Technology is extending its tentacles into every aspect of our lives, and that includes how we eat out at restaurants. If you own a dining establishment, you have probably begun to ask yourself whether you should jump on the automation bandwagon. There’s a lot to think about as you struggle to balance factors such as equipment costs, labor savings and customer reactions.
What Could You Automate?
Here are just a few ways that technology could change the way you and your customers interact at your restaurant:
- At-table ordering and self-ordering kiosks make it possible for your customers to input exactly what they want without extensive interaction with servers. In some cases, customers can not only order their food via a tablet payment processing system at the table, but they also can play games, provide feedback and even pay their bill.
- Mobile ordering. Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, most customers can use this technology to pick what they want before they even arrive at the restaurant. Then it is simply a matter of bypassing the long line of patrons waiting to be seated and getting the food they already ordered and, in many cases, paid for in advance.
- Drink automation. Modern beverage machines allow customers to choose from as many as 100 beverage options just by selecting what they want on a touch screen. This elevates a drink from a boring necessity to a glamorous attraction.
Is Automation Right for Your Restaurant?
Today, only a small fraction of eating establishments have embraced automated technologies such as ordering kiosks and iPad payment processing at customers’ tables. However, a much larger number have upgraded their point-of-sale systems, enabling them to automate and streamline vital facets of the business including inventory and payroll management, customer loyalty databases and data reporting. It’s a safe bet that many of the other glitzy automated features will gain footing in the next few years.
Before you jump on the automation bandwagon, honestly assess the scope of your business. Would the price you would need to pay to become more automated be recouped over time through lower labor costs and a faster customer turnover rate? What is the mood of your establishment: Is your restaurant small and cozy with an emphasis on personal relationships, or is it cool, sleek and modern with a more transient, fast-moving clientele? In this example, the latter type of restaurant would benefit more from automation than would the former.
If you’re still not sure if these ultra-modern, time-saving systems are right for you, consider getting opinions from your most important asset: your customers. Obviously, the final decision is yours; however, input from your loyal patrons might give you a new perspective on what is most important. Ultimately, if your customers are in sync with your approach, your restaurant will come out ahead.