No one is surprised that technology is an increasingly huge part of every facet of our lives.
We communicate with smartphones. We book appointments online. We do our shopping via mobile apps. The applications for technology in our everyday lives are virtually infinite.
Restaurants are no exception to that. There are emerging technologies that restaurants can use to increase efficiency and loyalty—and add to their bottom lines. If you’re not on the forefront of restaurant tech, get ready. The digital age is coming to restaurants, and you’re going to want to get on board.
Here’s what every tech-savvy restaurateur needs to know.
What technology trends should restauranteurs be watching?
Technology is only going to become more prevalent in the restaurant industry (and all industries, for that matter). But there are a few areas where emerging technology is already becoming commonly implemented. You’re already behind if you don’t have a plan yet to put it to use in your own restaurant.
Those areas are what we’re going to take a deep dive into here. But keep in mind that this is by no means a comprehensive list of the ways new technology is changing the restaurant industry. In the fast-evolving world of new tech, if you can dream it, someone’s probably already working on an app to help you achieve it.
Mobile delivery is driving incremental revenue.
Delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash are driving a boom in business for all types of restaurants. According to 2016 data from Uber, the top 25% of restaurants on their platform do over $6,000 per month in additional sales.
But this trend seems to be growing—and quickly.
In recent years, mobile delivery orders have represented 53 percent of all online restaurant orders, up from just 33 percent in 2013. That’s huge growth in less than five years.
Part of what makes mobile delivery so appealing is the ability to pay with a smartphone. As mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Google Pay become more popular and prevalent, guests want to be able to use those when paying for their delivery orders. A mobile delivery app that integrates with those payment platforms makes for a simple, seamless delivery experience that can be done, from start to finish, on a smartphone.
Another reason customers are clamoring for mobile delivery is the flexibility it offers. No matter where you are—work, school, home—mobile delivery means you can have a meal delivered there quickly and easily. It’s not always easy to pick up the phone and call for a pizza from your quiet office. But a few taps on your smartphone, and lunch is on the way. Plus, there’s no need to have access to a computer, which we don’t always have access to anyways. But something that we do we always have access to is our smartphones.
Adding in a mobile delivery option will allow your restaurant to:
- Reach new guests through mobile ordering platforms
- Streamline logistics and reduce overhead for delivery and carryout
- Expand your delivery area without added cost
Mobile ordering is a great marketing and sales tool.
When your restaurant joins services like Ritual, you get access to 50,000+ hungry guests. That’s an easy choice if you’re looking to increase your foot traffic and bring in new business. Ritual provides guests convenience. They’re able to order food from virtually anywhere and be notified when their food is ready, and skip the line. It’s the ultimate convenience app.
Your restaurant benefits because you’re not only able to provide guests with a great experience and great food, but you’re providing them something even more important sometimes: convenience.
Ritual also incentivizes customers to:
- Try out new spots (people who haven’t been to your establishment yet)
- Return to the same spot (repeat orders from past guests)
- “Piggyback” on another coworkers order (increase the total cheque)
Mobile payments make it easy to settle up.
For non-delivery orders, too, having the option to pay a restaurant via mobile is increasingly popular because of how convenient it is for guests.
Think about the last time you went out to brunch with a group of friends. When the check comes, it’s a huge pain figuring out who had what and how much everyone should pitch in for the tip.
That’s why more and more restaurants are developing mobile payment apps that can help diners handle the check without any of the headache.
Take the Cheesecake Factory for example. Its CakePay app lets guests view the menu, check into their location, view the bill, split it among diners, add a tip, and pay from their phone.
It’s as easy as downloading the app and tapping a few selections on your phone screen. And while it makes sorting out the bill infinitely easier, that’s far from the only benefit to having a mobile payment app. It also gives the guests a simpler, more personalized experience, which increases overall brand sentiment and loyalty. It can be used to collect data about guests, which can in turn be used to create highly personalized and effective marketing campaigns.
Take Starbucks and Dunkin, for example. They both implemented mobile apps to make online ordering and payment easier for their guests. But then, they used those apps to drive customer loyalty, too.
Over a two-year period after launching its app, Starbucks saw a 100 percent increase in unique visitors to its locations among those who were using the app. Over the same two-year period, Dunkin saw an insane 456 percent increase in unique visitors who used its mobile app. The potential payoffs for restaurants that invest in an app are far-reaching—there’s more to be gained here than just a convenient new payment method for existing guests.
Of course, it’s fair to note that custom apps aren’t the perfect solution for every restaurant type and format. What works for franchise and chain QSRs may not be the right fit for a single-location FSR, for instance.
Launching a mobile payment app can unlock:
- Seamless customer experiences
- Rich customer data and order history tracking
- Personalized suggestions, offers, or discounts
- Lifecycle marketing opportunities
Complete self-service gives diners a glimpse into the future.
