Restaurant tech: thoughts on 2022 and 2023
You'll forgive for being a little reflective this week, but it is a good time of year to pause and think about technology. In this week's blog we discuss how the technology landscape has changed and what restaurateurs can look forward to in 2023.
Tech to get smarter
After decades of following the status quo, restaurants have begun to embrace technology following the effects of two turbulent years. In particular, labour shortages have driven business owners to look at new ways of working and changing customer expectations around “touch points” within the customer journey mean that restaurants have had to change their customer-facing workflows.
In an industry which has traditionally shied away from adopting technology quickly, restaurateurs are now introducing new technical innovations which fundamentally change the way business gets done, from ordering, scheduling and taking payments, to the very way they communicate with their guests. We're not saying that the older methods of running a restaurant are gone, but technology is certainly here to stay.
It's not just about what the restaurateurs need to run their business in 2023, it is about what consumers expect, too. One of the by-products of the pandemic is that the public seems to like the emergence of technology within their restaurant customer journey and expect it to be a permanent feature in 2023and beyond.
The online customer journey
How times have changed, and so quickly! There was an era not so long ago when a restaurant's overall quality was measured not just by its food and service, but by the interpersonal interactions customers experienced before, during and after their reservation. Fundamentally the expectation of an attentive, warm and efficient dialogue with restaurants hasn't changed but the methods used certainly have.
Customers now demand a safe and touchless experience which is accessible from anywhere, on any web-enabled device, and at any time of the day or night. It's a trend common to all sectors and in that respect its emergence in the world of restaurants isn't unique, however discerning diners do expect that traditional sense of comfort to be transferred to their online experience. In short, impersonal, cranky, unintuitive online booking portals won't cut it in 2023: if customers go online, they expect a virtual facsimile of a terrestrial experience but on their laptops, smartphones and tablets.
For the uninitiated, what does this look like? It's about restaurateurs weaving their values into their online journeys to give bookers a sense of familiarity and reassurance which asserts the business's unique brand. Without it, online booking is just another boring, two-dimensional, transactional inconvenience for bookers, rather than a really enjoyable and rewarding experience. Expect diners to be super-critical of online booking systems in 2023.
The pandemic years saw a shift towards all things contactless, including within the restaurant sector. In a period of unprecedented challenges, new ways of ensuring continuity were introduced across the world and in all walks of life, in an impressive display of ingenuity and innovation. With an imperative to reduce physical touchpoints across the board, contactless blossomed in a big way and allowed so many of our day to day activities to continue, albeit in a form which – for most - took some getting used to.
Now, here's the thing: humans are highly adaptive and, far from desiring a switch back to the old ways have embraced contactless like never before. In short, contactless is the new norm and diners appear not just to expect it for ordering and paying in their favourite restaurants, but love it, too.
It would appear the humble QR code has never been so popular, and is here to stay.
New sales streams
The pandemic years saw increased demand for food delivery from full-service restaurants, which provided both a lifeline and a challenge to those businesses. On the one hand restaurateurs were able to jump head-first into a new business sub-set and generate much-needed revenue during their hour of need, but on the other faced all of the usual issues associated with creating new ventures. Pivoting from the provision of traditional in-house dining to what was essentially take-away wasn't easy for many, even though at first glance the elements required differed little.
The net result two years later is a rich seam of restaurants who have not only embraced the opportunity of high-end “dining at home”, but see it as an essential and substantive sales channel for their business. What began in many cases as a “Dunkirk Spirit” telephone service operated from an open window in the car park has evolved into a finely-tuned operation which now relies on seamless technology to underpin it.
While many restaurants are glad to get back to their more traditional business and service models, many have spotted that consumers have shifted their thinking towards delivery and take-away being a new norm within the full service sector. In turn that places extra demands on restaurants to get it right, which itself has stimulated the emergence of highly advanced click/collect/deliver technologies to assist both restaurant and customer.
With all this talk of increasing customer tech demands placing strain on the average restaurateur, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the emergence of innovations usually provide huge benefits for businesses too, once they have them in place. Software designers are a clever lot (well, certainly ours are!) and adept at deconstructing manual processes, mapping them out and rebuilding them digitally. The best designers (did we mention ours?) go a step further, however, by spotting pain points in the manual process and eliminating them altogether creating better ones.
Let's take the example of party or group bookings. Group or party bookings are a real paradox for most restaurant, pub, bar or café owners. On the one hand, they are the big wins and a golden ticket to big profits; on the other – and after the euphoria of confirming a big win has died down – they can become a real headache to deal with and a sense of dread can set in. Faced with the reality of endless paperwork, demanding bookers, capacity considerations, never ending phone-calls, constantly shifting demands and on-the-fly changes, restaurateurs can be forgiven for dreading the reality of group and party bookings.
Enter online menu pre-ordering. Savvy restaurant owners are turning to software systems which include the ability to better manage complex bookings and remove the inefficient, time-wasting manual elements. Favouritetable's reservation software, for example, includes menu pre-ordering which means menu choices are inputted by the lead booker of group reservations within a dedicated online portal, and sent directly to the booking record within the restaurant's back-end system. There is scope for changes to be made by the booker within set date parameters and the restaurant can specify when everything has to be paid for, or deposits left. Within Favouritetable, we have even built-in the ability to take those payments automatically and seamlessly, and all communications with the customer are automated.
In a world where tech is often viewed as benefiting only the diner, we think online menu pre-ordering is a little something restaurateurs can gift to themselves. On that note, something restaurateurs can look forward to in 2023 is an online demo of our menu pre-ordering system. We're taking bookings now for January.
Have you seen our online Menu Pre-Ordering? Book your January demo today!
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 full-function restaurant management software on the market.
For a demonstration, call us today on 033 0124 4785 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org