As consumers have used digital channels more frequently to order restaurant food in recent years, many independent restaurants have been lagging with the mobile tech needed to facilitate those transactions. According to the June edition of the Digital Divide study, which included data from a PYMNTS survey of approximately 2,400 adults who regularly purchase food from restaurants, 56 percent of chain restaurants offer mobile order-ahead capabilities, compared with only 31 percent of independents. Low-cost tools to help eliminate the snags from the ordering process will become increasingly important. Fortunately, some companies are focusing on supporting independent restaurants’ tech transition to help level the playing field. ItsaCheckmate, for one, recently announced it would be launching an integration for small and medium-sized businesses that would enable direct ordering through Google’s search and maps functions.
Your guests have clear, distinct preferences about what they order from you – so why should it be any different when it comes to how they order from you? You may serve guests who are technology phobic right alongside others who are early adopters of the latest gadgets. Neither kind of guest should feel alienated during the process of ordering from you. Whether you are accepting an order from your drive-thru, a tabletop tablet, a guest’s mobile phone, someone sitting in your dining room, or from some other source, you can earn your guests’ loyalty by providing some flexibility in how they order. When your guests place an order with you, do they feel this flexibility – or do they feel pushed in a certain direction? Can you accommodate a range of preferences without compromising order accuracy, speed and data quality?
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.
At a time when restaurants are having to run on especially thin margins, knowing who your most profitable guests are can be a big advantage. According to a new survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, you will likely do well by focusing on your higher-tech guests – and serving and rewarding them through your mobile app. More than half of survey respondents cited mobile app availability as central to their willingness to spend more money. What’s more, your app can help secure their business for the longer term. An overwhelming 79 percent of respondents said they use mobile apps to connect with restaurant reward offerings. These guests are also the most likely to be interested in taking part in subscription offers.
Boosting certain convenience technologies you use in your restaurant could elevate your check totals – or result in your leaving money on the table. That’s according to recent research from Pymts.com, which surveyed consumers about the technologies that most influence their purchasing. The most popular features among respondents were the ability to order online, which 41 percent favored as part of their experience in a restaurant, as well as loyalty programs, which came in at a close second with 39 percent of respondents saying the programs drive them to make a purchase.
As labor challenges persist for the time being, consider adopting technology that takes some of the more tedious and time-consuming aspects of the recruitment process off your plate. App-based systems – Fliptable and JobToday are just a couple of examples – can help a business find new employees and manage the details of onboarding them, making it easier for existing staff to share job postings with others, candidates to apply, and employers to track a candidate’s progress in the hiring process – all through a simple swipe on a phone.
If there is one area of tech to focus on this year, you’ll be in a good spot by smoothing out the process your guests must go through when placing orders and making payment – and finding low-touch, low-interaction ways of doing so. According to a new report from Oracle about consumer expectations for restaurant dining, 73 percent of restaurant patrons would like to reduce their use of cash, 49 percent would like to minimize their human interaction, 46 percent want to settle their bill on a mobile app, and 71 percent wouldn’t mind if restaurants, at the time of online booking, communicated a limit to the amount of time guests could keep a reserved table. This is good news for operators struggling to keep labor. What aspects of your guest experience might be better managed by outsourcing them to tech this year?
At the recent Restaurant Leadership Conference, Technomic’s Joe Pawlak had some good news about key segments of the restaurant industry (and less-great news about another) – namely that business for quick-service and fast-casual restaurants had returned to pre-pandemic levels, but fine dining was still three years away from a full recovery. To be sure, the technology that has kept businesses going during the pandemic has been a closer fit for limited-service restaurants. However, many of the tech tools that have been used to elevate efficiency and hospitality these past two years still apply to full-service restaurants, albeit in different ways. In a recent episode of the webcast Restaurants Redefined from Modern Restaurant Management, three industry professionals weighed in on how they see technology evolving for restaurants after the pandemic – particularly for full-service restaurants. At the front of the house, for example, technology can help ease some of the friction points. What if a restaurant could use geofencing technology to identify when a guest arrives and get a jump on preparing their favorite appetizer or having their usual wine on the table as they sit down? While a full-service restaurant might not want to use a QR code for guest ordering, offering a code (or other app-based option) for paying the bill when the guest is ready to depart could improve the overall experience. Empowering a server to offer a refund or other check adjustment on the spot as needed via tech tools can also boost service. At the back of the house, technology that minimizes human interaction – ovens, grills and other appliances that don’t require much human oversight – will help free up staff to elevate guests’ experience at the front of house. Finding ways to adapt the technology available – not so much to minimize human contact but to improve the human contact that full-service is known for – might just help hasten the recovery of these businesses.
At a time when every extra bit of profit is critical, it’s important for your customers to be ordering food from your restaurant app and, ideally, collecting their order from you – as opposed to calling a third-party delivery provider to bring it to them. If you’re trying to convert guests from third-party channels right now, focus on offering a good introductory deal that will entice people to order via your restaurant directly, then making it as easy as possible for them to stay with you as opposed to reverting back to the third-party app. That could mean placing a flyer in every third-party order bag that leaves your restaurant and including a coupon for a substantial discount off of a future restaurant-app order, as well as a QR code that the recipient can scan to get your app. From that point, you will have an entry point you can use to send subsequent offers they can redeem when they use your app and/or collect an order curbside. And while those offers may not be as substantial as the initial one, they can still provide a discount from what the customer would have to pay a third-party provider. You can also continue to use the data you collect from your app to make your offers increasingly customized. When you test the experience of ordering through your app and compare it to the ease of ordering via a third-party provider, where are the snags? Ironing them out should mean the difference between retaining the customer ordering via your app and having them return to the third-party app on subsequent orders.
For most people, a smartphone is like an extra appendage that makes life a bit easier and more convenient. Having your employees manage their schedules via smartphone app is one small way to make their work lives easier and avoid burnout. If you’re not already using team apps and digital scheduling tools to manage your staff’s comings and goings, consider doing so as you get organized for 2022. They can help managers plan optimal scheduling based on sales forecasts and enable employees to check their schedule or swap a shift on the go.