Technology is the next great competitive advantage for restaurant owners to grasp. But deciding what to implement first can be a challenge. There are so many ways to use tech to improve operations, reduce costs, increase customer satisfaction, and drive new revenue streams that the options are bewildering. Here are a few of the technologies restaurant owners should know about that are changing the game for the restaurant industry. In addition, below are some tips to help you choose which direction to go.
Social Wi-Fi and Text Message Marketing
What if every customer who visited your establishment and accessed your Wi-Fi could become part of your CRM so you could stay in touch with them with little effort or cost? That’s the promise of social Wi-Fi that captures customers with ease whenever they visit your establishment. It starts with a very small “ask” up front, and customers don’t even have to get a guest password. They simply login to your free Wi-Fi using email or a social media plugin. Then, their information is automatically routed to your database for use in future marketing efforts.
You can ask them to leave a review, offer them special deals, give them free stuff, notify them of new menu items, and keep your brand at the top of their mind. Wi-Fi makes a great pairing with text-message marketing since most of your consumer base now has smartphone capability. The data you capture throughout this process gives you instant, ongoing customer feedback that you can use for continuous improvement of your marketing.
If your wait staff struggles to keep up with demand during peak hours, there is an easy way to solve the problem and a hard way. The hard way involves adding more headcount, annoying your workers with last minute schedule changes, or just accepting that customers will have to wait to see their server. The easy way is to give customers the option to order desert, pay their check, request a refill, and even leave a review right from their table without waiting for a server.
To be clear, their service experience can still be high touch. They deserve to be greeted with a friendly smile, get regular check-ins from their server, and be made to feel welcome throughout their meal. But the timing is on their terms—and servers can spend more of their time focusing on making customers happy rather than racing around to visit every table and process payments. That’s one way automation and technology actually enhance the personal experience rather than detracting from it.
Loyalty and Reward Programs Is One of the Technologies Restaurant Owners Should Know About
There are still restaurants that print out coupons on each receipt for their customers. But your target market doesn’t want to have to hang on to a piece of paper to come back in to get their free burger or soft drink. They want you to know who they are, what they like, and how to give them what they want before they even ask. That means you need to have a rewards program that integrates with your payment system. This is one of the greatest technologies restaurant owners should know about.
Every new customer who visits your establishment should have the opportunity to quickly and easily sign up for a rewards program by taking a simple action such as scanning a QR code or filling out a short form on their mobile phone. On your end, you can set up programs that let customers earn points and much more. Again, the data you gain along the way for analysis can put you ahead of the competition in maintaining the repeat business that helps keep your revenue strong. You may have heard the statistic that it’s five to seven times more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one. That fact makes loyalty programs a slam dunk if you want to spend less and get more for your marketing dollars.
Online Reservations, Wait List Management, and To-Go Ordering
Some customers may want to have that old-fashioned experience of calling for a reservation at a five star restaurant with a month-long wait list because it makes them feel special. But the average diner definitely doesn’t want to wait in a long line at any restaurant when they could just make and confirm a reservation online. They want to be able to schedule their mealtime just like they do everything else in their life—from their smartphone. This makes online reservations one of the most desired technologies restaurant owners should know about.
Even when it comes to showing up without a reservation, using text messages to let patrons know when their table is ready can make a big difference for keeping the crowd moving through. Do away with the buzzing, flashing coasters and get digital! In areas with lots of shopping and entertainment options nearby, customers may want to browse rather than staying on the premises while they wait for a table. It will take some tweaking of your predictive analytics to get this type of system running smoothly, but the resulting streamlined traffic flow can create a much more modern service experience.
Online ordering is also a prime area for implementation if your goal is to cross-sell and upsell existing customers. Those who order online are 67% more likely to visit a restaurant again—and they are more easily persuaded to add extras to their order. But be warned: users have high expectations for mobile apps. Rolling out a subpar application is likely to drive customers to leave bad reviews and take their business elsewhere. Which brings us to the final point…
Social Media and Online Reputation Management
This isn’t a specific technology, but definitely a best practice that can be carried out using a variety of tools. The National Restaurant Association reveals that more than 60% of consumers go online to look at restaurant websites and menus. More than one out of three will look at social media when researching an eatery. According to Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School, a one-star increase in Yelp ratings for a restaurant can mean 5% or more in increased revenue. Obviously, negative reviews can have a disastrous effect. Monitoring the entire web for comments may seem like a daunting task, but Google Alerts, built-in tools on review websites, third party reputation management firms, and in-house monitoring can all help.
Always remember that, in the absence of a true scandal or an actual problem with customer service that needs to be resolved, drowning out negative reviews with positive ones is the most reliable way to improve a brand’s presence. That’s an area where the marketing and customer engagement tools discussed above, along with proactive social media management, can make a huge impact. Your CRM, social media, and marketing efforts should be working in concert to identify customers who are satisfied and encourage them to leave positive reviews. For example, a customer who tips well is probably primed to become a champion for your brand. They certainly won’t mind if you engage them with technology to ask them to share their positive experience with others!
How We Can Help You with Technologies Restaurant Owners Should Know About
At Efficient Forms, we bring tech to the HR side of restaurant management with onboarding solutions that streamline and automate your new hire’s first day on the job. It’s not the flashy stuff that catches the eye of your customers, but it’s a straightforward, cost-effective solution that works behind the scenes to improve your operations immediately. To learn more about our flagship onboarding software or other technologies restaurant owners should know about, contact us today.