The technology you’re adopting now to bring efficiencies to your business and minimize contact may have the unintended effect of distancing your guests from your staff – and the service they have come to expect from your brand. As you introduce technology into your business, make sure that it includes features that somehow replicate (and ideally, enhance) your service. When your return customers order food from you online or via your app, are they prompted with information on their past orders to help streamline the processing of their current order? Whenever they are in the vicinity of your restaurant, could you use predictive analytics to send them a promotion they are likely to crave? Using artificial intelligence can help you demonstrate that you know a guest well – and fill any empathy gaps that exist when a guest has less human contact with your brand.
The pandemic has made us all the more reliant on data from a growing number of sources – and the restaurant brands using their own data most adeptly (and pulling from useful external data sources too) have been the ones most able to steer their way through the challenges of the past year. In its recent list of top-five predictions for restaurant tech in the year ahead, Restaurant Technology News said operators will need to be ready to take advantage of the “tidal wave of data” resulting from their interactions with consumers. So how could this look in practice? If you have a large customer base of sports fans, the report says, you could be combining your first-party transaction data with player stats, weather changes and your inventory to predict sales on game days. And that model adjusts depending on the demographics you’re serving: Whoever your ideal customer is, there are multiple sources of data that can predict how that person will make decisions. Are you collecting data from sources that can help you make the best decisions in the year ahead?
Is your restaurant as future-proof as it could be? Whether you can answer yes or no largely depends on how well you are gathering, managing, measuring and responding to the data you collect – about your customers, your inventory, your sales throughout the day/week/month (and the list goes on). The information you gather now can prepare your business to power through the next crisis and, in stronger times, make it as profitable as possible. If you’re not in a position to hire a team member whose full-time responsibility is managing data, consider the tech acumen you already have on your team. What’s most important is an ability to see patterns in your data and make connections. Studying the approaches of quick-service restaurants, which had already been well on their way down this road before the pandemic, may also provide some clues. Start with your biggest pain points. Now is an important time to take stock of the challenges of the past year, identify key weaknesses, and use the capabilities of your POS system to defend against them going forward – or possibly eliminate them altogether.
Is your digital ordering platform up to the challenges this winter will bring? The season will be a test for restaurants everywhere: The days of generating only a small fraction of business from off-premise orders are over – perhaps permanently. So consider this winter an opportunity to get to know your data better than ever before. Andrew Robbins, the CEO of Paytronix, recently told Pyments.com that this winter would be a chance for brands to get to know their guests even better by exploring their customer relationship management systems and – with the help of artificial intelligence – analyzing customer purchasing patterns. “This can lead to long-term changes, like data-driven subscription programs that further cement the relationships between brands and their guests,” he said. Instead of looking at this winter as a period to survive, consider it a time when you can harness your systems to truly understand the data you’re collecting – and then turn it into offers that build the kind of loyal following that will carry you through times like this.
What has COVID-19 revealed to you about your technology? When you can quickly use your systems to assess your restaurant’s sales and profits, you can avoid costly mistakes. On the flip side, if you are not receptive to new technology, are struggling with an older POS system, or are using newer technology but don’t know how to use it to make daily decisions, you’re likely scrambling and struggling. In a recent episode of The Restaurant Technology Guys, hospitality tech entrepreneur Jordan Thaeler talked about how tech has inundated restaurant operators with new capabilities for gathering data but offered much less help when it comes to harnessing that data easily to make good decisions. He said if there has been any business-related benefit from COVID-19, it may be that is has brought weaknesses – like antiquated POS systems – to the surface and shown operators what must change. If you’re struggling to make your data work for you, talk to Team Four about how you can use it more efficiently to make actionable decisions to support your business each day.
We all know that customer data is becoming increasingly valuable for restaurants as they look to better understand taste preferences, evaluate emerging menu trends, and make decisions around everything from staffing to inventory. But how complete of a picture are you getting from the data you collect in a single customer transaction? And how valuable is that data if a person is often ordering on behalf of others, as might happen in an office setting? As QSR Magazine reports, restaurants could benefit from forming new data partnerships across a number of different areas of a foodservice operation – whether that be with delivery vendors, suppliers, credit card partners or other brands within similar foodservice categories. Are there opportunities for you to collaborate with other businesses across the industry to share and gather insights in a way that still protects consumer privacy?
If there were ever a year to ditch the paper, this would be it. From your inventory management to your menu to your employee training, tech tools are helping operators eliminate paper processes and their inefficiencies. Perhaps the biggest benefit of making the switch is real-time management: Knowing your inventory shortfalls as they happen can help you adjust your digital menu to substitute an item or promote a new special on the spot. Being able to inform your staff of day-to-day changes in operating procedure electronically – and ensuring compliance in real time – is especially crucial now as COVID-19 infections affect how restaurants can serve guests. Ask Team Four how you can eliminate any paper processes that are holding you back this year.
You’re likely collecting more customer data these days – whether for enabling contact tracing, enhancing mobile ordering or boosting your marketing efforts. As you consider new technology to support that effort, be mindful of consumer privacy concerns – and ensure you are able to tell guests how you are using their information. Since you won’t be able to get guests to share information with you without demonstrating you are trustworthy, make sure your providers use guest-centric practices – collecting only the information that is needed to facilitate a transaction or interaction, limiting the tracking of location data, and never sharing or selling personal information or location data. This report from QSR Magazine outlines some precautions to take when collecting guest data and vetting potential providers. (https://bit.ly/2Frvqhi)
Still using paper menus? In an environment where AI-powered digital menus can upsell, cross-sell and suggest dishes based on a customer’s past orders or even the weather, the paper menu is likely to become an increasing liability. According to McKinsey research, personalization can deliver five to eight times the return on investment on marketing and can increase sales by 10 percent or more. What’s more, having a data-driven understanding of what customers are ordering will help you better predict what they are likely to order in the future – and help you minimize waste and the expense it generates.
Machine learning was singled out by Modern Restaurant Management recently as one of the top technologies that will differentiate restaurant brands as we emerge from the pandemic. It cited research from Hospitality Technology that found that 42 percent of guests will choose takeout from a restaurant if they receive offers tied to their past orders. These sort of precision analytics can fine-tune operations in the back of the house too – helping you monitor the supply chain to more accurately forecast food costs and order with less waste. How can you enhance the precision with which you order – and deliver to customers – just what they crave?