Restaurants, cafes, bars, breweries and wineries, food trucks, and other eating establishments are the heart of our social culture. Remember back in school when you learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? If that lesson feels like ages ago, the gist is that humans have five levels of needs and are only able to progress to the next need upon satisfying the more basic need prior. Our most basic need? Food. Dish out those meals at places where we can also achieve our third most important need, love and belonging, and you have a recipe for success. All of those celebratory dinners, first date drinks, and brainstorming lunches with coworkers mean more and more consumer transactions happening every day all around the world.
At the start the pandemic, some restaurant’s relatively small technological investments combined with the quick shift to online ordering and takeout caught business leader’s off-guard. Since then, businesses have been steadily moving into smarter, more efficient food service that, when combined with the sheer number of interactions the average person has with restaurants and other food and beverage establishments, underscores the opportunity for deeper, more pervasive technological advancement across the industry. Modern technology has created a societal shift in the way consumers interact with restaurants, leading businesses to eye new ways to capitalize on this accelerated adoption, future-proof their operations.
Transforming the consumer experience
Every successful restaurant or service-focused business is dependent on their customers, but catering to today’s customers is more challenging and requires more care and consideration than before. Enabled and amplified by technology, the drive for instant gratification has never been higher. With the tap of a phone screen, we can order Friday night pizza straight to our door, reserve a restaurant table for next week’s date night, and interact in-the-moment with our favorite brands daily.
Today, successful restaurants must enable every option for their guests to order and enjoy their meals whenever and wherever they prefer. In fact, as the options for ordering and eating meals proliferate, brands are in a race to stay top-of-mind for their consumers even when those individuals aren’t hungry through tailored messaging for each social media platform, old-school email blasts, and generation-appropriate promotional experiences. Still, every consumer has slightly different wants and needs, making this a constantly evolving endeavor.
For example, some customers crave an experience and service—people are dining in more, living in the moment (despite increased inflation), and catching up on experiences they missed out on during the lockdown days of the pandemic. The National Restaurant Association reported earlier this year that 84 percent of consumers believe their leisure time is better spent at a restaurant than cooking at home. For others, the reward is all about convenience and speed. Online ordering is still growing in popularity and the two most filtered attributes on delivery apps are time and price. And then there are also customers who seek out their favorite brands due to past experiences and trust. To make matters even more complicated, these conflicting ideologies can exist within a single customer, which makes analyzing and catering to today’s consumers increasingly complex.
A new frontier
This paradox has paved the way for increased opportunities for a variety of technologies including kiosks, robotics, AI, and machine learning all in the name of meeting customers where they are at and making business as efficient and profitable as possible.
For example, self-order kiosks enable customers to order for themselves, which allows restaurant staff to focus instead on delivering quality services and goods. As Karl Goodhew, chief technology officer at the BurgerFi restaurant chain explained, there can be a stigma against kiosks for fear of them taking jobs and eroding customer care. But he said it was important for him to emphasize that the kiosks were not going decrease his chain’s workforce, instead it would actually allow staff members to refocus their time and attention on customer service instead of just taking orders. Further, AI and machine learning technologies are scalable and enhance the operational decision-making of savvy general managers and chefs. Predictive and prescriptive data analytics help leaders make revenue-generating and cost-lowering decisions quickly and confidently.
Investing in the right technology for your business
The surge in this kind of technological investment is increasingly pervasive. Fifteen years ago, it was rare to see investments or acquisitions from companies outside of the restaurant industry. The restaurant clique was tight-knit and heavily focused on the point-of-sale (POS) system. Newcomers had a long road to gain name recognition and a strong reputation. Now, we’re seeing large scale investments poured into startups and existing innovative solutions.
While growth and increased investment in restaurant technology is exciting, this kind of fast scaling makes it essential for restauranteurs to have all the relevant information at their fingertips to make the most educated, informed investments into their next customized solution. It’s imperative to choose a solutions provider that’s fit for your specific business, whether independent or enterprise.
Brands should also pay careful attention to a solution provider’s ethos within the restaurant industry. Ultimately all tech providers serve an industry that serves others, so operators should seek partnerships with companies that contribute to the overall mission of the Restaurant Technology Network and other organizations like the International Food and Beverage Technology Association. Marketing promises are a weak substitution for true, mature, and dedicated thought leadership.
A secure and scalable cloud solution will enable your restaurant to transition from a traditional POS to an end-to-end point-of-service digital transaction platform solution that can capture and track guests’ engagements, identify popular menu items, and pinpoint guests’ behaviors to ensure effective marketing. Moreover, investing in a compatible, holistic, cloud-based payments platform can give customers a choice in how and when they pay, ensuring predictable payment processing costs that support a healthier bottom line and unlock payments data to generate additional sales.
To ensure the right resources and scalability for your business, global support and consulting and timely deployment are a must when considering reputable cloud solution providers. The ultimate, tailored solution will lie with the organization that can partner with you on your immediate and growing business needs, with an eye towards future expansion and opportunity.
With billions of food ordering transactions each week coupled with the influx of investment money, restaurants are becoming the next technological frontier—and businesses need to keep up. With customers expecting efficiency and convenience in every aspect of their life, restaurants have to keep up by investing in cloud-based providers that allow them to build the perfect, custom-fit solution. The additional planning and upfront expense will pay off in growth and loyalty in the long-term, as the restaurant industry continues to modernize and prepare for the future.
Robert Peterson has over 20 years of experience in the hospitality technology industry. Following time with various hospitality technology companies and has worked across many positions throughout his career including technical, sales, and strategic roles. Robert joined Oracle in early 2021.
Today with his passion to see our customers’ success Robert leads North American new business sales for Oracle Food and Beverage. He is also a contributing member of RTN’s Vendor Advisory Council. An 80’s BMX World Champion, he can still be spotted in San Diego with one of his four children showing off on his bicycle. Or experimenting with plant-based recipes at home with his wife, Julie.