Better connected

Better connected

Remember when waiting staff would take an order via pen and paper? Or when chefs would ring a bell to tell them that an order was ready? Or even when customers had to wait until they left a restaurant to give feedback?

All of these practices are out of date in casual dining restaurants – in fact, there are systems or platforms that were new last year that have since been updated or replaced by something more sophisticated.

Such is the way of technology in restaurants. If we thought the last couple of years had brought about innovation, 2018 has well and truly trumped it. We’re seeing more integration between EPOS and apps, more discussion about not just technology’s presence but its importance in restaurants, and even the industry looking at just how far they could stretch it – think facial recognition and assistant technology such as Siri.

“EPOS is always continuing to develop, whether that’s specific features and functionalities or completely new solutions which seamlessly integrate with the point of sale,” says Tevalis Limited marketing manager Samantha Weller. “For EPOS and apps specifically, the functionality is becoming more advanced and bespoke to meet the specific requirements of each operation, which means the capabilities really are endless.”

While we’ll look at the ways in which operators are now able to make the most of EPOS and apps, what has very much continued from previous years is the reasons to
implement such technology. I apologise now if the words ‘seamless’, ‘save’ and ‘experience’ are repeated too much for your liking, but, really, I would think these are top priority for restaurateurs if it means higher customer satisfaction, more orders and bigger spend. And, yes – the idea that technology can give staff more time to spend on the floor with guests comes up once or twice.

Take stock

EPOS systems have the capacity to collect data from across the business, including cash to stock, in order to measure its performance. Much of this comes down to a simple equation of ingredients in minus dishes served.

Through the data collected, operators are able to see what’s being ordered from the menu, in order to gauge what’s popular and, therefore, develop and manage the menu appropriately. Being able to capture this information gives additional knowledge of the ingredients and produce required to make up dishes, without over or under ordering. Even more than this, it can tell you valuable information about your individual customers.

“Using the ever-increasing amounts of customer data operators have in their EPOS systems means specific questions can be answered, such as who comes in when, how much they spend and which items they are more likely to buy together,” says Revenue Management Solutions CEO John Oakes. “Understanding customer purchasing habits in this way will not only optimise the supply chain, it will also ensure the menu really offers customers what they want.”

Giving restaurant customers options that they actually want should result in sales and, providing the people in the kitchen know how to create these options, go some way to result in a satisfied customer. We know that many restaurants in the UK do offer great food, but the customer experience still needs some work. Using the data collected effectively can result in a better customer experience as operators are able to personalise it to each and every individual that places an order, makes a payment or downloads the restaurant app.

“Recent research by PwC revealed that customers are willing to pay 16% more for coffee and 12% more for dinner if the business provides a great customer experience,” comments Como co-founder Liran Mayost. “By using the data collected about customer’s purchases and their wants and wishes, businesses can offer customers a much more personalised experience that will keep them coming back.”

This personalisation can come in the way of rewards, discounts and deals based on their previous purchases, encouraging them to be loyal by giving them something in return. However, loyalty should come from more than simply money-off offers and buy-one-get-one-frees. It is the overall experience that dictates whether someone enjoyed their visit, and this is where technology can play its part in creating one that is seamless and stress-free.

Unbreakable

So advanced has technology become that a guest is likely to use some form of it whether at the beginning or the end of their experience. They can book, order, pay and review with a few clicks of a button.

There are several benefits in providing customers with this option, including freeing up the time of staff, speeding up table turnover and making it quicker for customers, suggesting that both parties win.

“This is the first time we’ve introduced integrated, mobile payment solutions and I have to say the feedback from both staff and customers during our trial has been excellent,” says Rich Zammit, co-founder of 7Bone which uses Zonal’s Aztec iServe and Pay at Table functions. “We are all about providing a fun, laid back vibe, and taking the stress out of ordering and settling up is a key part of that.”

Mobile orders and payments have developed even further than this through the use of smartphones. Restaurant-branded apps are capable of notifying customers of special offers, discounts and rewards as well as taking reviews. Supporting the idea that these platforms should be used to provide customers with simplicity and seamlessness, Flyt found that the three key objectives for customers to continue using a restaurant app are ease of use, the provision of key information and speed.

However, rather than requiring the downloading of a separate restaurant app, the restaurant experience is now being intertwined with a person’s regular, sometimes daily, use of social media. Through Facebook Messenger’s chatbot, you can now book a table at PizzaExpress or retrieve, split and pay for your bill at Wahaca. Reservation platform Quandoo has also partnered with Instagram to enable users to reserve a table at a restaurant that has a business profile on the photo-sharing app.

There are so many apps for the different steps that operators could have one for all. A word of warning, however, as ‘too many cooks’ can spoil more than the broth where intricate technology is concerned.

“Operators need to be careful to avoid a situation where they are running too many different apps, sometimes seven or more, but don’t have every facet of the apps integrated,” says Kobas CEO James O’Sullivan. “Even a small function that has to be duplicated or done manually, such as creating a user account in each system, at best, could add to the overheads of the overall system and, at worst, is forgotten, which could lead to a broken experience for the customers and staff.”

Of course, restaurant technology that provides seamlessness is not just that with which your customers come face-to-face. The implementation of technology that links back and front-of-house has also increased as mobile orders are transmitted to a kitchen screen for chefs, who then notify waiting staff that it is ready for collection. While, in some cases, customers need to see the use of technology to appreciate it, there are others where it should remain a secret.

“Back-of-house technologies have evolved to such an extent that they can now allow kitchen communications to integrate seamlessly with front-of-house,” says CST managing director Eloise Sheppard. “Not only does this mean happier customers, it also ensures a confident workforce who can concentrate on serving customers, rather than checking tickets, chasing orders or organising other team members.”

The integration of technology in restaurants is one that is becoming all the more mainstream and expected. Service should be slick and effortless, and technology seems to be the solution as developments continue. With half of customers believing that facial recognition would improve their experience and two-thirds of operators predicting that wearable technology to pay a bill will be mainstream by 2025, according to Oracle Hospitality, who knows what we’ll be seeing this time next year?

No shows

One of the biggest clashes between operator and customer of recent times is the issue of no shows – a customer books a table at a restaurant only to not turn up on the day. Through technology, restaurateurs are able to decrease the chances of this happening and the damage that it will do to their business.
“Restaurants are reporting an increase in weekly no-shows of up to 20% in some establishments, costing businesses thousands of pounds in lost income and it shows no signs of abating,” says Dries De Coster, divisional director for hospitality and retail at The Access Group. “The answer to the issue is smart technology, which encourages customers to use a card authentication system at the point of booking. This is a secure, mobile-friendly way to secure a reservation and real-time booking. It also allows a venue to lock down the reservation without any extra work from their team. And, if the customer doesn’t show, there is a one-click redeem button, to pull the authenticated money from the customer’s account into the operator’s – and all as part of an automated process. Additionally, our system texts customers before they are due, and they simply reply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to confirm their booking.”