By Graham Campbell
As restaurants across Canada continue to rebound from the pandemic, fewer Canadians are dining out amidst inflation and soaring interest hikes. Restaurant operators are left worried about the rising cost of food and supplies and how much of this burden they can reasonably pass onto customers.
With nearly half of Canadian restaurants functioning at a loss last year, operators will need to differentiate themselves to drive new and repeat business and remain profitable. Despite these challenges, last year also saw exciting new prospects. Digital advancements and innovation in AI shone a path to what the future of the restaurant industry can look like.
As 2024 begins, restaurants will need to navigate shifting consumer attitudes, preferences, and needs while striking a balance between innovation and convenience. By utilizing creative technology solutions that work together in harmony, restaurants can improve operational efficiency and enhance the customer experience. With the new year in full swing, let’s explore four exciting trends in restaurant technology that are set to make an impact.
Leveraging artificial intelligence
With its limitless potential, AI will become even more embedded into the restaurant experience in 2024. The restaurant industry will see the seamless integration of artificial intelligence into top technology providers’ solutions. This will enable AI-generated marketing content creation with images and descriptions for emails, social posts, and other guest communications, allowing operators to easily stay in touch with their customers.
As of last year, 76 per cent of restaurants reported already using automation in at least three areas of operations. This number will get higher, as widespread AI integration enables restaurants to re-envision product recommendations and data analysis, streamlining automated processes through marketing, inventory, scheduling, and vendor management. AI will also continue to help predict order preferences and create personalized menus, assessing customer demands to enhance the guest experience with speed and simplicity.
Data and personalization
Over the last few years, getting accurate data and consolidating it has been a challenge faced by many operators. Yet, capturing guest data can help restaurants create a better dining experience and with 40 per cent of Canadians planning to eat out less in 2024, tackling this challenge is imperative. Having an integrated tech stack will be more important than ever before, allowing restaurants to gain valuable insights that can be used to predict customer behaviour based on historical preferences. This will allow operators to make data-driven decisions, considering factors like peak times and popular menu items, ultimately boosting their bottom line.
This data will also enable restaurants to push personalized offers and tailored promotions to customer inboxes through in-app notifications and merchant-branded apps, allowing operators to cultivate a deeper relationship with the consumer. Enticing customers with offers based on previous purchases or segmentation will bolster engagement levels. Businesses need to think creatively about how they can devise immersive and unique experiences that will resonate with their clientele, and personalization can help actualize that strategy.
Quick and easy takeout
Last year, 78 per cent of Canadians reported picking up takeout over dining in. Restaurants will need to make their menus accessible to customers who want to order what they want when they want – especially millennials and Gen Z, who love online ordering. By leveraging promotions via social channels or on-premise (such as a BOGO offer or combination deal), restaurants can encourage takeout, helping to attract customers and drive sales.
In 2024, convenience will be a key trend. It will also be increasingly important to meet customers where they’re at, offering the flexibility to enjoy their preferred dining experience – whether that’s dine-in, mobile ordering, kiosk, cashier, phone, or virtual assistant. This diversification of sales channels will empower businesses to cater to a broader audience, enhancing revenue opportunities.
Simplified technology providers
The successful businesses of tomorrow will seek partnerships with technology providers that require minimal ongoing administration to keep all operations of the business working in concert. This will enable restaurants to prioritize enhancing the customer experience instead of focusing on IT.
Operators need to think innovatively about how to create unique experiences to drive customer engagement, and by partnering with a provider that can optimize the busy work and connect multiple solutions, this will allow for more time to think outside of the box. Going forward, having a streamlined technology solution will support operational efficiency across all areas of the business and free up time for merchants to do what they do best: provide excellent customer service.
Embracing technology for success in 2024
Recognizing the financial strains recently faced by both operators and customers, restaurants must prioritize creative solutions, and technology can help operators stay ahead.
The utilization of AI and data to create personalized experiences presents a transformative opportunity for the industry. Convenience and simplicity will also play an important role in restaurants in 2024, and merchants can tap into this by continuing to prioritize ease of ordering for customers and working with a tech provider that streamlines operations and creates efficiencies. The operators that embrace these trends will be poised for success.
With a focus on technology in 2024, restaurants can not only survive – but thrive – in the dynamic landscape of evolving consumer preferences and economic uncertainties.
Graham Campbell started at Givex in March 2016 and has held positions including VP of Projects & Implementations, VP and General Manager of Givex’s Point of Sale, Vexilor, Senior VP of Product Development and now holds the position of the company’s Chief Operating Officer. His ability to critically assess business challenges and develop innovative solutions has helped him build relationships with business leaders globally.