Posts Tagged ‘restaurant technology’

Tabletop Devices Part 2: 3 Key Considerations Before Installing in Your Restaurant

August 27, 2014

As discussed in a previous post, there are a number of benefits to installing tabletop ordering and payment devices in your restaurant. That said, there are also some considerations that you need to take into account before you take the leap. Here are a few of the biggest concerns.

Customer Security and Integration with Current Point-of-Sale Systems

The first, most important factor in the choice about installing tabletop devices in the restaurant is whether or not you can find a provider who can integrate those devices seamlessly with the current point-of-sale (POS) system. Beyond basic ordering and payment processing functionality, the tabletop device should be designed to look as much like the original POS as possible as well. This speeds up the amount of time it takes to educate servers, who in turn must educate customers, about how to use the device. When choosing a tabletop device provider, look for reliable pay-at-the-table functions, durability, lifespan and reliability of the unit, connectivity to Wi-Fi and the ability to expand ordering capabilities.

In terms of customer security, tabletop devices can actually help ease customer concerns. It gives customers some security to swipe their own cards and confirm their tab and tip amounts themselves, complete with a receipt printed from the bottom of the device.

Getting Server and Customer Buy-In on Restaurant Tabletop Technology

One key aspect of successfully using tabletop devices in the restaurant is getting server buy-in on educating customers about them. Around 65-70% of customers will use tabletop devices to place their orders—after the host has introduced them to the technology. Staff need to know that these devices can save time and can possibly make them more money. Several restaurants using the devices have actually seen a slight increase in the average tip left on a table with an ordering device. They also need to know that these devices are not a replacement for their skills, but rather a helpful tool that they can use. Since most customers are already carrying and using their smartphones all day long anyway, educating them about using the devices is often easy. They tend to embrace and even expect this sort of technological convenience.

Consider How Much Automation You Want in Your Restaurant

Another consideration you’ll want to take into account is how much automation you want to have in your business. The point is to enhance the customer experience, not alienate them or make them feel like they’re serving themselves. Some restaurants don’t allow full menu ordering from the device, following the philosophy that if customers do everything themselves they don’t feel like they’re getting service. The choice depends on the type of establishment you run. The take home message is that using tabletop technology should enhance, and not change, the guest dining experience. Humans are still the focal point; ordering capabilities have just gotten better.

The above factors should be taken into account before installing tabletop devices in your establishment. That said, restaurant operators who have taken the leap with tabletop technology are finding it a helpful and cost effective tool that enhances guest experiences, shaves off valuable service time and puts guests in greater control of their dining experience than ever before.

 

Tabletop Devices Part 1: 3 Reasons You Want Them in Restaurant

August 20, 2014

Tabletop devices are popping up in restaurants all around the country. These devices allow customers to order and pay from the convenience of their tables, along with perform a variety of other sundry tasks that are meant to enhance the customer experience. According to the NRN, 52% of all adults would use an electronic payment system at the dining table in a full-service restaurant, while 44% said they would use an electronic ordering system. Interestingly enough, less that 5% of full-service restaurants are currently utilizing this technology. Regardless of the type of restaurant you run, here are a few good reasons why installing a few tabletop devices might be a smart idea.

Tabletop Devices Enhance Restaurant Guest Experiences

Tabletop devices enhance your customer’s experience in a number of ways. One of the most important is that they improve the speed and quality of service. Customers are ensured that their orders are placed exactly right, every time. Guests can place and recall orders, customize selections and add extra items to their bills at their own pace; creating a sense of ease and convenience for patrons. Many restaurants include games and music on the devices as well, available for a small fee that gets added to the tab. Some establishments are finding that the games and music alone can make the devices pay for themselves. Music works best when offered as a modern day jukebox—where guests can pay a small fee to select the song of their choice to play through the restaurant speaker system.

Tabletop Devices Nurture Customer Relationships

Aside from ordering, paying and entertainment, tabletop devices can also be used to grow your relationship with your customers. This is the perfect opportunity to highlight all of the benefits of joining your rewards program, social media network or email lists. It’s also the perfect time to have them fill out a guest survey about the information you most want to know and get valuable, real-time feedback about their experiences. This is also a chance to let customers know what’s really special about your business. Providing history, as well as ethics and cause information, helps build trust and authenticity with your audience.

 

Tabletop Devices Are an Opportunity for Up-Sales

An obvious benefit of utilizing tabletop technology in the restaurant is the opportunity it represents to make up-sales with your customers. Aside from well-timed promo messages about that yummy dessert that just rolled out of the oven, you can also use tabletop devices to educate your customers about what is on your menu. If you were so inspired, you could go into extensive detail about the origin and nutrition of the ingredients used, the back-story about how some local favorite got created, or simply highlight which items are gluten-free or low-carb. Best of all, your menu is searchable, so guests can simply input the keywords for the information they’re looking for and menu suggestions with detailed information will come up.

Now, clearly, there are some considerations that need to be taken into account before hooking up your restaurant with all the latest tabletop technology—not the least of which is finding a provider who can integrate the devices with your point-of-sale system. That said, putting guests in greater control of their dining experience has a lot of benefits. All in all, tabletop devices stand to be a cost-effective way for restaurants to enhance the overall customer experience.

