In the restaurant industry, change is constant — especially when it comes to technology.
While restaurant technology can certainly make your restaurant more efficient, some restaurant owners worry it might distract them from what's really important: delighting guests.
Though it’s understandable to hesitate to adopt the latest and greatest in restaurant technology for fear of how it would affect your guests’ experiences, it could make your guests happier in the long run.
According to Toast’s 2017 Restaurant Technology Report, 73 percent of restaurant-goers believe technology enhances their dining experience.
So why not give the people what they want? Here are 22 proven ways to delight your guests in 2018.
1. Give servers handheld technology.
That little computer you have in your pocket is far more than just a phone. It allows you to perform tasks of all shapes and sizes and instantly access a wide world of information...all in the palm of your hand.
Imagine if this technology existed for restaurants. Well, now it does.
Toast Go™ offers restaurants the full, robust functionality of a traditional POS terminal in a comfortable handheld. Servers can take and check on orders, send memos to the kitchen, split checks, take payment, and more — all without having to leave the table.
Restaurants who have adopted Toast Go into their operations have been able to decrease table turn time, increase revenue, and consistently provide guests with a personalized, hands-on experience.
Gone are the days where servers would run back and forth from table to terminal, hoping to remember every guest's order and accompanying modifications or who paid for what on which card. Toast Go™ offers restaurants a streamlined solution to cumbersome chaos.
2. Try self-serve kiosks.
This is one I hated a couple years ago, but after seeing self service kiosk technology increasingly become better and seeing guests quickly adapt to understanding kiosk functionality, I’m a believer.
Let me say this: I would not consider operating a counter service, quick service, or fast food restaurant today without offering guests the ability to enter their own orders.
Honeygrow, a healthy-living quick service concept that offers guests a customizable stir-fry/salad menu, is a great example of how restaurants can successfully sustain a business and create a memorable dining experience on self-service alone.
Upon entering Honeygrow, guests are met with self-service screens where they can build and customize their meal to their heart’s content. Their ticket is then immediately sent to the line, where the Honeygrow team assembles the order, and calls out the guests number when ready.
At no point in the entire ordering and delivery process will a guest interact with a server; this enables Honeygrow staff to devote all of their time, energy, and attention into delighting guests by creating the best dishes possible.
With multiple locations in 10 cities and counting, Honeygrow has proven self-service is a viable, sustainable option for quick service concepts.
3. Take payment at the table.
Guests love the ability to pay, sign, and tip at the table. When a guest asks for the check, they're ready to leave. They're not ready to look over their shoulder at their server huddling over the POS system. Another perk to the payments process is to offer text or email receipts.
4. Always transfer tabs and split checks.
I hate when I order a drink at the bar and then am told that I have to close it out before sitting down for dinner. Point blank, it's annoying. If your point of sale doesn't offer preauthorization functionality, you need to switch to one that does.
Preauthorization allows restaurants and bars to start a tab for a customer, swipe their card once, and return the card to the customer, rather than holding it behind the bar. This allows restaurants and bars to charge the customer's card for their order in the event they leave the establishment or switch to table service.
In the same vein, it's equally annoying when a restaurant can't split the check. Your system should make splitting checks by table, person, or even menu item simple and easy.
5. Create a pre-service gift.
If appropriate, offer your guests something delicious right when they sit down, such as a sip of house champagne, or a small bowl of soup. Get them excited about the meal ahead by teasing it before the server arrives.
6. Create a post-service gift.
If Olive Garden can put a chocolate in the check presenter, so can you. Get more creative than mints. In my restaurant, we sent our dinner guests home with scratch-made granola so they could revisit their lovely dinner over breakfast the next day.
7. Genuinely welcome guests.
Can we finally drop the scripted, "Welcome to [boring restaurant], my name is [bored]?" How about training your staff to offer a real, genuine welcome they would offer to guests in their home.
8. Give a genuine thank you.
Same thing here… Thank them for spending their lunch with you, ensure that you exceeded their expectations and let them know that you would be honored to serve them again on their next visit. Remember: Make it real, no scripts here.
9. Use the guest’s name.
It's been proven on brain scans over and over again: there is no word we love to hear more than own name. Pass the guests name from the host stand to the server and be sure it's used when appropriate.
10. Take care of the kids.
If the kids are happy, so are the parents. Offer a bagel on a string for young ones to chew on, and always have some Cheerios available or even plain crackers. Make sure you have plastic cups with lids. By offering these little things to calm down a baby or toddler, the parents will relax into a great experience that much faster.
I have always loved loyalty programs.
In the past, the technology for hosting a loyalty program was lacking, and holding many restaurants for starting a program in the first place.
Now, technology is no longer an excuse.
