The restaurant industry has been on the cusp of different paradigm shifts the past few years. Technology, generational turnover and third-party partnerships are dynamically changing the way restaurant operators attract new and existing customers. No longer will the “if you build it, they will come” mentality be enough to run and operate a successful restaurant or chain. In order to be successful, you need to be aware of a number of trends currently on that cusp of changing the state of the restaurant industry.
Independent Delivery Services
Perhaps the hottest trend in restaurants is delivery. Years ago, delivery was handled primarily in the quick service industry almost exclusively. A driver was typically employed by the establishment to courier food such as pizza around the neighborhood in his/her own car with signage affixed to the car. Fast forward to 2016, and enormous companies like Amazon and Uber have begun to dip their toes in the delivery game for a slice of the action. Amazon, in select markets, has introduced Prime Now, a restaurant delivery service that allows customers to order food from restaurants through their mobile apps. Uber drivers are supplementing their driving income by delivering food through the recently introduced UberEATS program, also only in specific markets, which allows customers to order food for delivery by an Uber driver through the same cashless payment system as their ride service.
Virtual Service for Takeout
First, what are virtual servers? Virtual servers are highly trained representatives who handle takeout ordering for restaurants through a U.S.-based call center. These folks know the menu backwards and forwards, make suggestions based on repeat orders and preferences, and execute in the same manner that dine-in staff performs. But … they’re not in the restaurant. For most restaurants takeout has always been the stepchild to the rest of the operations. Typically, restaurants simply have an in-house staffer take the call and order as best they can. However, it often leads to an error riddled order and a poor experience for the customer. Restaurants in droves are turning to third parties to outsource calls, online and mobile ordering of takeout so that the restaurant management and staff do what they do best – serve customers that are in the restaurant.
Outsourced Order Management
A newer concept getting traction is order management. Order management is the human bridge supporting and monitoring all takeout ordering including phone, online and mobile takeout orders to proceed with flexibility and without issue. By employing takeout order management, orders are rescued from unforeseen miscues related to technical outages and transactional processing errors during customer order placement. When such an error occurs, no matter if the order comes in through a call, online or mobile, the order is flagged by an order manager to call the customer for assistance and ensure the finalization of the order and then work with the restaurant seamlessly to meet the details of the order. Thus, the order is rescued from being lost altogether saving business for the restaurant. And instead of the customer feeling disgruntled by the mishap, the customer now feels satisfied from the help. The kicker? Again, the restaurant has outsourced this responsibility enabling staff and management to remain focused on their dine-in business. It’s transparent to the customer so essentially the virtual servers and order managers are extensions of the restaurant brand.
Online and Mobile Ordering
Placing an order for takeout or delivery through an online or mobile app has been around for years, but the mass adoption has only been underway more recently. Like most trends and changes, traction takes time. But perhaps what has spurred the adoption of technology based orders more than anything is the fact that technology has become a primary factor for how younger generations select which restaurants they visit or order takeout, if they return and how frequently. In fact, according to data and research produced by The Hartman Group, younger generations order takeout and delivery at a more substantial rate than older generations. Younger generations have also been on a decline in visiting restaurants for in-house dining since 2011. Why? They prefer to order through technology and either pick it up, or have it delivered. This of course has led to restaurants to begin to adopt not just online and mobile ordering applications, but use other technologies such as social media as well.
Fully Integrated Platforms and Suites
Restaurant operators, like many other businesses, increasingly want their various platforms and employed solutions to either be integrated or consolidated. Often times in business, the left arm doesn’t know what the right arm is doing, and the restaurant business is no different. In recent years however, the industry has become a savvy hotbed of various technologies and systems. Operators are keenly interested in simplicity and having their systems and platforms talk to each other to improve efficiency, operations, revenues and the overall customer experience. Operators are now requiring their POS systems, engagement technologies, payment solutions and many others to seamlessly integrate and share the data for a more efficient business model.