Across nearly every industry, customer expectations and standards have changed. This is especially true in the restaurant industry, and it’s not being driven by the food itself or modern-day dietary needs. Rather, from personalized menu recommendations to immediate and expedient check retrieval, today’s consumers are demanding to be met with a new and improved experience.

In order to effectively meet these demands, restaurants must manage across channels, from upgraded POS systems and third-party delivery services to operational systems and the traditional dine-in experience. When done effectively, all parties involved are happy.

Restaurants need to stay current on new innovation, whether it’s customization or digitization. Every day, new technologies are gaining momentum in the food industry, and restaurants need to be just as quick with embracing them. For example, Starbucks started to introduce new and advanced Mastrena machines that are equipped with “built-in Internet of Things (IOT) sensors” that are connected to the brand’s artificial intelligence (AI) system, Deep Brew, and are directly connected to Starbucks’ support center. This will allow Starbucks to provide heightened personalization and analyze and collect data and insight on their customers.

Consumers and stakeholders are voicing their needs and demands with their wallets, so it’s vital that restaurants understand how to use technology to manage the onslaught of orders from these various channels to ensure that customers, regardless of where they’re ordering from, are met with consistent and exceptional customer service.

Embracing point-of-sale systems

It’s 2020, and the food and beverage industry needs to align with the times, as we are fully immersed in the digital age. Today, POS systems are essential to seamlessly streamlining a restaurant and its day-to-day operations. Gone are the days of the old POS systems that are only used for billing and transactions; now they are integral restaurant management omnichannel tools that are transforming the entire restaurant experience.

To have a competitive advantage in this industry, restaurateurs not only need a POS, but an upgraded POS system that can help them streamline all operations, increase sales, decrease costs, and improve customer service.

However, this POS does not have to be custom built. The best option may actually be choosing a high-performance POS that is already built out and performs at a high, efficient level. Restaurateurs should also make sure that the POS offers a state-of-the-art, cloud-based system. According to a 2018 POS Software Trends Report, over 60 percent of restaurant operators stated that a cloud was the most important feature that they were interested in for a POS upgrade. Today’s restaurant operators now understand the benefits that a cloud-based POS can provide when it comes to centralizing operations. All restaurants need a POS system that will rise to the occasion, especially during busy seasons and critical moments.

Understanding emerging technology and the in-restaurant dining experience

In this digital age, it’s harder to continue to pack restaurants, but it’s not impossible. The “in-restaurant” experience is integral to dining at its core. Maximizing the number of guests that a restaurant can attain during peak hours can transform a good restaurant business into a great one.

While POS systems provide the bedrock of restaurant operations, emerging technologies like AI and augmented reality can help achieve a peak dining experience for customers. Over the next year, AI will enable restaurant managers to track real-time customer sentiment and identify opportunities to improve and expand customer service.

For example, Outback Steakhouse is using AI to transform its “lobby experience” interactions to improve customer satisfaction, track wait times, and monitor the number of customers that leave without being seated or greeted. 

AI can also help with personalized menu selection. This is particularly effective as digital menus begin to take hold in the industry. Digital meus can be changed in a quick and efficient way. So, if a customer is gluten-free, through AI and the digital menu, the customer would receive only menu options that would adhere to their dietary needs. When paired with restaurant POS reporting and analytics solutions, digital menus and AI systems can also provide restaurants with critical insights about their menu performance—identifying best sellers as well as underperformers.

Meanwhile, augmented reality technology can deliver a state-of-the-art visual experience, providing restaurant goers with live, 3D images of menu items—as if the meal was right there. This will improve customer food expectation and minimize food waste because customers will have a better idea of what they’re ordering.

Another way to retain more restaurant goers is to reduce the waiting time for the bill. Nothing is more frustrating than waiting a ridiculously long time for the check. Some companies have incorporated a “pay at table” option, which allows servers to provide the check and a payment device at the same time to efficiently handle the transaction.

Understanding third-party apps

Third-party apps have taken the restaurant industry by storm and are only growing. According to eMarketer, “By 2020, food delivery app usage will surpass 44 million people in the U.S., reaching nearly 60 million by 2023.” Third-party apps can reduce operational costs and introduce new services like to help draw in new clients and make dining with your restaurant a more satisfactory experience.

To incorporate these apps into their ecosystem, many companies are establishing partnerships with these third-party apps to stay evolving. Firebirds Wood Fired Grill recently announced its new delivery deal and partnership with DoorDash, the leading third-party U.S. food delivery app.

A note of caution: Before incorporating third party apps, businesses should research the different app companies and their commissions and start-up fees. For companies already established with the apps, it’s important to track transactions with your POS software to evaluate how much these apps are impacting sales.

Restaurants that are fully equipped and prepared to embrace all of these technological advances will be forerunners and will be able to fully meet the needs of today’s customers. But it’s important to remember that the POS platform is the technology that will allow restaurants to embrace other emerging tech platforms safe in the knowledge that the day-to-day functions of the restaurant will continue unimpeded.

Although some AI platforms are further along than others, they are all on the path to impacting restaurants’ overall operations and customer engagement. They will be critical to restaurants ability to connect with customers across all channels and ensure open communication and smooth operation for a convenient, integrated customer experience. More than anything else, that is what customers are craving from restaurants in today’s digital age.

Chris Adams has over 20 years’ experience in the hospitality technology industry. Following time with Marriott, Chris began his career at MICROS (now Oracle Food and Beverage) in 2000 and has worked across many positions throughout his tenure, including operations, customer success, consulting, and sales. Having worked in multiple countries and regions, Adams was Managing Director of Australia prior to the Oracle acquisition. Today, with his passion to see our customers succeed, Adams drives the strategy for Oracle Food and Beverage’s global portfolio as Global VP Strategy and Solutions. He is based in Maryland.

Customer Experience, Ordering, Outside Insights, POS Solutions, Restaurant Operations, Story, Technology