While it seems like every restaurant has a loyalty program these days, there is significant room for improvement: According to new research from Mercator Advisory Group, only 22 percent of consumers are satisfied with the level of personalization offered by their loyalty programs. Harnessing guest data can help you up your game. Make sure your program is connected to every place a customer can place an order with you, online and off, so you can collect transactional data and use it to personalize your efforts to upsell and cross-sell items, or to target them with exclusive limited-time offers or invitations. A QSRweb report says this approach can help you present real-time promotions that are more likely to hit the mark with guests, like offering a discount on two large pizzas to the subset of visitors who would normally order just one.
As restaurant businesses become more digitized and connected, they are calling for a new kind of employee: one who is just as comfortable monitoring sensors and responding to alerts from a range of applications as they are chopping and cooking ingredients. Ensuring your staff is well-versed in these changes will only help your business, since your technology is helping you do everything from monitoring food safety, to collecting and continuously learning from the data you collect. Modern Restaurant Management reports that there is a growing role for skilled technicians to train, manage and repair this technology in restaurants. Do your training and management procedures adequately account for the tech changes your business has made? When you consider your job descriptions, training and feedback from staff, where are there opportunities to close knowledge gaps and ensure you’re reaping the greatest benefits from the technology at your disposal?
As restaurants adopt more technology – out of necessity if not for a desire for greater efficiency – restaurant service is coming to mean something different. Earlier this year, Datassential predicted that human service would become more of a premium offering, with a more obvious human touch expected at higher-end restaurants. But the line between technology and human-delivered service is likely to be hazier for everyone else. As you consider new front-of-house tech, retain the human touch by asking if it can elevate the service you offer – through faster and easier payments, and menu items and targeted promotions supported by individual customer data as opposed to broad assumptions.
While automation’s rise is no surprise, considering labor challenges and how automation can help address them, we are likely to see new applications that actually help restaurants strengthen human connections. If you’re considering the use of automation in your restaurant, focus on where it can best bring efficiencies to your business. For example, how could you use it to offload repetitive tasks – and retain staff in the process? Could you use the information you collect through the automation of tasks and challenge a talented member of your team to translate it into new initiatives to build your business?
Recently, Wing Zone announced a new type of franchise partnership with Wavemaker Labs, the technology incubator that launched Miso Robotics (maker of the famous burger-prepping Flippy robot). Wavemaker Labs will eventually open 20 Wing Zone Labs locations around Los Angeles that will be a cross between franchised stores and technology incubators. Their motivation is to develop a new process for automating the range of tech tools and systems used by Wing Zone – with fewer piecemeal tools and more start-to-finish systems that offer a connected, streamlined experience. It's a sign of what’s to come for the industry. As David Bloom, Wing Zone’s chief development and operating officer, told Nation’s Restaurant News, the partnership is not simply about introducing more robotics: It’s about using artificial intelligence to take an order, then having that order sent directly into the POS system, which gets sent to robots to cook, then gets sent to heated locker systems for pickup or delivery. It’s about improving the process, start to finish. When you adopt new technology, consider how it will mesh with your existing systems to iron out bottlenecks and improve your process of taking orders, preparing food and getting complete orders to guests
There is no shortage of news headlines about the need for restaurants to analyze their data – and to adopt technology that can provide clues about what is going well and what isn’t. But as restaurant operators struggle with labor challenges, adopt new tech to help ease them, and double down on data analysis to better understand performance, it’s important to remember the human element. Specifically, restaurants need to balance their data analysis with a more subjective review of the guest and staff experience. A recent blog post from restaurant consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates relayed the experience of the company’s CEO, who had visited a higher-end national steakhouse chain. He wanted to place a $100-plus takeout order, but there were only two staff members trying to serve the more than 60 guests in the bar area. After waiting for nearly half an hour to place his order, he gave up and left. The especially unfortunate part about this anecdote – and what it could mean for the industry going forward – is that the restaurant’s metrics for the night surely didn’t track the guests who left without food, or the staff members who were burning out from the workload or unaware of the people they didn’t have time to serve. According to their data, it may have been a high-performance night. The industry is at a telling turning point right now: Restaurants are trying to find their footing with smaller teams, and in many cases, are finding ways to use technology to squeeze out profits and otherwise make the current business climate more manageable. But while there are clear benefits to these new systems and ways of working, don’t forget to take a longer view and anticipate the consequences you may not be seeing – the ones your tech stack can’t track.
As escalating food and energy costs continue to drive inflation higher, restaurant operators are trying to run even more leanly than they have in the past two years. But as a recent Nation’s Restaurant News report mentions, you can use tech to minimize the impact of inflation on your operation. Emphasize the importance of ordering directly from you through your website or app versus third-party vendors – being able to accumulate and analyze guests’ data is critical to developing the menu items and promotions that will bring them back. Then try to put costly or tedious functions on autopilot. That means considering QR codes or self-order kiosks at the front of house to streamline ordering and payment while minimizing the labor required. In the back of house, consider tech tools that can make your food safety program more consistent – connected temperature sensors, digital checklists in place of paper processes, and the use of alerts to monitor cleaning and maintenance can all help you minimize waste and manage resources better at a time when they are especially tight.
Off-premise orders haven’t decreased since restaurant dining rooms have reopened – and as a result, making the process of ordering and collecting food as smooth and speedy as possible has become a larger priority for restaurants. According to the Restaurant Friction Index, 37 percent of consumers would be more inclined to frequent restaurants that made it possible for them to collect orders without waiting in line, while 35 percent said they would favor restaurants that allowed them to collect drive-thru orders without waiting. While some brands are adopting advanced logistics to place the location of a customer or delivery driver so they can have an order ready on arrival, a simpler fix may help remove some friction too. One tactic that the fast-casual brand Portillo’s has implemented recently is improving their wifi. Doing so has extended the radius within which workers can take drive-thru orders, Pymts.com reports, and is helping the brand maintain volumes and extend capacity.
Stability is hard to come by in the restaurant industry – but your technology may help you build and maintain it. According to new research from Paytronix Systems on consumers who own high numbers of connected devices, there is much loyalty – and therefore stability – among these consumers. The research found that 60 percent of high-tech consumers participate in loyalty programs at quick-service restaurants and 75 percent participate at table-service restaurants. High-tech consumers are also far more aware of and eager to adopt subscription programs, with 40 percent being “very” or “extremely” familiar with restaurant subscription services – as opposed to the 21 percent average for the general sample surveyed.
Could you benefit from online payment – not the customer-facing kind, but the kind used at the back of the house to pay the wide range of suppliers keeping your business stocked? As much as technology has introduced speed and efficiency at the front of the house, for many restaurants, back-of-house operations continue to be stuck in the past, relying on paper processes and manual management. By introducing digital invoicing and payment, you can bring greater precision to your inventory management and use scarce labor more efficiently. Talk to Team Four/Value Four if you need guidance to either start or refine your back-of-house financial management processes.