Last year at this time, having an on-trend menu or holiday promotions may have been priorities for you. Fast-forward a year and restaurant hospitality – and the ethics surrounding it – looks much different. One recent Washington Post article mentioned how diners, in general, are going through a more rigorous decision-making process when it comes to determining if and where they will dine out. Criteria that would have seemed outlandish just a year ago – like a restaurant’s COVID-19 protocols, table-distancing measures, neighbourhood and amount of foot traffic – now speak volumes to consumers about a restaurant’s potential risks (and therefore, the quality of their hospitality). If local restrictions fluctuate in the coming months, how will you consistently communicate safety to your guests and off-premise customers? Continue to promote – via your website, social media and in-store signage – that you are committed to protecting the safety of both your staff and your guests. If guests want to access detailed information about how you’re handling COVID-19, provide details on your website. Post your employee sick leave policy, specific cleaning protocols and schedule – yes, recent research indicates that more consumers want to know these details – and what you are doing to protect the safety of off-premise meals as well. Much like restaurants that have developed a loyal following of customers who have food allergies, restaurants that visibly protect guest safety – not just for show but as a deeply felt value – stand to earn guest loyalty too.
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?
Eager to drive more sales through your app? Try offering enticing options that are only available to people ordering via that channel. Sweetgreen, which has experienced a 178 percent jolt in digital orders through the course of the pandemic, is among the chains that have recently released collections of online-only dishes based on the favorite food orders of notable chefs and athletes. Even if you don’t have well-known guests to tout, simply creating and promoting dishes (or offers of bonus loyalty points or two-for-one appetizers) that are exclusive to your app can help bolster off-premise sales and safeguard your business for the months ahead.
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.
Does the technology you use help minimize the number of steps required for a customer to place an order? Off-premise dining is here to stay and major chains are focusing on perfecting the off-premise experience right now. That involves integrating new digital tools to make ordering easier and faster. Panera, for one, has a new integration with Google’s Search, Maps and Assistant apps that allows people to order food for pickup and delivery directly from Google. Other large chains are likely to follow – and while the investment may not be as feasible for smaller brands, it’s still important for the tech you use to bring efficiency to the process of ordering and connecting people with your food – whether that involves minimizing the searching, scrolling and number of clicks required for people to place an order online, or streamlining your pickup and delivery processes.
Consumers don’t consider technology to be an eliminator of jobs but rather a means of improving convenience – and restaurants are investing in more of such customer-facing technology solutions this year. These were key tech-related takeaways from the National Restaurant Association’s latest state-of-the-industry report. When it comes to customer-facing tech, kiosks and other self-service technology still pay dividends. Their biggest benefit may be speed – by visibly reducing congestion and automating orders, they expedite the order process and shorten lines – but this technology is also winning consumers over for its ability to customize. The proof is in the payment: The convenience that kiosks provide can lead guests to spend 15 to 20 percent more per order, according to Pymts.com. #restauranttech
Watch for digital inventory management systems to take a big step forward this year. Amid the push to reduce waste and simplify menus in an effort to ease labor costs, new digital systems – used in conjunction with point-of-sale systems – are bringing real-time accuracy to inventory management. These systems can track raw ingredients used in menu items based on the shipments arriving at the restaurant and the dishes actually sold in the restaurant, App Institute reports. By being able to access real-time data in that level of detail, restaurants can automate reorders and avoid running out of ingredients, making manual inventory systems an increasingly clear liability for a business.