While many restaurants are finding small ways—like orders or payments—to incorporate technology into their operations, others are going all-in. There are a variety of easy new ways restaurants can use technology to offer complete self-service to their guests.
Take fast food places, for example, which are offering kiosks where guests can place their orders and make payments without having to go to the order counter at all. It’s a convenient way to cut down on wait times and make the experience faster and more convenient for guests who are in a hurry—or just don’t want to wait in line.
But fast food isn’t the only sector of the restaurant industry where self-service is taking off. In fast casual, and even full-service restaurants, things like tablets for tableside ordering are becoming increasingly common.
A tableside tablet comes with a lot more than just ordering, too. It can be used to summon a server, request a drink refill, play games while waiting for food to arrive, split the check and pay, surf the web, leave a review of the restaurant online, and more.
Chili’s is one of the restaurant chains that has taken advantage of some of these possibilities.
They offer tableside tablets that allow diners to view the menu, place their orders, and split and pay their bills.
Since the tablets were installed, Chili’s President Wyman Roberts told USA Today that the chain has seen an increase in overall customer satisfaction. He says diners are happy to see familiar technology being utilized at their favorite restaurants, and points to the arrival and paying of the bill as one area where guests really appreciate the tech-savvy option.
Some restaurants are even taking self service further than that.
Eatsa, Honeydew, and Moxie’s are examples of a new type of restaurant where diners place their orders, then collect their food from windows where it’s automatically dropped off.
Eatsa has also curated a modern aesthetic using this technology, attracting consumers as seen in this image.
This kind of format isn’t for every restaurant—fine dining, for example, will always require a human touch—but it’s an exciting new development for fast food, fast-casual, QSR, and other formats.
Automating the service experience can provide benefits to both diners and restaurateurs:
- Improved speed, efficiency, and service
- Lower overhead and operating costs
- Quicker table turnover
- Customized dining experiences, personalized upsells, and customer-level dining data
Inventory technology is taking the sting out of stock.
The days of manually tracking and ordering inventory from a clipboard are (maybe, hopefully, finally) coming to a close.
Inventory management has always been a beast of a process for restaurants of all sizes. Keeping track of various SKUs, trying to cobble together information on paper forms, manually counting boxes, cans, and pallets—it’s never been anyone’s favorite part of the job.
Worst of all, poor inventory management and food waste are one of the leading reasons restaurants struggle to stay afloat.
Full-service and limited-service restaurants alone waste an estimated $25 billion in food every year—with a significant chunk of that being food left on the supply shelves.
Luckily, a whole host of new inventory management apps are flipping the script.
By making it easier and more efficient to take control of inventory, this class of new tech is helping restaurants boost their bottom line and keep better control over what they’re spending and wasting on food and supplies.
Inventory technology can save you time and money by:
- Simplifying and streamlining inventory management
- Providing historical data on inventory levels and trends
- Allowing tighter control on inventory to boost margins and reduce waste
Scheduling technology is making people management a breeze.
Data is driving almost every aspect of a modern business. And restaurant scheduling is no exception to that rule.
Rather than guessing how many cooks or servers you might need on a given Tuesday night, new digital systems can seamlessly integrate historical business data, past scheduling patterns, and even external factors like weather into a single plan.
These systems can automatically generate a schedule, distribute it to the staff, and handle any manual changes or updates (without having to print and reprint your spreadsheet 20 times).
Automate your scheduling to make the process pain free:
- Save time and energy from having to write and rewrite (and re-rewrite) schedules each week
- Optimize scheduling based on data-driven trends and forecasts
- Effortlessly distribute schedules, changes, and updates to the entire staff
Supply procurement technology reshaping the ordering process.
Last, but certainly not least, technology is changing the way that restaurants handle ordering supplies that keep them running on a daily basis.
Rather than relying on hodgepodge of major distributors plus runs to the local grocery store and a trip to the farmer’s market, restaurants can now order supplies from any number of local suppliers all from one place and have it delivered all at once.
notch helps restaurants save up to 10 hours per week on ordering supplies, plus helps them save up to 15% on supplies, all without sacrificing quality.
Using notch to order supplies is a major win:
- Save time and energy on ordering
- Consolidate and streamline supplies from a single source
- Shop and purchase fresh, local foods and supplies
- Cut costs while receiving higher quality products
- Enable you to focus on what you do best: servicing guests with delicious dishes
Check notch's ROI Calculator to determine how much time and money we can save your specific business.
As technology continues to take over the restaurant industry, who knows what new and exciting developments we’ll see. Maybe AR and VR will make their way into the dining experience or new engineering techniques will change everything we know about food preparation.
But one thing is for certain: Technology will continue to evolve and the restaurant industry will change along with it.
The next era of restaurant tech is here—and it’s sure to lead to even more changes in the future.