From Ovens to Ice Machines: Restaurant Technology that Can Improve Operations

July 23, 2014

Restaurant technology continues to get smaller, smarter and more social as restaurant operators look for ways to reduce the cost of real estate, have more intuitive technology on hand and strive to improve the customer experience. There have been a number of new innovations of late that stand to significantly improve the operational management of a restaurant business. Here are a few of the latest restaurant technology highlights.

Smaller, More Intuitive Restaurant Technology

From computer-regulated back-of-the house appliances, to smaller and more efficient front-of-house equipment, there is a mass of great technological adaptations and innovations available to operators. For example, some ice machines now come with technological diagnostics that will warn restaurant operators when there is a problem likely to occur. They have improvements in the program for repair and maintenance, making for less downtime. Fryers are moving toward all-digital control panels, giving operators greater control over the quality of any product that’s programmed in. Temperatures can be set precisely and food can be cooked with a specific timing. There are a number of new environmental cooling options as well. These include a 24.5 inch portable air cooler, with the same footprint as a propane-powered heater, and an evaporative cooling unit that can chill the air in a 14 foot radius down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. This unit uses about as much electricity as a household toaster.

In response to an increased demand for space-saving innovations to help restaurants expand menus, ventless countertop ovens have seen a jump in production and innovation. There are a number of different types of countertop ovens now available.Some of these ovens can convert from a one-item shuttle to a higher-volume conveyor mode at the switch of a button. Drink machines, like Coke’s Freestyle, have also gone counter-size and can now include anywhere from 35-80 drink options.

Home-Made Craft Brews Now Available for Any Restaurant

Speaking of increasing drink options, restaurant owners can also now install their own “home-brew”systems on location, in as little as a 10-by-10 space. These self-contained units are different from your typical brew-pub brewery, most significantly because they bypass many of the regulatory and environmental impact considerations that brew pubs must adhere to. Such systems cost around $57,000 and can produce 1,400 twelve-ounce servings of beer per week. You have the ability to customize the types of beer you offer, paving the way for seasonal and local favorites that are uniquely your own. The craft-brewing industry has grown significantly over the course of the last few years, and if you’re looking for a way to add unique flavor to the drinks that your restaurant provides, a home-brew craft beer unit might be the solution.

More Comprehensive Point of Sale Restaurant Technology

New point-of-sale systems are on the horizon too. Tabletop tablets, for instance, are no longer used to simply place an order. Along with being one-stop devices for employees to perform a number of tasks, they now can include interactive tiles that can really enhance guest interactions. For instance, the tablets can display and promote specials of the day, upcoming events, loyalty program details, links to external feeds and the ability to take pictures and share to social media accounts. They provide a forum for customers to conveniently place and pay for their orders as well as to leave feedback about their experiences—which they do 20% of the time in restaurants who have them installed.

Utilizing these technological adaptations and innovations can greatly enhance the customer and employee experience, as well as improve the return on investment and the overall efficiency of the restaurant. Bottom line: new technology can be a restaurant owner’s best friend, and there are plenty of innovative options available.

Restaurant Operating Systems Are On the Horizon; Is Your Restaurant Ready for the Shift?

February 7, 2014

Restaurateurs have dreamt of a unified restaurant business technology platform for years. Development has been limited due to a lack of standards, action from established providers to eliminate competition and a proprietary development environment. Fortunately, cloud-based data warehouses, and standards like HTML5, now make the development of an integrated restaurant business operating system possible with relative ease. It’s only a matter of time before the first versions of a restaurant equivalent of Windows or iOS are available.

This availability will rapidly spark additional innovations, further expand competition, and provide a badly needed common language to exchange data between a variety of applications. This technology stands to be the biggest technical innovation in the restaurant industry since the introduction of integrated POS systems. Here are three key strategies you can employ to ensure that your restaurant is ready for the shift.

Ensure Your Restaurant Supports Open Vendors

At this point in the game, realization of the restaurant operating system dream is a possibility.  It relies largely on the cooperation of business solution providers to make their services available through Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and Software Development Kits (SDKs). Open architecture is a critical element of a restaurant operating system that can be rapidly adopted throughout the industry. 

Unfortunately, many vendors take the opposite approach, and try to lock restaurant operators into expensive proprietary software which doesn’t interface with anything but itself. Others do make their APIs and SDKs available, but with a price tag so high that it’s out of reach for a startup developer. Either way, it’s limiting the ability of third-party developers to create the software for which we’re waiting. 

As a restaurant, it’s in your best interest to both support development of the technology you want, as well as to position your business to be able to take advantage of that technology when it becomes available. Therefore, you want to ensure that all of your vendors are ready, able, and willing to integrate with other solutions from different vendors; especially those who handle your POS, payroll and gift, loyalty or enterprise reporting.

