Outside Insights | December 2016 | By Guest Author

5 Ways to Survive Minimum Wage Hikes

How can operators turn this challenge into a revenue-generating opportunity?
Whether tableside tablets or queue-busting kiosks, self-service technology can help take the pressure off. Thinkstock

With large numbers of their employees set to be impacted by the impending rise in minimum wage, quick-service restaurant operators are now considering major belt tightening initiatives. Operators reluctant to disenfranchise staff, anger customers or be forced into reputation damage control are increasingly considering creative ways to offset staff costs.

While great news for employees, can the many operators struggling with wage hikes turn this huge challenge into a revenue-generating opportunity for their business?

By turning to mobile guest-facing technology as a buffer against spiraling wage bills, operators can capitalize on innovative self-service models to better deploy their premium guest-facing asset (their employees) and use technology to speed-up service in other areas, push operations to run more efficiently and even trigger higher value sales.

Whether tableside tablets or queue-busting kiosks, self-service technology can help take the pressure off staff during busy service periods, allowing them to focus on excellent customer service. And if operators are put off by the initial capital expenditure of kiosk and tablet hardware, they can keep things lean by letting customers use their own smartphone devices to order, pay and otherwise manage their entire experience themselves.

Let’s look at five key benefits that technology can deliver to the quick service sector to help counteract the minimum wage challenge:

Improved Efficiency

Customer frustration builds rapidly when they’re made to wait for, well, anything. Whether it’s a queue to be seated, waiting to be served, a line for the bathrooms or paying the bill—no one likes to be kept on hold. It makes them feel like their time isn’t valuable.

A mobile app that lets guests order ahead or at their table for delivery, pickup or dine-in can have a significant positive impact on the efficiency of operations—especially during peak hours. Guests can order exactly what they want, when they want it and can even add extra items to the check and pay for it when it’s most convenient for them. Mobile ordering means an end to competing for wait staff attention and can help operators turn tables faster, dramatically reducing walkaways from off-putting queues during busy times.

Better Service

As many operators turn to self-service to make savings and even drive ancillary revenues, it’s important to strike a balance between blind efficiency and the unique benefits of the ‘human touch.’ Self-service doesn’t mean the ruthless replacement of man with machine. In fact, quite the opposite. There will always be guests that prefer the human touch or even require additional help from a member of staff, so why not provide the best of both worlds?

By allowing mobile self-service to take care of those who prefer the convenience of mobile, who are in a hurry, or perhaps who don’t feel like speaking to staff after a long day travelling, staff can focus on delivering great customer service elsewhere, targeting higher value guests or customers who want or need additional attention.

Increased Check Value

Putting the power of ordering and payment in guests’ hands with a web or mobile app can directly affect the value of their checks. Operators are finding guests tend to order more when they’re left to their own (mobile) devices to browse and buy without the pressure of staff waiting for their decision.

Operators can pro-actively encourage greater spend per head through the mobile channel too. By up-selling or cross-selling items at key points throughout the ordering process, customers can be driven to order extra items they may not have considered when just browsing from a traditional paper menu.

When done right, selling smarter, not harder, can build deeper relationships with customers. If customers feel like they are being helped to get something they really want, then everyone wins.

Enhanced Engagement

Whether we like it or not, smartphones are fused to our everyday existence. This mobile obsession means there has never been a better means of engaging, communicating, transacting and socializing with guests. And greater mobile engagement by guests means operators can raise their profile through social awareness, enjoying higher value orders and creating a better, more convenient customer journey.

When it comes to greater engagement with mobile, social channels are invaluable. If just 150 customers share a photo of themselves at a restaurant, that equates to an average potential audience of more than 50,000. What’s even more revealing is that customers who engage with companies via social media spend 30 percent more with them, on average.

Operators need to stock up on social brand ambassadors by letting guests share their experience, earn points or rewards by sharing promotions, brand news, photos and checking-in at restaurants.

Greater Loyalty

One of the most valuable aspects of mobile ordering is its ability to capture detailed information about customer preferences and past buying behaviors. And 73 percent of consumers say they prefer to do business with retailers who use personal information to make their shopping experience more relevant.

By harnessing the power of customer data to drive more tailored marketing, operators can encourage loyalty by allowing guests to unlock premier status during their visit, for example.

Ultimately, operators quick to recognize the opportunity to adapt and exploit technology to transform their business will not just offset their growing operational costs but could actually enjoy healthier profits thanks to more streamlined operations, more sophisticated, smarter, data-led marketing and the strategic redistribution of existing wait staff to maximize profit from higher value guests through exceptional customer service.

Gillian Jones heads up business development for QikServe, a mobile ordering and payment specialist.

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