at the times they are most likely craving your food. Finally, offer some help to navigate your system. Chatbots and virtual assistants can answer questions, but also be aware if there are parts of your ordering process that are bottlenecks or result in abandoned carts so you can smooth out your ordering process from start to finish.
Beyond using digital signage in your restaurant to help drive sales, there are also opportunities to use it to boost communication and engagement with your team. As a QSR Magazine report suggests, you can use it to list a leaderboard of performance metrics on your team to encourage healthy competition -- or even use it as a training tool itself. You can share messages about your values that help engage people in your culture, as well as to recognize the achievements of staff members. Day to day, use it as another vehicle to deliver just-in-time messages to staff to make sure everyone is up to date about key information.
The recent launch of Threads, Meta’s answer to Twitter, came with much fanfare. But in the weeks since, the response has been more about the disillusionment of users who thought they would be getting a useful new way to connect but were disappointed by what it actually delivered. A recent Restaurant Business article compared the Threads launch to what’s happening in restaurant tech. In the technology space, it’s common to launch a minimally viable product to test the waters and gain traction, but it’s a far more difficult task when you’re launching a product designed to compete with an established tool. It needs to wow people from the start to gain adopters — not just be a mildly better alternative. Yet this happens routinely in the digital loyalty space in restaurants, with large, established brands running sophisticated, targeted promotions and many other brands being satisfied with, say, some adoption of the restaurant’s app and redemption of general offers. To keep people engaged once they have downloaded your app and joined your loyalty program, you need to be able to offer competitive features and understand what features will hold people’s attention and offer some “wow” factor. It’s important to invest in the early stages in the testing needed to get a program right — otherwise you may be spending the money later on, when your audience will likely be more difficult to re-engage.
Right now and into the foreseeable future, artificial intelligence-powered technology is being used to augment human skills by taking on tedious tasks and serving as an assistant to human workers. For example, as a recent Nation’s Restaurant News article indicates, a restaurant using AI-powered tech to track human employees packing orders can alert a staff member in real time when they should put fries in a bag to ensure they don’t get cold waiting to be collected. That said, tasks that are already handled by assistants now — scheduling staff, ordering food and other administrative tasks, for example — may soon be handled by AI with oversight from a restaurant’s general manager. As a result, assistant general manager roles could be reframed in the future. There is potential there to free up resources that can be reapplied in other areas.
Investing in a POS that integrates with your business and supports its growth is a great place to start building a tech foundation for your restaurant. Just make sure any new system you’re considering meets some key criteria. As a recent article from pizzamarketplace.com advises, your technology provider must be a real partner, providing anytime support, development customized to your restaurant, and onsite training, for example. Get confirmation, not just lip service, that it can integrate seamlessly with all parts of your operation. It needs to be user-friendly, easy to learn and easy to fix if problems arise. It must also prioritize cybersecurity, take steps to protect your stored data and provide you with guidance on what to do when concerns arise. Finally, consider what you’re trying to achieve through the new system — and if (and when) it will deliver the return on investment you envision.
As more restaurant brands embrace automation — whether it be through bots capable of taking orders, machines that can prep ingredients faster and more precisely than humans, or simply the tracking of guest preferences — they are raising the bar for not only themselves but also for other brands. “Now most consumers expect their local pizza place and their favorite coffee house to remember their last order, know what credit card they want to use, and make it quick and easy for them to complete an order,” said Aaron Nilsson, chief information officer of Michigan-based Jet Pizza, in a recent article in the Economic Times. “Society has moved on and automation is expected — even from the small-time operator.” As you consider potential technology investments, look at your biggest pain points and areas of waste. From labor to inventory management to food prep, there are incremental steps you can take to automate processes and ensure your brand isn’t left behind as highly established brands show what’s possible with the technology
The Nation’s Restaurant News 2023 Restaurant Technology Outlook survey found that while a large portion of restaurant operators are planning to invest in guest-facing technology, there is a large untapped opportunity in back-of-house artificial intelligence functions that aren’t visible to your guests. The survey found that only 12 percent of respondents say they use AI-powered sales forecasting and labor scheduling, for example. But there is great potential for savings in these back-of-house functions. Using AI in combination with your collected data can help you analyze your inventory to ensure you’re not overpaying for ingredients, as well as to automate payments — tasks that often require employee labor but don’t have to. Where might you be able to use AI for back-of-house tasks in ways that free up your staff?