With this year’s restaurant technology conference MURTEC behind us, I’ve had some time to reflect on my many conversations with industry technology vendors and restaurant operators. A key takeaway this year—is a clear shift in the dining guest journey. What was once considered a point of differentiator has now become table stakes. In fact, digital and mobile technology investments are no longer means for success—but required for survival.
Below are six areas we expect to see prioritized for restaurant chains and operators in 2019.
- Customer ordering options. Not only do there need to be options for customers to place orders any way they’d like (phone, web, mobile, in‑person), but there will be an increased focus on providing that same flexibility when fulfilling orders. Having the understanding that a customer may want to order by phone and then decide to eat in when they arrive, while the next day they may order online and prefer to pick up their order through the drive through. That same flexibility needs to apply to payment options. Being flexible, agile and having the technology in place to support these customer preferences will be essential going forward.
- Off-premises dining (OPD). Restaurant operators are looking forward to the revenue growth opportunities available when customers order food from their restaurant for pick up or delivery. The ability to natively support the plethora of third-party delivery companies will be key, as will the value of providing their own branded OPD capabilities.
- Guest engagement innovation. As advanced technologies mature, and dining guest acceptance become more customary, we can expect to see a rapid adoption of technologies like voice-assisted ordering, ordering via auto infotainment systems, augmented reality (AR) for both guest and staff immersion, and the broad acceptance of restaurant-oriented Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity improve the overall automation and efficiency of restaurants.
- Leveraging customer data. Managing the guest journey is one thing but providing a true personalized experience at each stage is another. While incentivizing guests to participate in loyalty programs is important—leveraging the customer data effectively at each stage of the guest’s engagement is what will create the right combination of customer satisfaction and financial value.
- Next-generation POS platforms. Restaurants today require increased flexibility and scale from their mission-critical operational technology platforms. This often means shifting to a cloud-based platform, and in some cases, includes more native mobile tools. In either case, a continued reliance on a long-standing legacy POS system will make the shift to digital much more challenging.
- Agile thinking. The continuous increase in guest expectations will require restaurants to adopt agile approaches to everything, from strategy to development, processes, and most importantly, digital and system investments.
The overarching message was clear from guests, vendors, and operators—digital transformation is critical for today’s hyper-competitive restaurant operations. One thing is for sure, if you aren’t moving fast enough toward this revolution—you will have a hard time keeping up with the industry, your guests, and your competition.
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