The debate between high-tech and high-touch dining experiences has emerged in the restaurant industry over the past few years. Do we sacrifice personal touch and genuine hospitality in our effort to optimise efficiencies using modern technology, or can we create a synergy between the two for the ultimate guest experience?
Many restaurants have taken the turn towards high-tech and are rapidly adapting new technologies. They are creating unique ecosystems out of a variety of platforms and applications in an effort to produce a high quality guest experience and maintain margins in the front of house, the kitchen, and back office administration.
Front of House
The restaurant front of house utilises a variety of technologies to create a seamless service and top notch dining experience. From reservations to service steps to payments, there are several emerging technologies and applications that are transforming the restaurant guest experience.
Online reservations are key to driving business to a restaurant, they can be an asset in determining table turn times, and certain platforms such as OpenTable can collect guest information that can be help improve customer service. OpenTable and other apps such as Resy also allow restaurant patrons to make reservations at curated lists of restaurants from their mobile devices.
Tabletop technology, such as tablet point of sale systems, also has more of a presence in full service restaurants. A Cornell University School of Hotel Administration study on tabletop technology shows that “over 70% of the customers who used tabletop devices reported positive affect toward the device, with approximately 79% of customers reporting that the device improved their experience, citing convenience, ease of use, and credit card security as some benefits of using the technology. Approximately 80% of the customers who used the device reported that they would return to the restaurant because of the positive affect” iPad POS System have become increasingly popular due to cloud hosting and being far less cumbersome than the legacy alternatives. They also offer far more features, better security and allow for faster transaction times, as do mobile payments.
Mobile payments are becoming increasingly popular among diners because they save time in paying the bill and increase customer engagement, refuting the idea that high-tech can distract from high-touch. One third of diners indicated that they would use mobile payments including apps such as Cover, Settle, Dash, and Apple Pay, mostly due to the convenience factor.
Technologies such as the Apple Watch are even being integrated into front of house activities for an elevated level of service. Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group plans to have managers wear the Apple Watches so they can receive real-time alerts on aspects of service from table turns, to VIPs walking in, to when a menu item needs to be 86’d. This is a unique application of technology to make the guest experience both more efficient and more personal.
Online ordering is another area of technology that is important in restaurant revenue management, plus it is great for a restaurant’s marketing and internet presence. It allows restaurants to make incremental revenue during slower service times and by serving more diners than can be seated in the restaurant, and it has added benefit of being relatively easy to implement operationally. The market for online ordering is highly saturated with platforms including UberEATS, Eat24, Postmates, Grubhub, Seamless, and more. Restaurants that leverage online ordering can sometimes see revenue increase by 30%.