What Smart Dining Trends Mean for Restaurant Training

Consumers are dining smarter. Learn 4 types of restaurant technology and its effects on operations and consumers.

Published on 26 November, 2018 | Last modified on 5 March, 2023
Self Service Ordering Devices are a Time Saving Restaurant Technology 1

The last decade was filled with rapid innovation. Consumers have witnessed drastic changes in how their homes operate, how their cars drive, how they travel, and even how they dine. In a wave of new restaurant technology, dining is getting smarter. In this article, we’ll focus on 4 different types of front of house restaurant technology and its effects on restaurant operations and diners.

How Do Consumers Feel About Smart Dining?

Restaurant sales are up over the last year. More Americans are choosing to eat and drink at restaurants, rather than making food and beverage purchases at grocery stores. But how do these diners feel towards restaurant technology?

The team behind Toast, a restaurant management system, recently surveyed over 1,000 restaurant diners for their recent industry report. Their research found:

  • 79 percent of diners agree that restaurant technology improves the guest experience
  • 57 percent of respondents order from restaurant websites on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis
  • 68 percent of diners feel that servers’ handheld devices improve the guest experience

Yet, despite the majority of diners embracing restaurant technology and online ordering, there is a rift. Toast’s report found that over half of the respondents never pay with mobile payments and only 42 percent prefer digital receipts over print.

1. Self-Service Ordering and Payment Devices

Digital ordering has become increasingly mainstream. Restaurants like Applebee’s and Red Robin have enabled tabletop self-service ordering and payment devices. These devices are usually in the form of tablets and kiosks. Diners are able to order food, drinks, pay, tip, and even play games directly from their table.

A major advantage of digitally ordering from the table is time savings. Touch screen devices save servers from multiple trips to and from tables. In fact, BizTech reports that ordering automation saves time by as much as 25 percent. Additionally, this restaurant technology lowers the risk of order and payment errors.

Additionally, digital ordering systems offer restaurants the ability to up-sell and cross-sell. Instead of the arbitrary “Would you like fries with that?” digital ordering tablets could show the fries (or toppings, drinks, etc.) alongside their order. The added visuals are more appealing to the consumer, and entices them to add to their order – increasing sales for the restaurant.

2. Wait List Management Software

In addition to tabletop self-service devices, restaurants are incorporating other front of house technology. These technologies help to meet the needs of today’s fast, on-the-go consumers. Waitlist management software has simplified the hectic environment of the host stand. No longer do diners have to wait for their name to be called.

Instead, wait list management software delivers front of house staff with accurate wait times. Additionally, customers can leave the restaurant and receive text alerts when their table is available. For example, Waitwhile allows front of house staff to manage and customize guest lists.

3. Not in a Rush? Restaurant Technology for the Wait

Restaurants have also given thought to the customers that want to stay put. Cafes and coffee shops incorporate phone charging stations and guest wifi in their front of house tech. Wifi and charging stations keep customers in locations longer as they work, study, or simply socialize. With their phones’ data and batteries addressed, they’ll be more likely to purchase another cup of coffee.

Restaurant Technology Can Keep Diners On Site Longer

4. Keep Customers With Loyalty Apps

Customer loyalty and rewards applications keep customers coming back. (That’s right, all you Starbucks Gold Star customers!) Customer loyalty apps offer points or rewards for purchases. After reaching a specific level of points, customers have the opportunity to a free or discounted menu item. For instance, customers get the free beverage of their choice after earning 300 “Starbucks Stars” in a 12 month period.

To incentivize customers more, these apps usually send messages for promotional offers, discounts, or limited sales to rake in extra points. Some loyalty apps address mobile customers through pay by phone options. Additionally, customers can even skip the line by pre-ordering via the loyalty member app.

An added benefit of customer loyalty apps is the data saved on the customer. With this data, apps are able to streamline the customer’s experience by offering them to say, reorder their last meal with a click (the modern version of ordering “the usual”).

Customer order data could go in many directions. For instance, recurring orders with certain altercations, for example some sandwich with a particular sauce, could lead to new menu items.

Effects on Restaurant Training

Are you planning on investing in restaurant technology? Before your purchase, consider some of these tips:

  1. Do your research — Is your goal to improve back of house or front of house operations? Restaurant technology is designed for different functions. Research multiple vendors and products once you’ve defined the purpose of your smart dining investment.
  2. Pilot at one location — If you have multiple restaurant locations, choose one location to start. Demoing at one restaurant is critical. Not only will you save money initially, but you’ll also be able to track the tech’s success and shortcomings.
  3. Have a backup plan — More shortcomings and hiccups than you expected? Have a backup plan in place. While it’s important to plan ahead, also carefully record any issues that occur and your team’s response. Your backup plan (and its success) will come in handy for future restaurant technology rollouts.
  4. Train restaurant staff Be sure that both the front of and the back of house staff are prepared with training. Onboarding new technology and applications can be tricky. Train your restaurant staff on how to use this tech, prepare for known issues, and communicate how this technology will better their day-to-day as a team.
  5. Scale to other locations — If successful, take the lessons learned and apply to other restaurant locations. Don’t add new technologies into the mix when expanding. Remember, every restaurant and staff is different. Be prepared for different issues.
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