restaurant technology

Seven technological trends for restaurants in 2014

By Diane Chiasson

New trends in technology are rapidly reshaping the restaurant and foodservice industry landscape. Technology will change the way consumers choose where to dine, how they order their food, how they are entertained while dining in a restaurant and how they pay for their food.

Restaurant owners and operators will now be able to update their menus and prices, broadcast daily specials, build customer loyalty programs, accept payments, change the ambiance of their restaurant, control their staffing and much more with a simple touch of a button.

Whether these technological trends will actually add value to a customer’s dining experience or eventually take away all human interaction is another debate. But as a restaurant or foodservice owner/operator, it is always to remember that hospitality and customers service should still be your top priority.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto, sees the following technological trends taking place over the next few years in the industry:

1. Digitized tables

The way we order food at a restaurant may be changing in the form of digitized tables. Instead of paper menus and servers taking orders, the table becomes a giant touch screen where consumers can scroll through menu items, make their selections and add-ons, and orders are sent directly to the kitchen. To enhance the experience, consumers can play games, select virtual table clothes or even access a live stream of what is happening in the kitchen on their tabletop screen. The possibilities are endless.

2. Self-service ordering kiosks

For quick-service facilities, expect to see more self-service ordering kiosks appearing everywhere. These kiosks offer a more efficient, quicker and cheaper way for customers to order their food. This is especially handy in a food court setting where a consumer may want to order several different items from different vendors. Instead of lining up at three different vendors, he/she can place one single order via a touch-screen kiosk, make one payment, and then pick up the complete order at the pick-up counter. These kiosks also offer greater accuracy as customers can review their order before confirming.

3. High-tech payment options

The biggest tech change we will see this year will be in payment options ranging from wireless Bluetooth that allows restaurants to accept payment wirelessly directly from a customer’s smartphone to facial recognition technology. Both Apple and Paypal now offer apps that allow customers to pay for things by simply tapping their phones to a POS terminal, or even opt for a hands-free payment option whereby the customer only needs to give a verbal authorization of payment before leaving the restaurant.  In Europe, a new POS system simply scans a customer’s face to make the payment.

4. Virtual tours

With the imminent release of the Google Glass, consumers will soon be able to take a virtual tour of the inside of your restaurant and ambience, as well as see virtual representations of the food and drink that you offer to decide whether or not to visit your business.

5. Loyalty programs

Repeat guests will soon be recognized as soon as they walk through the door via biometric scanners and video cameras using voice, retina or face recognition programs. This will allow the restaurant to treat their loyal customers accordingly, while alerting the service staff to any new customers as well. The programs can collect data on each guest including how many visits, what they ordered, special dietary requirements or any other information that will help service staff offer the guest a superior dining experience, and keep them coming back for more.

6. Interactivity while dining

Dining at a restaurant may soon turn into a completely interactive experience, with guests controlling the ambiance (by selecting different images that are projected onto white walls) to choosing what type of music they want to hear via their smart phones. By logging into an app at the restaurant, guests will even be able to chat with guests at other tables.

7. Labour management

Most technological trends are aimed at enhancing the consumer’s dining experience, but how is technology helping the restaurant owner/operator? One trend we are seeing is the emergence of software programs to streamline labour management. There are now several software companies that have created programs that merge staff hiring, training, scheduling, management and labour costs in one. These programs help eliminate piles of paperwork, and also help you to control your labour costs with analytics to forecast sales, allowing you to schedule appropriately.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training.

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