The Technology Issues That Restaurants Find Scary

Waiter using a digital tablet to take an order
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Technology has infiltrated pretty much every part of our lives. People are constantly trying to improve technology and use it to their own benefit or to benefit their business. Increasing the use of technology it in the restaurant sector is new territory. You want to make sure it benefits the customer instead of making things more complicated for them.

According to this year’s Restaurant Leadership conference, there are nine concerns that restaurant owners have on their minds. For the most part the industry hasn’t found the right combination of capabilities that fit their restaurant’s tech needs. The issue is in finding the right combination that will improve the experience of the guests to drive traffic and deliver a good return on investment.

Here are the nine main issues:

1. Two out of five consumers think technology makes ordering more complicated. Some restaurants have devices at the table in which to put your order. There can be mixed feelings on this as some may find it harder to navigate through the menu instead of just telling the wait staff what they want to order.

2. Implementation varies widely. Different restaurants have different technological capabilities. Some rely heavily on technology and others don’t. What each chain does is different.

3. Tech’s operational capabilities causes problems. With so many orders flooding the restaurant from multiple channels, it may be hard to keep up and easy to get orders incorrect. It’s getting harder to schedule labor during peak times as well.

4. Mobile pay isn’t there for full service. There are issues with mobile pay being clunky and fraught with errors. The largest issue is with tipping. Servers can’t hand their tables to customers and walk away or stand there while watching someone enter a tip. It makes things really awkward for both parties.

5. Mobile pay is gaining in acceptance despite its issues. 39 percent of adults in 2015 agreed that they would pay via a smartphone application at a restaurant if it was offered. It is gaining acceptance faster than the issues can be fixed.

6. Full-service applications aren’t available. Many chains that are more casual-dining haven’t added applications because there aren’t as many frequent customers as there are for fast-casual dining. The technology is expensive and doesn’t make sense for restaurants unless a consumer comes in more than twice a week.

7. Websites need to be mobile-friendly. Half of restaurant searches are completed on a smartphone and 50 percent of millennials are there deciding whether or not they will be purchasing something.

8. In spite of the hype associated with them, tablets are still in the testing phase. According to David Bliven of On The Border, the restaurant chain has handheld tablets in about half of the stores in order to test entering orders. The chain is trying to increase both speed of service and improve the training for the servers. This means that the new hires no longer would need to be stuffed into a small office to use a training station. The staff can also go from the floor to the cook line and see how the process works. With On The Border, it started with large tablets that the servers had to carry in shoulder slings. This was too cumbersome and did not work. The servers now use smaller devices and may soon be training on mobile devices.

9. Beacons are the bleeding edge. This means they are at the very forefront of technological development. According to findings by ABI Research, the use of beacon technology will hit the mainstream market this year. It is supposed to be the year that multiple industries, including restaurants, begin experimenting with this technology.

Beacons are portable devices that can be placed anywhere in a restaurant. They use a smartphone’s Bluetooth connection and transmit information into a mobile application directly. The devices can be bought through mobile solutions companies and are highly cost-effective. These solutions companies provide software programs that manage the messages that are being delivered.

In order to use a beacon, the customer must download the application which listens for the beacon’s signal. After it’s connected and the customer elects to receive information, the beacon automatically delivers messages when the smartphone passes by it.

There are a few types of messages that are beneficial for restaurants to send to potential customers. These include coupons and deals, but also the ability to reach people near, but not yet in the restaurant. This can entice people to come in. You could also inform customers about current wait times, send them an online survey, allow them to order from their table and pay bills from the phone. Each time a beacon delivers a message, it also collects behavioral analytics.

Restaurants have a long way to go in order to implement additional technology and there will probably be some trial and error that goes along with it. In the end, a pleasant customer experience needs to be the goal.

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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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