The New Tech Changing the Guest Experience

In 2015, the foodservice industry saw some major technological changes—the introduction of EMV processing, Apple Pay and NFC adoption, and the continued rise of mobile POS terminals. But how can operators use this new tech to improve the guest experience? That’s what we will be discussing in this month’s Enterprise Insight.

Applying what’s new and hot in tech to your enterprise operations can be a double-edged sword. Thus, we advise our partners to focus on using new systems for the following key experiences: Loyalty, Mobile Ordering, and the Point of Sale.

 

Loyalty

 Tech-based loyalty programs are the best to engage repeat guests for two reasons: they provide insight and opportunity.

Systems like Square and LevelUp provide guest-specific metrics that a traditional punch card cannot. With these tech-based programs, operators can monitor, when your repeat guests are coming, what they’re purchasing, and how often.

This, then, allows you to more-personally and uniquely reward your best guests. Rather just the tenth cup free, you can reward birthdays, new guests, or stalled guests. This information and opportunity need to be handled appropriately, though; be wary of spending too much or not delivering.

It’s important to be mindful of perception, as well. Starbucks has been in hot water recently for the changes to their loyalty program. Originally, the coffee chain had been rewarding repeat guests with points, which were then redeemed for a product of the guests’ choice. However, when Starbucks changed the system to be based on dollar values rather than visits, guests were outraged. With a close look, though, the economics of the program actually benefit the most frequent guests—but the message wasn’t received as such.

Lastly, be mindful of your costs as you consider your strategy. We always run the numbers at different adoption rates to determine the good and potentially bad impact any program will have on your bottom line.

 

Mobile Ordering and Delivery

While Americans are dining out more than ever, at lunch they’re bringing that lunch in—or never even leaving. Mobile Ordering is imperative for your operation because it allows guests to place orders with security and comfort; they know that the order was received without anything lost in translation and, with the right technology in place, without even opening their wallets.

Seamless and Grub Hub are the industry titans, but newer start-ups like ChowNow, Brandibble, Olo, and OpenDining are bridging the gap between guest and enterprise: these services integrate directly with restaurants’ websites and apps to create a truly ‘seamless’ experience.

Within high-density areas, the rise of food delivery has evolved a segment of the restaurant industry to new extremes. Mobile Ordering connects diners and operators with a collection of middle-men: the IT team and the delivery team. Now, though, operators are developing their own ordering and delivery platforms with kitchens for a virtual restaurant—no seats, no servers, just delivery drivers and a website. In New York, Maple has seen huge growth and spawned a growing list of similar concepts.

 

Point of Sale

EMV, Apple Pay and NFC payments are important changes in the industry because they massively change the point-of-sale experience. While EMV actually increases friction—guests are using new equipment that increases the processing time—Apple Pay and NFC actually eliminate this, as well as traditional card swipes. And as with mobile ordering, these systems keep the credit card on file—guests never have to take out their wallet.

Similarly, start-ups like CheckMate are eliminating final step in the service cycle: dropping the bill. CheckMate is designed to make life for the service staff easier by allowing guests to pay for their bill from their phone. Via integrations with the existing POS, CheckMate allows restaurants to drop a “virtual bill,” which guests split, tip, and pay.

As with any new system you implement, you should carefully research, plan, and forecast the necessary components and implications. While these systems are all great individually, they don’t always communicate; for example, LevelUp and Square will not work together. Seamless won’t integrate directly with your point of sale. There are some systems, though, like Toast POS that offer a full suite of add-ons to create a complete ecosystem. And again, at TaraPaige, we ensure that the options we proceed with are the right fit financially, operationally, and experientially.

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