Keeping Up with Restaurant Technology Trends

Staying ahead of today’s technology is challenging.  Implementing technology that enhances restaurant operations and improves customer experiences is key to remaining competitive in the foodservice business.  According to the National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot in 2012 survey of close to 1,800 chefs,  26% named smartphone apps for consumers as the hottest trend, while 25% named tablet computers for menus and wine lists.  Although there are countless technology trends, some of the most popular include:
  • Smartphone Apps: Customers can use apps for all aspects of the restaurant experience.  There are apps for everything from finding a restaurant, making a reservation or placing an order to calculating tips and writing a restaurant review.   Apps can even be used within restaurant operations to notify customers when a table is ready, to manage staff schedules and to assist chefs with measurement conversions or develop new recipes.  Can’t find an app that meets your needs?  Why not develop one instead?
  • Tablet Technology: iPads and other tablet computers are becoming a common sight at restaurants.  Menus are uploaded onto tablets with photos and wine pairings, giving customers an interactive experience.  Electronic menus are also environmentally friendly, especially for restaurants that change menus and prices frequently.  For restaurants that welcome families, tablets can also serve as entertainment systems for kids.  Waiters also use tablets to take orders, making service faster and reducing errors.  If it fits your restaurant’s atmosphere, you can further reduce waiter involvement by allowing customers to place orders or even pay bills using tablets.
  • QR Code and Loyalty Program Upgrades: Using QR codes further increases customer interaction.  QR codes make it easy for customers to learn more about your restaurant and the nutritional facts of dishes, as well as provide customers with coupons and access to surveys.  Loyalty programs can also be further enhanced by tracking customer preferences, allowing for targeted marketing.
  • Free Wi-Fi and Charging Stations: Though not the right fit for all restaurants, providing free Wi-Fi and charging stations can increase business, particularly during slower hours of the day.  Restaurants do need to consider how best to strategically integrate this free service into their business.  Some require customers to enter their email address, which can later be used for marketing efforts, while others first direct users to a welcome screen promoting new menu items or restaurant events.
  • Social Media: Social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter are used to communicate and stay connected with current customers as well as to attract new customers.  Restaurants use the sites to interact with customers, build brand awareness, and inform customers of new restaurant openings and promotions – the possibilities are endless.

How has your business implemented recent technology trends?   What other technology trends have you observed?