By Brittain Brown
The foodservice industry has seen tremendous change over the past year. Diners returned to restaurants in droves, but as if the pandemic wasn’t enough, we also had hospitality labour shortages and decades-high inflation to contend with. While it was a tumultuous time, the one constant for restaurateurs throughout the year is — and will continue to be — advancements in restaurant technology.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, now is the time to look back on some of the technological trends we’re seeing, and where they could go in 2023 as restaurant operators look to stay ahead of the curve.
2022 in foodservice technology
This year, inflation was top of mind for both diners and restaurant owners. Menu prices in Canada rose by an average of 2.8 per cent between March 2021 and March 2022. As diners rein in their spending, now more than ever, restaurant operators are looking for ways to bring their valuable customers back for additional visits.
Customer loyalty is key to maintaining growth in any business, and it’s no different in restaurants. According to a recent report, more than half of Canadians say loyalty programs make them more likely to dine out at a restaurant, and restaurants are turning to loyalty programs that offer a unique and tailored customer experience. One of the trends we’re seeing today is loyalty programs that provide immediate incentives — such as in-store discounts — to customers based on data such as past purchases and inventory. These types of programs have proven beneficial to encourage customers to increase spending.
Another trend we’re seeing is in integrated, in-house ordering technology. As a result of the pandemic, consumers are now clearly leaning toward online ordering, takeout, and delivery. Canada’s restaurant industry has experienced record labour shortages in 2022, with 80 per cent of foodservice operators reporting difficulties hiring kitchen staff. To combat the labour challenges, this year, restaurants turned to technology to streamline back-of-house and front-of-house operations.
As more restaurant orders are sent with a click of a button, tech integration ties directly to dollars and cents. It’s needed, too — a new report from DoorDash shows that 86 per cent of Canadian consumers are ordering takeout as much or more than they did last year. In 2022, Canadians also ordered directly from a restaurant’s website or app more than the previous year. To cope with the rising popularity of online ordering, more restaurants have incorporated integrated, in-house ordering technology to avoid the high third-party app fees, but also to control the ordering surge at peak times. By controlling the ordering surge, these restaurants are also able to provide a better guest experience.
What’s on the horizon in 2023?
There’s no doubt that restaurant technology will remain integral to the foodservice industry’s future.
As inflation continues to rise and Canadians look for ways to cut back on spending, loyalty programs will be more critical than ever before for restaurants to keep customers returning in 2023. With loyalty rewards from trusted brands, customers will be enticed to focus their spending where they get some type of benefit in return. For restaurant operators that are looking to implement this type of reward, offers to stretch customers’ dollars could include offering a free drink after five visits or providing discounted pricing on menu items for loyal customers.
The average Canadian is a member of four loyalty programs, and 56 per cent make loyalty purchases several times a week. However, brand loyalty does not work on points or rewards alone; it’s based on good experiences. Those good experiences come from a combination of great products and smooth service, and point-of-sale interactions are the primary setting for ensuring that good service takes place.
Loyalty programs and point-of-sale services go hand in hand — this is the restaurant’s best opportunity to engage with the customer and enhance their experience. Post-visit messaging and ongoing reward notifications will be important in the coming year, as customers will strongly remember their experience on-site when evaluating their decision to return to a restaurant.
In 2023, we expect to see a continued focus on loyalty programs and integrated technology solutions to meet the needs of Canadian consumers and support a variety of functions within restaurants as seamlessly as possible. Challenges like inflation and labour shortages may continue to plague the industry, but the road ahead can be less bumpy with the right restaurant technology.
Here’s to a bright year ahead.
Brittain Brown is President of Givex, a role in which he drives the company’s international expansion efforts and oversees the successful acquisition of new additions to the Givex family of companies.