By Anita Liu Harvey, Vice President of Strategy and Innovation
Mon Sep 25 2017
From pop-up stands to Michelin-starred restaurants, our dining habits are changing – and fast. Many restaurant customers now want a quicker, more personalised service, catered to their specific needs.
So with your customers’ expectations changing – and technology advancing – will your restaurant be ready to meet your diners’ needs in 2025?
Imagine if whenever you walked into a restaurant, the greeting staff welcomed you by name and remembered how you take your favourite drink.
With over 80 per cent of consumers now expecting a personalised welcome, according to a 2017 survey1, having an individual welcome for each guest could be the thing that sets your restaurant apart.
Well, technology is making it far easier to give your customer the best welcoming experience. Recognition software can now sync your restaurant’s WiFi so it identifies customers as they walk through the door. This means you can offer your guests personalised recommendations, or give them a free glass of wine if it’s a special occasion, before they’ve even reached their table.
Ordering your food and drinks
OK, so your guest has been seated and is ready for a drink. But what if all your waiters are busy and the bar is packed with parched punters?
One of the UK’s most popular pub chains is already testing ways to order food and drinks remotely. Using an app, you tap in what you want, tell them what table you’re at, and pay for it using a secure thumbprint reader on your phone. Moments later, a waiter brings your food and drinks to your table.
For restaurants where you order individually at the counter, using phones to order could give your guests a way to order more drinks and coffees from their table, rather than having to queue again.
And, as well as cutting queue times, the new method means you won’t need to install new kiosks or tills in your restaurant, meaning a you could create a more frictionless experience for your customers without a huge price-tag.
Cooking and eating
If you’ve worked in the food industry in the last 10 years, you’ll have seen a dramatic rise in customers asking for more intolerance-specific and health-conscious foods.
A 2016 report from The Grocer showed that over a quarter of the Brits polled regularly bought ‘free-from’ foods – including gluten-, dairy-, wheat- and lactose-free products – a rise from 19 to 27 per cent in a year2. And the UK’s ‘free-from’ market is expected to be worth £550m by 2019.3
A restaurant in London has met this drive for more bespoke dining by letting customers choose how much of each ingredient they want in their meals. Using in-store tablets, diners can enter their height, weight and dietary requirements, and slide toggles up or down to automatically show each meal’s nutritional breakdown.
Restaurants are also using high-tech advancements to enhance mood and flavour through ‘neurogastronomy’ – how your brain perceives flavour. Last year, a British Italian-style restaurant group rolled out virtual-reality dining, and invited its customers to pull on a VR headset and ‘travel’ to Sicily as they dined.
So in the restaurant of the future you could use technology to create a distinct dining experience for your customers, and let them enjoy their steak in the Serengeti, or even eat sushi surrounded by starfish at the bottom of the sea.
Deliveries and third-party partnerships
If you’re based in a major city, you’ve probably noticed rents rising and space becoming more of a premium. Unless you’re turning over a significant profit, there may be less room for kitchen and dining space for future restaurants.
What’s more, people are seemingly too busy to cook. Adults in the UK are eating almost 80 million ready meals every week, and 22 million fast food and takeaway meals, according to a 2017 report by Cancer Research UK.4
These two factors could account for the rapid growth of delivery services that are bridging the gap between restaurants and consumers.
At the moment, these third-party services are mainly targeting outlets that don’t offer their own food deliveries – charging customers for deliveries, and taking a small commission from the restaurant.
But with the delivery market growing, and new technology such as drone deliveries becoming more of a reality, we could see more restaurants adopting an eat-in/eat-out hybrid model.
Using on-demand delivery and partnering with third-parties, you may soon be able to reach twice as many customers without needing to expand your bricks-and-mortar overheads.
Cash is increasingly becoming a thing of the past. There are now over 100 million contactless cards in use in the UK, with the average transaction value of just under £10, according to the UK Cards Association.5
As well as being faster 6, contactless payments can also reduce the chance that your employees could miscount change, or accidently contaminate food after handling money. So if your business doesn’t let customers pay using contactless cards, wearable technology or mobile devices in the future, you may find you’re missing out on sales.
‘Invisible payment’ apps, such as the ones already used by car-sharing services, could also make it easier for diners to split the bill with just a couple of taps, or even buy their friends a round of drinks from the other side of the world. And paying by digital wallets and apps could also let diners earn loyalty points, tempting them back to your restaurant again and again.
With new technology to help you speed up service and focus more on your customers, you need make sure you’re in the best position to meet changing expectations.
To find out how you can prepare your business for the diner of the future, speak to our experts today.
6 Contactless payments are 15 seconds quicker per transaction than cash, according to Barclaycard research.