Gift cards: they’re among the few gifts that are never returned. And they’re a win for restaurants. According to data from Givex.com, 65 percent of those who receive gift cards tend to spend about 38 percent more than the face value of their gift card. If your guests are interested in both purchasing gift cards and making payments via mobile, consider raising the bar for next year by providing digital stored-value cards that can be loaded onto a mobile app. Your guests won’t have extra cards cluttering their wallets and as Restaurant Technology News reports, digital cards hold a lot of appeal for guests who want the option of making fast, seamless payments.
A recent study by NCR and Technomic found that two-thirds of restaurant operators don’t use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their businesses. The respondents said that if they were to invest in AI, it would be to help drive their mobile ordering, mobile applications and promotions. The restaurant operators surveyed who aren’t yet using AI said they either don’t fully understand its potential benefits or they hesitate to invest in emerging technology. Where do you stand? If you’re among the hold-outs who think AI may have some potential to help your business, imagine being to your most loyal guests what Netflix or Spotify are to people who love movies and music – having the ability to match your guests with meals they may not have considered but are likely to enjoy. AI can both empower your ordering functionality and make it seamless. As a report in Restaurant Technology News explains, on top of allowing a guest to order via mobile app, AI technology can offer functionality like conversational ordering through Facebook Messenger or Alexa. Having voice and chatbot ordering powered by AI can allow your customers to use any kind of phrasing when they place an order. Then, based on a person’s ordering history and cross-comparisons with other customers who have similar tastes, the technology can suggest meals and upsell additional items they are likely to enjoy – instead of leaving those guest experiences to chance.
Do you automate your staff scheduling? It’s not only a streamlined means of making sure you have staff when you need them. Granted, it can free up a lot of time you can devote to other tasks and also make it easier for employees to trade shifts and for you to foresee future staffing gaps. But more importantly, it can bring together both quantitative and qualitative data about your restaurant that, when assessed at once, paint a clearer picture of the financial health of your restaurant. As the tech blog KnowTechie explains, scheduling software tabulates your labor costs and sales, while also giving your team opportunities to leave feedback about how a shift went. When you see the full picture of sales, productivity and morale, you may more easily spot problem areas that you can address before they grow.
Do you feel social media posting pressure? The need to post regularly to stay relevant can cause restaurant operators to focus too much on social media networks and neglect their website, which is the one place where you have full control over content (and is therefore where your online focus should be). Does your restaurant’s website tick all of the boxes when it comes to attracting visitors and giving them what they need? The Digital Restaurant suggests all restaurant websites have five features: First, you (likely) need a mobile-friendly design with mobile analytics, since most people are probably finding you with a mobile device. Just check Google Analytics first to confirm that your site is getting a lot of traffic from mobile devices before you invest in new design. Make sure your restaurant’s basic information is updated and complete. It should include your address and directions, operating hours, menu and nutritional information, phone number and email address/contact form. Next, ensure your site is easy to navigate, loads pages quickly and has a design that complements the design of your physical restaurant. Sites like https://www.usertesting.com/ can provide objective feedback about the experience of navigating your website. Four, provide some testimonials and social proof that other guests have had great experiences with you. That means integrating links to your social media networks and showing positive reviews from sites like Yelp. Finally, email continues to be the way to keep your guest connections strong, so provide links to subscribe to your email list – via a pop-up invitation and in relevant places on your site. Of course, once you have those basics down, you can continue to fine-tune your site with engaging photos, location-based personalization, online ordering and reservations, search engine optimization, and content marketing such as recipes, videos, articles or other content about your food, staff, values or other topics designed to help guests connect with your brand.
Chances are you’ve already introduced technology to help you drive efficiency in different areas of your operation. But as technology develops and promises to improve more parts of a restaurant business, it’s difficult to keep track of what you should invest in next and which companies are in a strong position to help. One tool that may be of use to you in the coming year is this updated map of the restaurant tech ecosystem. A collaboration of TechTable, a platform and annual summit about innovation in hospitality technology, and Better Food Ventures, a food tech and agtech investment firm, the map spells out the many areas of the restaurant industry where technology is having an impact, along with key players in each area. It can help give you a sense of the hospitality tech landscape, whether you’re looking to build a smart kitchen or enhance your ordering and delivery technology.
