Customers turn to mobile for all-things dining

5 Restaurant Technologies Driving Change in 2016

The Workplace Today Technology & Innovation

Restaurant technologies are popping up your favorite spots. How can you leverage these technologies in your restaurant to boost business and productivity?

Restaurant technologies are evolving quickly and opening up bigger opportunities to drive customer engagement, control operating costs, promote employee engagement and more. Restaurants are becoming as much technology businesses as food businesses. As a food service manager or restaurant owner, you already know that your customers are becoming more tech-demanding, so you face an ongoing challenge in staying ahead of the tech curve. Here are some trends in restaurant technology that will drive 2016 and the coming years:

Mobile Apps

The mobile space has never been more important, especially for your younger customers. They’re using mobile apps to interact with their employers, monitor their health/exercise, keep up with the news, play games, pay for purchases and everything in between. Restaurants will need to move from mobile apps that simply mirror their websites (menus, directions, photos, event listings, etc.) to mobile apps with more sophisticated and personalized features that effectively drive customer engagement.

Mobile apps can easily be built to incorporate customer loyalty programs, enable ordering, allow payments and enhance a more personalized, data-driven approach to marketing your restaurant. Dana Dmitri, Director of Marketing for Chicago-based Argo Tea, explains their app-based loyalty campaigns: “We can track who comes in, when they come in, what they’re ordering, the frequency of orders and their average transaction and engagement.” Using positioning/GPS technology, restaurants can even know when a potential customer is nearby and can send an alert notifying the customer of a special promotion or offer them a coupon.

Kiosk Ordering

While you could allow ordering via a mobile app, you could also enable it via a digital device or kiosk in your restaurant. Chains like Panera and Boloco have tablet-sized ordering devices at the front of their restaurants, while other chains put the ordering devices at each table. By automating the ordering and payment process, restaurant’s are reporting increased check size and also enhanced customer convenience and engagement. The kiosks can also be channels for marketing messages, conducting customer satisfaction surveys and offering games to entertain customers.

Big Data Analytics on the Cloud

The big data trend has swept across the entire global business landscape over the last few years, making it easier for companies to mine their own data to drive insights and make better decisions in less time. Restaurants are increasingly leveraging their data to anticipate customer preferences, control inventory, schedule employees, better manage their operating costs and more. Using the cloud has also allowed restaurants to be flexible with their data management, giving them the ability to add IT capacity only when they need it and pay only for the computing capacity they actually use. According to InStore, analytics “will also simplify the ability to get value out of data, and packages that integrate with POS systems are becoming available.”

Third-party Delivery Services via Digital Platforms

Of the restaurant technologies changing the landscape of dining experience, this one has significant reach capabilities. You no longer need to hire and pay your own delivery drivers, because outsourced, digital-based delivery services are growing in scope. Food delivery services such as UberEATS and PostMates are popping up all over the country to act as your outsourced delivery service. UberEATS is an on-demand meal delivery app that delivers meals from restaurants to a customer’s doorstep. Powered by Uber, UberEATS means to compete with GrubHub, Foodler and more, handling all ordering, payment logistics and delivery for the restaurants.

Technology Leaders Emerge in the Restaurant C-Suite

With the importance of technology growing so fast in so many areas of the restaurant business, a major trend is the emergence of vice presidents of technology, chief technology officers (CTOs) and chief digital officers (CDOs) in the C-suites of major restaurant chains, such as Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. In “Restaurants Serve Up New Trends in Technology,” The Tennessean reports, “[t]hese new IT leaders are tasked with strategizing for the future, managing security to avoid data breaches and building mobile apps to help drive the business.”

As technology is transforming the business world, restaurants are adapting quickly to stay ahead of the curve. Having a tech strategy is no longer an option or a “cool idea,” but an essential part of meeting the emerging demands of increasingly tech-savvy and tech-demanding restaurant customers.

Chuck Leddy
Chuck Leddy

Chuck Leddy is a versatile, fast-learning communications professional with a proven track record as a digital content marketer. Writing for clients like GE, ADP, the National Center for the Middle Market, smartShift (computing), Office Depot, and more, he's published hundreds of articles, features, profiles, and interviews.