It's the most wonderful time of the year, sings old-school crooner Andy Williams, as we take a little time out from all things restaurant and spend time with family and friends, well away from the frantic F&B lifestyle. Hopefully all you restaurant folk will receive some wonderful gifts, whether a mushroom table lamp, Nintendo Switch, a foldable trampoline, a massage gun, pickleball paddle (whatever that is) or any other item listed in Google's most popular gifts of 2022 list.
While we all enjoy our new possessions, spare a thought for the poor old restaurant, sitting quietly and in the dark – closed and unloved during the seasonal downtime and just waiting to re-open. Worse still are the restaurants which received no gifts at all.
We know that 2022 has been an incredibly busy year, so it's understandable that some restaurants got overlooked when it came to buying the presents. Thankfully there's still time to make amends, so here's our own list of gifts your restaurant will thank you for, even if they're a little late arriving.
One of the big trends expected to continue in 2023 is contactless everything. During the pandemic, solutions were rapidly found by responsive tech companies to the mutually exclusive problem of restaurant business continuity and reducing physical contact. After a shaky start which saw everything from “put the plate down and run away” service to handing meals out of pub windows, the technology became available to allow customers to run near normal operations with little or no contact. By examining traditional work-flows, touch points were eliminated by the introduction of QR codes – those little square patterns which are frequently scanned in everything from packaging to adverts to flight tickets.
The introduction of QR codes to the restaurant industry meant that customers could order and pay for their food from their tables, thus eliminating a critical touchpoint and creating a degree of normal operations. It was a revelation for the industry, and one which is still with us today. Despite the retreat of Covid, customers have adapted to this technology and now proactively expect it to be there as a feature of their ongoing daily lives. Contactless everything is here to stay.
When Motorola introduced the world's first mobile (that's a relative phrase – it weighed 2 kilos) phone in 1973, who would have thought that by 2022 7.2 billion people around the world would would carry a smartphone in their pocket and use it for almost everything? Customers now expect to run their lives by smartphone, including ordering ordering take-away food and booking restaurant tables.
Back in 2019, over 50% of restaurant users said in a survey that they preferred to book online, and this will only have grown (and continue to do so) since then as customers enthusiastically embrace restaurant apps and ordering/reservation platforms. Put simply, like many technology innovations, mobile ordering has passed from novel to essential – without it, your restaurant will be feeling very neglected indeed.
Restaurateurs have been quick to adopt new email marketing technologies often found within their restaurant reservation software, enabling them to quickly engage their audience with compelling offers, announcements, and Christmas photos of the staff wearing plastic reindeer antlers and garish pullovers. Many if not most still do, but there is a new kid on the block – SMS. Actually, this kid has been around for some time but finally became a teenager in 2022 and actually outgrew his email brother to become the most popular way for restaurants to reach their diners electronically. At the time of writing, SMS may only be a few inches taller than his sibling, but he's still growing and starting to dominate. We expect this to continue in 2023, so do your restaurant a favour and bring it SMS functionality.
The big news for 2023 is that Favouritetable's Development Team have invented a robot which will zoom around your restaurant to serve customers, take orders, cook the food, clean up afterwards and then actually enjoy unblocking the kitchen's waste disposal unit with its bare hands/pincers. Actually, none of that is true – this is a light hearted blog, after all, and it's Christmas – but certainly automation in restaurants is no longer the preserve of science fiction. Business owners around the world are using automation as fast as the boffins can create it, and to great effect.
Clearly nothing can, or perhaps should, replace the personal touch in hospitality, but by identifying long-winded processes and inefficient manual activities, tech companies have been able to produce systems which make life much easier, courtesy of automation.
We see it across a wide range of restaurant operations, but let's take one example: deposit-taking for party or group bookings. This is an area which will strike fear into most restaurateurs, because – honestly – it is such a manual chore, with all that chasing, checking, missed deadlines and misunderstandings. Now, thanks to automation, deposits can be taken easily, electronically and online. Plus – and here's the icing on the Christmas cake – automations can be used to send reminders and even cancel a reservation if the deposit doesn't arrive on time. Your restaurant will love that.
Well, we think that your restaurant will be delighted with any or all of the above gifts, but if you just can't decide what to get then take a look at Menu Pre-ordering. This nifty online system does away with all the hassle of manually collating guests' menu choices for group bookings and significantly reduces errors, process times and opportunity costs.
How does it work? Quite simply, the lead-booker is given access to a personalised online event portal in which they will see their menu and allocate their guests' menu choices. This data is then sent seamlessly to the restaurant's reservation system and added to the back-end booking information, in real time. It's great because there's no amount of incessant changes to the booking by the customer that it can't handle. Perhaps wrap menu pre-ordering with the automation, to save paper?
We hope you enjoyed our light-touch look at things your restaurant might like for Christmas. Some are the must-have presents for 2023; others are perhaps long overdue. Whatever you choose, we trust that your restaurant will have its best gift ever.
From the team at Favouritetable, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Favouritetable is contemporary, easy to use restaurant management software designed to increase bookings, efficiency, revenue and profits. Loved by restaurateurs and UK-based, it's the best value next-generation restaurant management software on the market.