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Let’s face it: Casual-dining numbers are declining. The cost of labor is rising. Fast casual, grocerants and meal delivery are becoming more prevalent.
Given that, how can table-service restaurant concepts compete and grow their business at this critical juncture in the industry?
To stand out in a sea of sameness, restaurants must understand how to do the following:
1. Utilize technology — but not for technology’s sake.
When used correctly, technology can help you solve problems, gain efficiencies and improve the guest experience. When used incorrectly, it can frustrate and confuse your guests.
Self-service ordering — necessary or over-complicated?
Self-service ordering is becoming a norm in restaurants, with the advent of tabletop tablets and kiosks. Tabletop tablets can be a game-changer, but make sure you’re keeping your guest’s preferences front and center. How in-depth is your menu and how much customization does it require? Is it easier for guests to input on a device or speak to a server?
Payment — how can you provide security and flexibility?
Guests are becoming increasingly hesitant to hand over their credit card to a stranger and increasingly likely to use new and emerging technologies like mobile pay to complete the payment process. Fraud is prevalent and with liability falling on merchants, how confident are you that your payment processes are secure? Are you giving guests a secure way to pay?
Labor — how do you get the biggest bang for your buck?
Patrons who visit a table-service restaurant are still seeking human interaction, and servers are still integral to the guest experience. You can use your staff to elevate the level of service and make the guest experience unique while using technology to support with low-visibility tasks.
Mobile apps — who’s using them and what’s the ROI?
Mobile apps can be hugely helpful or they can be a waste of time and money. Who is downloading your app? What are they using it for? Are your guests more likely to Google your name than download your app? If so, you’re better off optimizing mobile search.
2. Use speed of service as a way to win.
Providing speedy service while offering a pleasurable guest experience is necessary if you want to outperform and differentiate yourself from the competition.
This doesn’t just apply to dining in. It’s also relevant to curbside to-go or in-restaurant pickup. How quickly are you able to execute for your guests, no matter the style of service?
3. Make the four walls experience unique.
To bring people into a brick-and-mortar environment, you need to make the experience worth it. Today’s market is a busy playing field. What are you doing that’s unique?
Are you built for social media? Is your food Instagram-worthy? Do you have a Snapchat filter inside your location that people want to use? Do people have a reason to check into your location on Facebook? Increase your value by making the destination part of the appeal.
Do you offer your guests modern conveniences, like ways to charge their phones? Simple conveniences can go a long way toward bringing people into your restaurant and convincing them to return frequently.
4. Take advantage of the buzzword on everyone’s mind — delivery.
You can’t afford to ignore that more millennials are choosing to eat at home. Capturing that revenue is important, but so is holding true to your brand.
It’s critical to understand that a delivery company may not care about your brand standards the way you do. If delivery execution is poor, it doesn’t just damage the relationship for future deliveries, it can also affect your four-walls dining experience. Make certain you understand how your food travels best. And if particular items don’t travel well, don’t offer them.
5. Don’t ignore the back-of-the-house.
Front-of-the-house technology gets a lot of attention, but kitchen technology is getting smarter too.
Whether you are looking to simplify food prep, streamline efficiency between work stations or automate supply chain, these elements can be addressed with the right technology in the back-of-the-house. With increased operational pressure and lack of staff, these types of systems are becoming more of a necessity.
Taking all of the above into account, it stands to reason that the winners in table service will be able to embrace technology in ways that enhance and seamlessly fit into the guest experience.