With ever-proliferating cooking shows on TV, a seemingly never-ending list of online recipes, and YouTube educators, it’s never been easier for keen amateur chefs to produce excellent and nutritious meals for a fraction of the cost of dining out.
And the COVID-19 pandemic has hardly helped, by persuading or forcing many customers to stay home, and perhaps to learn to cook in ways that they never did before.
So if restaurants are to stay in business – let alone generate decent profits – they’re going to have to offer something more.
In a word – an experience.
Great, not just OK, food, is of course essential.
But for in-house diners, you also need to ensure a welcoming ambiance. That’s the décor and acoustics, the friendliness and attitude of your staff, and the ability to interact with other guests.
And all of that should be a given for what is, after all, part of the hospitality industry.
But, in fact, much of the provision of a great dining experience depends on what might be termed “back-office” factors. And this is where restaurant technology comes in
The creation of a memorable experience doesn’t begin and end with what happens during the meal.
Customers now increasingly demand an online system for reservations and ordering that will allow them to enter and exit with the maximum of speed and convenience.
No more will they tolerate waiting around in a crowded and potentially infectious reception area for the chance of a table in “about” 30 minutes.
So you need to have a reservation system that can automatically allow and adjust for surges in bookings, staffing levels, and speed of table turns to accommodate the maximum number of customers without compromising on the quality of experience.
And in the era of COVID, customers are increasingly demanding a contactless ordering and payment experience. Fortunately, this is now easy to provide with today’s POS systems.
If your restaurant doesn’t yet have a social media presence, you may be missing out on huge numbers of valuable bookings.
But the benefits of social media go far beyond this.
Used creatively, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be a great way to build a relationship with customers – and thereby enhance their experience.
You might, for example, post videos in which your chef explains how to prepare his signature dish, where the ingredients are sourced, and inviting comments.
All of this helps customers to feel part of your restaurant family and not just impersonal sources of revenue.
The problem is that keeping all your social media outlets up to date with fresh relevant content can be a major time-suck.
The answer is to use one of the many social media automation services now available.
Perhaps no element of the restaurant experience is more important than efficient, knowledgeable, and friendly staff.
But turnover in the industry is notoriously high, and good replacements can be hard to find at short notice – particularly at busy times.
One answer is to use the many apps now becoming available that will connect you immediately with a pool of immediately available talent and allow you to re-hire temporary workers that have given good service.
Customers naturally value choice. But what really counts in terms of their experience is the quality of the meal they enjoy.
And the reports provided by today’s POS technology can help by clearly identifying your bestselling dishes, the sides, upsells, and drinks that seem to add value.
Focusing on these rather than the outliers will help you deliver a quicker service, improve quality, and retain customers.