It’s ironic but true: Amid the ongoing demand for fresh, whole, natural foods, there is also growing acceptance of food that exists only with the help of technology. According to Ketchum's 2019 Food Tech Consumer Perception Study, 77 percent of Gen Z respondents – those born between 1995 and 2010 – were generally most comfortable with tech-assisted foods. But other generations indicated acceptance of these foods as well: 67 percent of millennials, 58 percent of Gen Xers and 58 percent of baby boomers said they were willing to try tech-assisted foods. So whether it’s lab-grown animal protein or genetically modified foods, up-and-coming foods that are available through the help of technology may be increasingly welcome on your menu in the coming months.
The market for automated accounts payable is expanding. One forecast predicts the global market to balloon from $1.9 billion to $3.1 billion in the next five years. In the meantime, a growing number of vendors are seeking business from restaurant operators still relying on manual or paper-based processes to pay invoices and manage accounts. If you’re in the market for an automated system, Restaurant365 shared some benefits to the systems that are worth considering when determining how well vendors can deliver: If you’re opening new locations, automated systems can streamline your accounts and ensure vendors continue to be paid on time. They can save time by eliminating painstaking data entry and streamlining the approvals process. This, in turn, enables you to project your spending requirements more clearly and without guesswork. Further, the accounting process is visible and transparent, so errors, reporting irregularities and security issues are easier to spot. Finally, by giving you real-time insights into your food costs, these systems helps you make faster decisions to improve the quality of your menu and protect your bottom line.
As technology has changed restaurant processes ranging from reservation taking to appliance monitoring, the process of managing inventory can seem analog in comparison, with many operators still relying on such quaint technology as the phone and fax machine when sourcing ingredients. But as Tech Crunch reports, the startup Choco is looking to change that by bringing the seamlessness of food delivery to ingredient ordering via a mobile ordering platform. Choco’s interface allows for operators to consult a list of ingredients that they can order with a tap – and to text suppliers as needed (though it appears operators would still need to separately manage ongoing ingredient changes before ordering). Choco reports that its platform is currently available in 15 cities in Europe and the U.S.
As your kitchen becomes increasingly connected to the Internet, it becomes a bigger target for cybercrime. At The Spoon’s recent Smart Kitchen Summit, panelists who participated in a segment called Hacking the Oven: Cybersecurity and the Connected Kitchen identified three key takeaways to consider as your business adopts new devices to increase efficiency. First, cybersecurity can’t be something you bolt on to your business; rather, it’s important to make it flow through your operation from the start and to have a culture that values it. Second, both manufacturers and end users play a role in securing devices: manufacturers need to build secure devices with easy-to-install updates, and users need to do their part to protect devices with secure passwords. Finally, security is an ongoing process that requires manufacturers (and users) to have a plan to address vulnerabilities as they arise. Panelists expect to see cybersecurity certification labels on appliances in the near future – much like Energy Star rating stickers – to help end users better identify companies with strong cybersecurity records.
The applications of artificial intelligence (AI) in restaurants still have many directions to go. As Restaurant Dive reports, while AI is already helping Chick-fil-A identify food safety problems, McDonald’s and Sonic fine-tune their drive-thrus and Chipotle take phone orders, Outback has identified yet another application of the technology. In an effort to improve its guest experience, Outback is testing an AI system that uses lobby cameras to record interactions between employees and guests, track wait times and identify when people leave without being greeted or seated. While the initial program focuses on employee-guest interactions in the lobby, it may expand to include the kitchen, curbside pickup and dining room. Data from the AI system is sent to managers in real time so they have an opportunity to resolve problems before a guest has an opportunity to leave a negative review.