Rewarding your loyal customers for their patronage is a surefire way to transform them into lifelong, repeat customers. The more you invest in growing your repeat customer base, the less you’ll have to invest in getting new customers in the door, which is undeniably trickier.
An effective loyalty program is one that has a CRM — Customer Relationship Management — component, which typically includes the ability to stay in touch with your customers and personalize their future experiences by recording customer preference data.
Toast has an integrated CRM component that allows restaurants to collect and store data about customers’ behavior and preferences, thereby creating a detailed profile for each and every guest.
When a customer signs up for your restaurant loyalty program, the data from Toast’s CRM software allows you to track rewards and tailor your correspondences to include offers and promotions tailored to their preferences.
12. Involve customers in new product offerings.
If you're planning on changing out a few beers, ask your guests what they want, post it on social media, and get them involved. It's easy to increase restaurant sales when you find out what your guests want and then give it to them. It's as simple as that.
13. Follow up for feedback.
The same strategy can− and should− be applied to restaurants.
The best time to get get honest feedback from your customers is right after they’ve visited your restaurant while their dining experience is still fresh in their mind.
Using your CRM platform, reach out to guests immediately after they’ve left your location and ask how everything went; their responses will be recorded in the platform. At the end of each week, read through the responses submitted, and reach out to customers with a personalized note. (This is the "relationship management" arm of CRM.)
Wouldn’t you be more likely to become a repeat customer if a business demonstrated they genuinely care about your feedback?
14. Offer online ordering.
It's here, and it's here to stay: Online ordering is estimated to surpass a $76 billion valuation by 2022.
Guests expect to be able to order food online for pickup in the restaurant or delivery to their homes. As opposed to traditional call-in ordering, online ordering software is easier, faster, and more accurate. Plus, if it integrates with your POS system, you can fill orders faster and view online ordering analytics in your system.
15. Third-Party Delivery
I know they are expensive, but investing in a third-party delivery service for your restaurant is worth it.
For one, third-party delivery services cost about the same as if you had your own delivery person; more importantly, good third party delivery services like Grubhub or UberEats also double as a marketing channel, which will bring you more business.
At the moment, there are only a handful of sites that aggregate restaurants with online ordering and delivery available in your area. Sites like Grubhub, UberEats, Eat24, Doordash, and Postmates have a ton of people searching on their sites at any given moment, which increases your likelihood of being found.
16. Allow for online reservations.
Online reservations are not only much easier to facilitate and organize than reservations made by phone and recorded by hand in a reservation book. 83 percent of restaurant-goers say the ability to make online reservations is very important to dining experience.
By moving your restaurant's reservation capabilities online, you can also record and save data about each customer, and integrate it into your restaurant's CRM platform.
17. Take advantage of chatbot technology.
If you don’t know what a chatbot is, don’t worry; I didn’t either until about 6 months ago.
Domino’s has successfully leveraged the power of chatbot functionality with their new Domino’s Anywhere campaign. Domino’s encourages users to place orders using the messaging platform of your choice.
Customers then place their order by interacting with a chatbot, who converses with customers by responding with automated messages created by the Domino’s team. As you can tell by Domino’s campaign , the possibilities (and platforms) are ENDLESS.
18. Make sure staff knows dietary options.
Your staff must know the menu and they must know what is vegan and gluten-free without having to “check with the kitchen.” Some systems include all ingredients in each menu item detail, so guests can simply check on their mobile POS right at the table for this information.
19. Offer fun non-alcoholic beverages.
Do you need to improve your drink sales? Nothing will raise your check average faster than a ginger, lime & mint spritzer on a hot summer day.
20. Allow guests to sample wine & beer.
This is a little thing that can go a long way: If a guest asks for a sample of wine or beer, always be willing to bring them one, showing superb customer service.
21. Offer self-serve wine and beer.
Humans are creatures of convenience.
The last few years have shown huge advancements in the self-serve wine and beer dispenser market.
Randolf Beer, located in the heart of hip Brooklyn, New York City, has created one of the first ever "Beer ATM’s" for guests to help themselves.
Giving guests the ability to taste test their options — because c’mon, who doesn’t love options — dispense what they want, and socialize around the dispensers, everyone wins...including your bottom line.
22. Give away the recipe for your signature dish.
This is taboo, but having a transparent restaurant culture could really make your establishment stand out. So give away the recipe of your signature dish, without leaving anything out. Have your chef share how he makes it on social media. Trust me, your guests will still order at your restaurant. They may even order more often.
Find ways to incorporate these little touches into your restaurant that are sure to delight your guests.
After all, delight is not about just giving guests what they want, it's about giving them more than what they want. It's about anticipating what they want, exceeding their expectations, and creating raving fans who will happily return often.
What are your tips for delighting guests at your restaurant? Share in the comments below, and join Toast at a local Food for Thought event to connect with other restaurant owners hungry to make the guest experience better.