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Restaurants are all about the experience – the staff, the venue and ultimately, the culinary skills. However, in recent years we have seen an increased use of technology within the restaurant sector to improve experiences, accessibility, grow and retain customer bases and ultimately boost bottom lines.
Emma Smith, CEO of loyalty app, Memberoo explains what is currently happening in the restaurant technology market and how this can have an impact on customer purchasing habits.
What is restaurant tech?
Restaurant tech quite literally means any technology that is available within a restaurant. Whether that’s a climate control system, a mobile payment app, electronic stock control or even free Wi-Fi for the venue. One of the most popular forms of this is the introduction of online delivery services such as Deliveroo (now worth over $1.5bn) and Uber Eats. Technology has connected venues to a wider audience and allowed restaurants to serve more customers without requiring them to recruit more front of house staff to deal with customers.
Helping improve efficiencies
Restaurant tech has been instrumental in changing the way that restaurants do business, particularly focusing on how customers pay and interact with their servers and environments. For example, McDonald’s now has self-serving kiosks in a number of stores worldwide, meaning that they can process food orders with no human interaction, saving time and cutting business costs. However, it’s not only McDonald’s that has adopted a faster payment approach but restaurants like Wahaca, Wagamama and even Starbucks have introduced an option to pay via app, meaning the server does not have to bring them the bill but instead customers can reference a table on an app to pay the bill or simply put through their order themselves. TGI Fridays has also introduced the capability to pay through Amazon accounts for pick up orders and although this has currently been launched in the US, it’s only a matter of time before this service trickles through to UK branches.
Technology has helped businesses realise efficiencies in other ways too. For example, start-up Ingest AI helps restaurants operate more efficiently using machine learning. By utilising all of the data available to restaurants, this system helps forecast customer patterns, reduce the volume of food waste and increase restaurant functionality.
Think of the data
If utilised correctly, restaurant technology can be very effective when collecting valuable data. Let’s take the example of Wi-Fi – everyone expects this to now be available wherever they go and to have access to it, customers will usually have to supply data whether that’s an email address, name, contact number of even a Facebook profile. This can help restaurants, large and small, capture relevant data about clients which can aid overall marketing campaigns.
This can also be said of customer loyalty apps like Memberoo. Although providing customers with exclusive offers and promoting restaurants to consumers, it can also be utilised from a business perspective to nurture loyalty while learning more about customers and their buying habits. In turn, this can also help businesses grow and increase profit margins via improved-decision making from garnering an in-depth understanding of customers and their buying behaviours.
Making purchases easier
In most cases, effective restaurant technology will increase value for a business and demonstrate to its customers that they are evolving. For example, Domino’s has started to allow customers to place orders from its full menu through a chat bot on Facebook, meaning that customers don’t even have to leave their favourite social networking app to get their pizza fix. Dominos is a great example of a business operating within the food industry that has embraced tech to provide a fully integrated digital experience to its customers.
Restaurant technology is continuously developing, making it easier for the consumers to get what they want while business owners receive access to the data needed to grow their business and make it work more efficiently. Overall, it is working to help businesses make a profit and to adapt to consumer buying behaviour in a digitally focused world. However, it’s easy to question how much further this can be pushed and will this enable us to have the dining experience without us facing any human interaction at all.