Avoid Getting Hand-Cuffed to Antiquated Restaurant Equipment

The recent burst of mobile consumer technologies stands to open a world of new avenues in terms of improvement to restaurant operations. It would be folly to dump more money into extending the life of already out-dated equipment, just as it would be foolish to find yourself hand-cuffed to a specific piece of equipment for years to come. Instead, it would be far better to carefully evaluate new options for business services that are available and make strategic choices that will enable your restaurant to easily adapt to innovative technology as it comes. 

Don’t Get Roped into Shady Arrangements with ‘Free’ Restaurant Software

When you’re strapped for cash, it’s tempting to look for free solutions. But, when it comes to POS systems, ‘free’ usually comes with a larger price than it’s worth. All too often, these developers bait an operator into signing long-term payment processing contracts, with less than scrupulous clauses, in exchange for use of their ‘freeware.’ Even worse, a lot of those contracts last for up to seven years which virtually locks your establishment out of the opportunity to take advantage of any new innovations. This simultaneously forces your business to run on antiquated software. 

The business environment for restaurant technology will continue to evolve and there are some exciting changes on the horizon. Making smart decisions about your technological investments now will help ensure that you are in a position to take advantage of new restaurant technology and can stay ahead of the competition without having to completely restructure your business.

3 Tips for Effectively Using QR Codes in Your Restaurant Marketing Campaigns

November 18, 2013

Over the course of the last few years, QR codes have started popping up all over as businesses try to capture a share of the mobile market. As a restaurant, using QR codes can be quite effective in terms of directing people right to the promotions and information you want them to see – IF it’s done effectively. Here are three must-do tips to ensure that you’re getting the most out of using QR codes in your marketing campaigns.

Your Restaurant’s QR Codes need to have a Clear Purpose

It may seem obvious, but before you start using QR codes on your restaurant campaigns, take a second to ask yourself if having a QR code as part of the advertisement truly enhances the customer’s experience. You want to make sure that it’s worthwhile for the potential customer to go out of their way to scan the code. It’s important that they get something like discounts or special information for their effort – otherwise, why bother? If there’s an obvious benefit to participating by scanning your QR code, customers are more likely to participate.

Furthermore, size and placement of your QR code matters. It needs to be in an obvious location on the advertisement with a clear call to action so that people know what they’ll be getting by following it. Since people need to reach it with their phones, it also needs to be placed where it is accessible to viewers. Make sure the size of your QR code is in scale to the size of your advertisement as well – don’t put a tiny QR code on a big billboard, for instance.

Check Your Links, Shorten the URL, and Link only to Mobile for Restaurant QR Code Campaigns

When designing your QR code campaign, it’s critical that you print out the code at the size and medium you plan to distribute it on and then test it on a variety of different smartphones to ensure that it reads accurately. It’s also smart to use a URL-shortener like Bit.ly or Goo.gl to compact the amount of data you are storing in the QR code. Doing this makes the pixels in the code larger, and therefore easier to scan.

Last but not least, it is of utmost importance that you QR code link to a mobile website. The whole point of using these things is to get mobile users to check you out on the go, and the last thing you need is to lose them at the last moment because you’ve sent them to a site that is a pain to view on a small, mobile screen.

Test, Track, and Refine Your Restaurant’s QR Code Campaigns

It’s smart to test a few different versions of your QR campaigns to see which is the most effective at drawing in customers. You also want to track your campaign results so that you can see how users are interacting with the marketing message and whether or not it is serving its purpose. Most of the URL-shorteners will give you this information, but you can also hire companies that specialize in creating and tracking QR code campaigns exclusively.

The bottom line is that QR codes can be an extremely effective marketing tool for your restaurant if used correctly. Following these simple tips will ensure that you get the most out of your QR code marketing efforts and will help you gain valuable insight for future use.

Technology in Restaurants

June 23, 2011

With the world making use of technology in all areas of life, it would be unwise for restaurants not to take part.  Customers are changing.  They have less time and less patience, but still want to enjoy their restaurant experiences. There is a way for restaurants to tap into this technological trend.  Technology is an investment that can offer relatively quick returns . . . that is, if the customers are on board.

Technology is useless unless the customer feels he is benefitting from it.  Once the customer’s experience is enhanced by the technology available, however, a restaurant can truly make use of it. Electronic devices can be used to cut a customer’s wait time, to increase the accuracy of service, and to provide instant feedback about a customer’s experience.  This can be a boon for both the customers and the restaurant serving them. Forty-nine percent of people who responded to a Cornell study said that they walked out of a QSR because of the wait time.  And the younger the customer, the less patience he had.  A whopping 69% of customers ages 18-34 admitted to walking out of a QSR because of high wait times.

Using this feedback and the technology available, a smart restaurant may put kiosks, mobile devices, or other technologies to help decrease a customer’s wait time and keep those customers from leaving.Technology can also help customers feel more comfortable about eating at a specific restaurant.  Virtual menus offer the ease of providing nutritional and allergy information so that a guest can decide what to eat and where she should dine.

Devices that enhance the customers’ experience and put some control in their hands can go a long way to increasing a restaurant’s business.  Of course, technology cannot replace a friendly and accommodating staff.  The right choices in technology, however, can underscore the staff’s efforts and provide a more pleasant customer experience.