Technology rules our world and that plays out in the food service industry as well. The following list includes some of the most important tech trends that restaurant owners will need to adopt or find themselves left behind.
1. Mobile Payment
Mobile payment is the most pressing issue facing all restaurants and even more generally to all retailers. We write frequently on the topic, but you must have a mobile payment solution to meet your customer’s needs.
This trend has been developing in tandem with the digital wallet. Consumers are more frequently researching and shopping straight from their mobile phones. The digital wallet solves a problem of mobile payment by creating a seamless experience for the purchaser. With a digital wallet a customer doesn’t have to reach for their credit card when making a purchase because the credentials are stored on their phone. The digital wallet will replace the app because of this native integration.
2. Sharing Economy
The peer to peer sharing economy has gone beyond just automobiles and hotels. Restaurants now have to compete with Airbnb style apps like Homedine which allows users to eat in the homes of amateur chiefs. The equivalent of a high end dining experience with all the feeling of eating a home cooked meal.
Social networks have also supported the new sharing economy. Startups have created standards that facilitate trust between strangers allowing these services to flourish. This has become a major disruptor to cities, for example the disputes between Lyft, Uber and the State of New York. This is a trend that is not going away as these Startups fight for their rights to provide these services.
3. Use of tablets as POS or Ticketing system
The use of iPads as a POS and/or ticketing system in restaurants has hit the main stream. Stacked, a restaurant that serves hamburgers and other stackable foods, uses iPads as their menu with tickets going directly to the kitchen when diners order. At the end of the night eater’s cash out their orders and this also makes it easy for larger parties to split the check.
This is largely influenced by the fact that a tablet is inexpensive compared to other bulkier systems. It also offers staff and owners flexibility. A POS no longer has to rest on a counter, but can be taken wherever a customer may be waiting to make a purchase.
4. Rewards tied to social sharing
Increasingly social rewards are becoming a natural part of the dining process. One experimental pop up restaurant rewarded customers who shared pictures of their meal to Instagram. In return these customers were rewarded with free meals, and the restaurant got a publicity blitz for its efforts.
Customer loyalty and retention is important and this fostered by the use of social media. The truth is, we like talking about our experiences and food is a social experience. Your customers are going to share their opinions, but you can partner with them in those conversations and leverage them to build your business.
5. Customer reviews appearing in search
Google has made an effort to put its local business Google+ pages to use as a competitor to services like Yelp. Reviews of restaurants now appear in their search listings appearing as part of the knowledge graph at the top of search results. On mobile, a card replaces search results prominently showing Google’s review service as the top result.
It is clear that no restaurant can escape the court of public opinion. Search engines are increasingly dedicating their top results to social generated results. This is especially true on mobile where diners are likely to ask their friends on social networks to suggest a place to eat. This has given priority to reviews over other forms of information.
The tech trends are clear, the food service industry is becoming one that centers on the user using their mobile phone or tablet to interact with the staff. Diners desire convenience and expect a personally tailored experience. There is a power in that which restaurants can leverage by adopting a customer loyalty program paired with a digital wallet. A restaurant will find themselves in a position where they can meet their customer needs and provide the social rewards they seek to create happy returning customers.