Why there's no one-size-fits-all approach to tech for food & drink operators

Why there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to tech for food & drink brands

By Paul Manktelow, Strategic New Business Manager at Barclaycard
Thurs  Nov 22 2018

Restaurants and bars with slick tech may be a tasty proposition for diners. However, before rushing to invest in dining technology it’s worth bearing in mind that the key to boosting customer experience is ensuring that any new systems suit your brand and the service you offer.

And whether it’s new forms of payment, app-based loyalty schemes, or POS systems, any new digital capabilities need to be used to complement the excellent customer experience that staff already provide. 

Another thing to consider is whether a high-tech dining experience fits with your overall brand. Just because other restaurants and bars have invested in technology it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to follow suit straight away. Customers wouldn’t expect to pay via an app at the Ritz or the Wolseley, but nor would they expect table service at Nando’s. An upmarket restaurant isn’t necessarily going to benefit from an app-based loyalty scheme[1], whereas a sandwich bar with a roaring lunchtime trade may find it improves the customer experience and leads to repeat business.

What kind of tech is available?

There are numerous forms of tech available for food and drink outlets, from servers using iPads as POS systems to take orders and payments, to apps and card schemes such as Swipii that offer loyalty points and special promotions. And when it comes to payment technology, the food and drink sector has seen a wide selection of apps developed to simplify settling the bill.

Apps such as Qkr!, Cake, Mycheck, Velocity, Flypay, and Zapper are just some of the options on the market that allow diners to easily pay via cards, or mobile wallet, as well as giving groups the option of splitting the bill and tipping.

New payment solutions are set to continue their expansion across the industry, with 28% of restaurants telling the CGA they planned to offer customers the ability to pay by app by the end of 2018[2].

Picking the right payment tech for your locations depends on your brand and the kind of service you offer. For example, busy high street locations might benefit from a digital payment solution such as Barclaycard’s trial product Dine and Dash. This allows customers to check in when they arrive and order from their table without having to wait for someone to serve them.

When the customer leaves they are automatically charged without having to wait for the bill. In terms of boosting customer experience this could have a dramatic impact – Barclaycard research suggests that it can take up to 19 minutes to receive and pay a bill in some restaurants.

Another benefit with modern payment solutions is that they may make it easier for customers to order extras. They can take the hassle out of flagging down a waiter or elbowing your way to the front of a queue at a crowded bar. Fancy that dessert, or another side? Another quick drink? If it’s as simple as swiping an app or a screen on their table, then it’s entirely possible that customers will feel inclined to squeeze in an extra indulgence or two before settling up.

Keeping tables turning

Going digital also has a noticeable benefit from a restaurant’s end – it makes it easier to turn tables efficiently. You’ll know the instant a customer wants to order something, and if your staff each have their own tablet then they’ll be able to produce bills quickly without having to queue to use a central till. They’ll also be able to dedicate more of their attention to customer service.

Another simple way to keep costs down and boost customer experience is to opt for a POS solution such as Barclaycard’s new Smartpay Hub. As well as offering customers the ability to pay by card or via an app, it can help you stay on top of stock control and staff management, as well as providing data about your outlet’s performance. A Smartpay Hub can help you ensure that your outlets are running smoothly and that staff are able to focus on customer service.

Ordering ahead to beat the lunch hour rush

Tech can also be harnessed as a way to help diners beat the lunchtime rush. Diners can now use smartphone apps such as Ritual or Ordoo to order their food ahead of time, with some apps even including social features that give users the option to see and share what friends are ordering.

Starbucks and McDonald’s have also experimented with click and collect services that help customers save time and cut down queues by ordering via app. This can make things easier for staff by bypassing the ordering/payment process. In the long term it can streamline the lunch hour and make it easier to process more orders, as well as cutting down on the hassle for customers.

Food delivery apps Uber Eats and Deliveroo also offer diners the chance to “pre-order” so that their order is received automatically and delivered as soon as the restaurant opens.

Setting your restaurant up with an app that allows customers to order ahead might not work if you’re a steakhouse or you serve five-course tasting menus, but for outlets serving fast, lunchtime fare it could be a perfect way of catering for hungry office workers who don’t have time for queues.

Data collection

Adopting digital restaurant tech has another clear benefit: the ability to collect detailed data about what customers order. And if you’re installing tech in the hope that it will make it easier for customers to order more food and extras, but average order sizes are staying the same, it could point to other issues.

Perhaps it’s to do with menu layout or staff training – if they’re not engaging with diners in the right way then they may feel disinclined to order more. Over time you’ll be able to collect data about dining habits which may enable you to streamline and perfect your menu, as well as efficiently plan staff rotas.

Fine dining: Why the human touch still matters

Some occasions still call for old-fashioned indulgence. Candlelit dinners with attentive waiters and a chalkboard menu still have their place in the modern dining scene.

That doesn’t mean that serving staff can’t use high tech restaurant POS systems to process orders and communicate with the kitchen. But from a customer experience perspective, there are occasions when it’s best to put your phone away and enjoy the experience of a knowledgeable waiter talking you through the specials. After all, tech is meant to facilitate service, not interrupt it.

CGA research published in 2018 found that 71% of restaurant-s believe service to be a key driver for attracting customers[3]. Restaurants and customers want the me thing, it appears, as 81% of diners surveyed by Barclaycard and OMD said customer service was a priority when picking a restaurant[4].

Why it pays to be strategic about dining tech

Before you dash off to set up a high-tech payment strategy involving an app, state-of-the-art POS system, and a customer loyalty scheme, it’s worth taking a step back and reflecting on your overall brand.

If you’re looking to turn tables faster and make it easy for diners to order food and request their bill, adopting new POS and payment tech could be a good move. Similarly, app-based loyalty schemes can give customers a reason to keep coming back to your outlets.

But if you’re a luxury brand known for award-winning food and a unique ambience, then it may be worth finding a more subtle strategy for implementing smart tech to ensure that it complements your existing customer experience.

Find out how Barclaycard's food & drink payment solutions can improve your business.

 

[1] Use up leftovers, drink free cocktails and find the best table in the restaurant: The 10 apps that will change the way you dine: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-3028506/Use-leftovers-drink-free-booze-best-table-restaurant-10-apps-change-way-dine.html
[2] A survey of 195 leading industry figures from the eating and drinking out sector conducted by CGA between 17/01/18 - 05/02/18
[3] A survey of 195 leading industry figures from the eating and drinking out sector conducted by CGA between 17/01/18 - 05/02/18
[4] A nationally representative survey of 2,000 British adults and 250 business owners conducted by OMD Research between 19th June – 5th July 2018

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