For some restaurant owners, technology can seem like the enemy.
People hunched over smartphones, or chatting loudly on their headphones at the counter, can feel like the opposite of the warm and social environment hospitality venues are meant to create.
In Toronto, HotBlack coffee shop owner Jimson Bienenstock has actually decided to ditch the free WIFI in a bid to get his customers to interact with each other.
“It’s about creating a social vibe,” he said. “We’re a vehicle for human interaction, otherwise it’s just a commodity.”
However, as we move into 2018, it’s important to understand that technology doesn’t always have to be a negative force - in fact, it could be the best thing for you and your customer.
Emerging technology is all about connecting people and enhancing experiences. Gone are the days of gimmicks or distractions - in 2018, technology is about creating personalised products, sustainable alternatives, and an interactive brand experience.
Here are five unique ways that embracing new restaurant tech can be a positive choice for your venue.
#1: Create customer loyalty
Better technology allows for better user experience. Why? Automating a previously tedious process is exactly the kind of happy surprise that keeps your customers coming back for more.
Whether it’s tap-and-go payment systems, electronic receipts, DIY ordering, or wireless chargers at the table, providing your customer with an unexpected tech solution shows them you care about their time and experience. It also impresses on them that you are focused on staying across the latest trends, and updating your venue regularly.
Modern technology has updated loyalty programs, too: forget about hole-punches and VIP cards that get lost at the bottom of your bag. The latest in tech takes it all to the cloud, where you can access their details with just the click of a button.
#2: Increase sustainability
Waste is a major concern for the hospitality industry, but tech solutions are helping to solve those problems. Digital menus are wiping out the need for traditional paper menus, whilst new kitchen equipment such as dehydrators are giving chefs new opportunities to reuse ‘offcut’ produce into new items such as crackers or even pasta sheets.
Data insights provided by online booking systems give accurate details into your customer base, too. Imagine never over-ordering produce ever again, thereby reducing waste? Or being able to track seasonal trends that saves transport, extra costs, and the environmental impact of shipping?
With social media and digital menu platforms offering new lines of communication regarding nutritional information and product sources, tech also gives the customer new opportunities to make smart, green decisions.
#3: Allow for customisation
Food and drink customisation is more important than ever. Being able to get a menu item gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, vegan, no glucose, or locally sourced only - your customer is fussier than ever!
Tech options like digital menus allow for increased customer personalisation. Ordering apps like Uber Eats, Door Dash, or Skip the Dishes give your customers the chance to make requests for changes to your menu.
Some booking technology will also allow you to gather important data on your regular customers. Knowing what they like, and what they don’t like, is a great opportunity to ‘surprise and delight’ your customer. Imagine knowing they are vegetarian before they order, or being able to offer an update on the type of wine they enjoyed last visit? All of this is made possible through simple data mining.
#4: Top of competition, top of mind
The hospitality industry has a wide spectrum of owners and operators in Canada. Some will be very small, family owned businesses - others will be large, multinational chains. Regardless of your business’ size, you can get ahead by staying across the latest tech trends.
For example, the local coffee shop may offer cardless payments, whereas the chain burger shop further up the road won’t. Who has the better user experience?
Showing that you are invested in providing up-to-the-minute technology says to your customer you are constantly updating and looking for improvement. A sad, neglected, or old fashioned venue (regardless of its size) will be an unattractive prospect for customers.
Hospitality tech doesn’t have to cost you the world. Cardless payment options can be operated for low costs from your work mobile phone, and social media marketing campaigns can be done at minimal cost.
#5: Open communication
How do you speak with your customers? Gathering and utilising meaningful feedback is the cornerstone of a great hospitality business. Technology is making this process easier and faster with online platforms, namely social media and email.
Consider this: a customer visits your venue, but is unhappy with the service. They try to find your website, but can’t. Nor can they find a social media page to reach out. Frustrated and angry, they are most likely to warn other people off visiting your venue for a long while after the incident.
Now, how about this situation instead: at the end of their meal, the customer is invited to leave feedback on the tablet on their table. If they aren’t comfortable enough to leave a comment here, then they can easily find you online when they get home. There’s email, phone, and social media links readily available on your website, encouraging feedback. They receive a response within moments thanking them for their comments, and a follow up call or email the next day.
Technology, in this sense, will bring you closer to your customer. Opening the lines of communication adds a sense of transparency to your brand, and proves your commitment to their great experience.
Doing things the old fashioned way sure does have a certain romance to it. When it comes to food and drink, we like to imagine that the way we cook, present, and consume will always be underlined with traditional values. Embracing new technology, however, doesn’t have to change this.
Working to incorporate new tech comforts will give your customers a happier and easier dining experience, open communication channels, and a true sense of your business working hard to be the best they can.
The Restaurant Canada Show, Canada’s largest foodservice trade event, is on 25-27 February 2018 at the Enercare Centre, Toronto. Visit us at booth 1037 for great offers limited to the show only, and your FREE guide on innovation in the industry and how you can leverage this in your business. Don’t forget to catch us at the Speaker Stage where Silver Chef’s President Rob Phelps interviews a panel of experts on knowing which trends will work for you and which will be a passing fad, and maximising your kitchen equipment. Get your tickets here: www.rcshow.com/