For many restaurant owners who have been in the business for a while, every new internet tool brings a new set of fears and anxieties. In many industries, the growth of the internet has been a killer. Local retailers struggle to compete with huge online retail giants, local artisans have a hard time marketing their goods when the internet has opened up each consumer to a whole world of artisan crafters, and small businesses all around the country have struggled with new obstacles in the internet age. It’s perfectly reasonable that restaurant owners would pick up on those fears in the small business community, and develop anxieties of their own. But, the truth is that for restaurant owners, most fears of the internet are unfounded.
The “In-Person” Revolution
Much has been said about the “digital revolution.” The growth of the internet has changed the way that most of us interact with the world, and digital technologies have completely pervaded every element of society. The propagation of digital tools has led to heightened efficiencies in many industries, new opportunities in others, and a whole new economy. But, all of that growth has come at a cost, and today we are beginning to experience a new backlash fueled by the “digital revolution.”
Everyone craves real, in-person interactions with others. And, in the digital economy, those interactions can be hard to find. Ordering a crafted artisanal good off the internet will save you time and might save you money, but you won’t have any interactions with the artisan who produced that good. Buying basic retail goods online can be convenient, but you miss out on running into your friends at the store or creating random new friendships. People are starting to recognize and respond to this disconnection. The resulting “in-person” revolution is rising to push back at this disconnection.
More and more people are getting nostalgic for a pre-internet way of interacting with the world, and are starting to value the people, places, and opportunities that lead to genuine in person interactions. The “in-person” revolution isn’t anti-internet, it’s just pro-human to human connection. Interacting with others is a basic human need, and not one that the internet will ever be able to satisfy in the same ways as in person interactions can. The “in-person” revolution is based on nostalgia, but it isn’t just about dwelling on fond memories. It’s about doing something about the lack of interaction in the world, and taking the time to genuinely value the people and places that we interact with. It’s this revaluing of in-person experiences that explains why restaurant owners have nothing to fear from internet technologies.
Capitalizing On “In-Person” Sentiments
Savvy restaurant owners have already begun to pick up on this nostalgic revaluing of personal human to human interactions, and have begun marketing and promoting their restaurant’s accordingly. Really, you don’t have to offer anything particularly new or revolutionary to appeal to people fed up with the disconnection that the internet produces. All you need to do is focus on perfecting the things that have always made your restaurant a place where people want to spend time, and the rest follows from there.
Focus on creating an ambiance that is warm and caring, and forces people to remember that they have left their homes and computers and had a genuine experience. Encourage your staff to be as friendly as they can, and create genuine interactions with your customers. The in-person dining experience has never and never will go obsolete. There’s a lot of different ways for people to get food, but they choose to come to your restaurant because you give them something else that they kind find anywhere else: a deeper connection and sense of interaction and connection with their environment and the people around them. As long as you can keep that part of your business alive, the “in-person” revolution and its push against internet disconnection will keep serving your business well.
Don’t Be Afraid to Incorporate New Internet Tools
As a restaurant owner, once you can get past the preliminary fears that the internet will put you out of business, there are a lot of tools out there you can use and benefit from. Online ordering can help you boost your profits and reach new customers. Running a blog can help new people discover you. Having an independent website will help people find you, and come into your restaurant.
None of these tools will put you out of business. The “in-person” dining experience can’t be replicated or replaced. All these tools will do is help you find new ways to pay the bills, and capitalize on the efficiencies and opportunities the internet provides. So, don’t be afraid. There IS a revolution going on out there, but it’s not one that will ever lead to restaurants going out of business.
Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.
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We are on a mission to help local restaurants thrive in the new digital economy. Our blog is designed to give local restaurants best practices from some of the top restaurants in the world today.