How Restaurants Are Using Technology to Deliver Better Customer Service

Pizza Chains Resist Proposed FDA Rules On Menu LabellingThe next frontier for social media and smartphones may well be the restaurant table.

Consumers want to see the new technology they use integrated into their dining experience, a new study from Technomic on consumer-facing technology shows, especially if it will speed up the process of getting their meal or paying their bill.

Just over half of respondents to the survey said it’s important for restaurants to start using these technologies, and that they expect to use technology more often in the coming year to order food.

Sounds like the first restaurant that lets you order dinner from their mobile-enabled tweetstream wins.

So far, restaurants have been slow to take to technology, but a few chains are breaking new ground. Here’s a look at some of the recent innovations:

Mobile ordering. This is one area where fast-food chains are in the forefront. Domino’s Pizza is so far along with it, they recently introduced their Spanish-language mobile-ordering app.
iPad order kiosks. Why wait in line if you can file your order at a kiosk immediately, and then sit down and relax? Blazing Onion Burger Company is testing this system out in a new restaurant opened last month in Seattle. Expect more of this, since it could help prevent walk-aways and result in more orders.
Facebook ordering. This may be the biggest technology leap coming in the next year, as nearly 100 percent of restaurant owners say they plan to have a Facebook presence by next year. Companies specializing in Facebook-payment integration for restaurants such as ChowNow and NetWaiter are helping chains to get their ordering onto the popular platform. This is a fairly low-cost add-on to make, and it has the potential to grow sales, which always gets a restaurauteur’s attention. For instance, the Taco Spot in Charleston, SC saw a 10 percent sales bump after implementing Facebook-based ordering, trade magazine Fast Casual recently reported.
Tabletop e-waiter & checkout. Diners hate it when waiters take their credit card away and run it up at the register — it’s a common point for credit-card fraud. Hand them a restaurant iPad they can self-checkout on where their card doesn’t leave their sight, and they’re happy. That often-endless wait for the card and bill to return doesn’t win fans, either. E la Carte’s Presto tablet is one solution that offers tableside self-checkout and more — it even suggests additional items to order, and the company reports it cuts 7 minutes off the average diner’s stay. Customers are happy with the faster service, and restaurants can serve more diners per night. Airport-restaurant chain HMSHost is among the operators using Presto.
Digital menu boards + smartphones. Watch for fast-food restaurants to change menus more often, because digital menu boards make it so much easier than manually changing prices and items. Digital signage also allows quick-serve restaurants to provide entertainment and interactivity while you wait in line — for example, Boston-based burrito chain Boloco’s digital signboard allows patrons to play tic-tac-toe against friends or the computer while they wait.
Games while-u-wait. Gaming industry sources report McDonald’s is projecting gesture-enabled games onto restaurant floors for kids to play while they wait for Happy Meals, in 150 of the chain’s higher-profile locations. Now that’ll keep kids busy — and we all know happy kids mean happy parents who come back to your restaurant.
Online coupons. More restaurants are using digital coupons, and diners gobble them up — in the Technomic survey, 58 percent of diners said they’ve already used them.
Tech-savvy diners expect elegant solutions that work, as McDonald’s clunky test of bolted-to-the-table iPads showed. But for restaurants that can get it right, integrating technology that makes customers happy and turns tables faster will be a no-brainer.

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13 thoughts on “How Restaurants Are Using Technology to Deliver Better Customer Service

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