Restaurant kiosks, handheld tablets, online ordering, digital gift cards, data reporting - whether you're ready or not, technology is officially a huge part of the restaurant industry.
Technology has had a profound impact on the way people connect, relate, and interact with one another. Now that almost everything we do — from forming romantic relationships to operating in the workplace — relies heavily on technology, dining is frequently viewed as one of the last remaining forms of live entertainment, revolving around conversation and connection with others.
But over the past few years, restaurants have begun to adopt a more tech-savvy approach.
Most commonly, restaurants have used technology to manage inventory, money, staff, and sometimes tables. While the idea of great hospitality and customer relationship management (CRM) is not new — this is the crux of the restaurant business, after all — many restaurant owners, GMs, reservationists, and wait staff still rely on memory or pen and paper to keep notes on loyal diners and deepen relationships.
But tech advances in CRM for restaurants are now beginning to revolutionize this process. If guests are using technology and putting themselves out there, savvy restaurateurs would be smart to also use tech to get to know their guests.
A CRM system can be the tool to propel any restaurant from run-of-the-mill eatery to beloved establishment in the eyes of customers. Look at digital loyalty programs, for example. These call on restaurant owners to give occasional rewards and freebies to frequent guests, allowing restaurateurs to uncover groundbreaking data from their base of customers.
CRM data allows restaurant owners and managers to understand (a) the way their customers behave collectively and (b) the patterns, preferences, and information on specific customers. Once both of these vital areas are understood, more effective and justifiable decisions can be made based on customers.
While some traditionalists argue that technology is at odds with hospitality, restaurants are increasingly adopting innovations in tech to build relationships and deliver an elevated guest experience in a number of ways.
Here are three ways restaurant technology will allow you to better understand your customers.
In order for restaurants to deliver high levels of hospitality, better CRM technology is essential. In this context, restaurant technology is helping - not interfering - with the guest experience.
This is especially true for the new wave of diners who are used to living their lives online and practically expect a more customized level of service. Restaurants reap the benefits of investing in technology by being able to build relationships before the customer even walks in the door. Important information like birthdays, anniversaries, allergies, favorite drinks, and more can be sent easily to relevant members of a restaurant’s staff so the chef can see the allergy notes and the server knows to address any special occasions.
Because preferences, birthdays, and relationships are often public and on display for the world to see (thanks, Facebook), the level of hospitality a restaurant can deliver is significantly elevated. If millennials don’t have to remind anyone that it’s their birthday — from close companions to childhood friends they haven’t spoken to in fifteen years — restaurants should have that information at their fingertips as well.
Reserve for Restaurants, enable new staff to build solid relationships with guests who’ve been visiting the restaurant for years.
Restaurant groups and franchises especially benefit from an enterprise CRM system. With data collected from a regional, statewide, or even nationwide group of visitors, restaurant executives make their location feel just like home for a newcomer in that location. Because of the CRM data collected across all locations, restaurants can greet guests who have frequented other locations warmly and better understand their full collection of regulars.
A more formal CRM system has always been a practice at the high-end of the industry. Restaurants who pride themselves on intimate experiences are known to Google their guests or keep detailed notecards on visitors, their families, past orders, and preferences. Tech innovation makes this level of service more manageable and more affordable for all types of restaurants.
Now, new hires can get up to speed quickly, inheriting information and the likes and dislikes of customers in the click of a button. Without the information collected from the CRM, that insight otherwise may have gotten lost in the shuffle or kept in the maitre’d’s head. The likely result of these personalized touches? Guests will keep coming back over and over again, because even though the staff may change, their experience may not.
Technology already plays such a huge role in the day to day operations of any business, especially a restaurant that is firing on all cylinders at all times. Going forward, it’s safe to bet that technology will also change one of the most integral parts of hospitality — how restaurants interact with their diners and get to know them on a personal level.
Although this may come off as a hindrance to customer interactions, restaurant technology can be implemented into operations in a way that will revolutionize your customer relationship management.