The 360-degree dining experience & the new climate of guest impulse

By Laurent May

Restaurants across the country are reopening and the hospitality industry is reemerging in a post-pandemic world. However, guest expectations have shifted as new technology was introduced over the pandemic to keep dining guests comfortable and safe.

On-premise guest experience is traditionally guided by the server, as they drive the service from beginning to end. Now, guests remain in control of their own experience – viewing the menu, ordering, and paying, all through their mobile device. While this may be unnerving for restaurant owners and operators who have previously relied on servers to drive the experience, there is actually an opportunity to use this new model to increase revenue.

New technology can be utilized for restaurants to turn pain points into strengths, as they can now capitalize on the guest’s impulses, increase table turns, and personalize the dining experience – resulting in higher guest cheques, an increase in guest count and higher tips.

Capturing the guest impulse

In the typical dining experience, guests are seated with a menu, they make their decision, and then the menu is whisked away from them, never to be seen again unless requested by the guest.

With the digitization of menus and the introduction of QR codes directly on the table, guests are now able to view the menu at their leisure and throughout the course of their entire experience.

In a scenario where the guest impulsively decides they would like a glass of wine once their meal arrives, they can easily pull up the wine list and select a wine without attempting to flag down a server. This speeds up the ordering process, so they can receive their wine to enjoy with their meal before it gets cold, or the guest changes their mind.

Viewing the entire menu all at once also has the potential to secure additional food sales. As some restaurants have dessert listed on a separate menu, being able to view the dessert menu at the beginning of the meal can tempt the guest into craving a dessert before they fill up on dinner.

Additionally, digital, always-present menus can provide rich imagery and ample details to enhance the appeal of menu items, as well as the ability to filter items for dietary restrictions and even suggest wine or cocktail pairings with the food. The menus are not simply linked to a website, but rather they are custom-built for the most engaging experience possible. This convenience and customization allows guests to navigate the menu seamlessly, rather than trying to navigate a non-mobile-optimized format. 

Timing: Guests have the remote control

Having faster table turns is one of the most effective ways to increase revenue, as the more tables that are served in a period of time, the more revenue is generated. Increasing table turns is essential to a successful and thriving restaurant, so this is extremely valuable for restaurant operators to capitalize on.

Along with the ability to view the menu whenever they want, increased digitization in restaurants allows guests to control the timing of their experience. Guests are able to view the menu as soon as they sit down, order throughout the experience, as well as split cheques and pay through their mobile device. Next-generation technology captures the guest impulse and doesn’t leave time for a change of heart. This greatly reduces wait times and increases the efficiency of the dining room, which thoroughly optimizes table turns.

The role of the server is transforming

With the guest in control using technology, the role of the server has changed dramatically. Servers are no longer the driving force behind logistics and food delivery; instead, they are there to elevate and personalize the dining experience. In the absence of so many time-consuming pain points, like taking payments or rushing to get orders in, they have an opportunity to build guest connections and develop relationships with their tables. This allows servers to make suggestions, upsell menu items, and form bonds with guests that will encourage repeat visits.

Servers are able to pay more attention to the details that make a dining experience unique and special for each individual table, resulting in higher tips and in turn, happier employees. Instead of being the pilot of the plane, servers are now the flight attendants – responsible for ensuring guests are happy, comfortable and well taken care of.

The 360-degree dining experience

While having guests in control may seem counterintuitive for restaurants, there are benefits to this model that are already being realized. 

Capturing the guest’s impulse, increased table turns, and a more personalized experience all result in increased sales, increased tips, and more revenue generated for the restaurant, at a time when they need it the most.

As restaurants continue to implement digital tools, they have an opportunity to make the most of this new normal and turn pain points into areas of strength that will ultimately streamline operations and will be vital to the success of a restaurant.

Laurent May is Head of Ready, a fully integrated mobile self-ordering, payment, and loyalty technology solution that’s defining the next generation of hospitality venues. He has over 20 years of product management expertise in the electronic payments space leading high-performance teams.