Technology has become table stakes for the restaurant industry.
The ongoing digitization of the consumer landscape has reached the hospitality sector, and thoughtful applications are revolutionizing the ways restaurants can attract customers and build loyalty.
“Hospitality truly transcends the four walls of a restaurant,” Chandler Stroud, a vice president at Resy, told PYMNTS. “And restaurants have become incredibly focused on how they can use the guest information they’re securing from the various technologies they’re using to uplevel the hospitality they’re offering.”
After all, the little touches make all the difference in engendering loyalty and driving repeat visits to a favorite place.
For example, greeting a returning guest with a warm “welcome back” instead of asking if it’s their first visit creates a lasting impression that builds customer loyalty by emphasizing that the restaurant’s relationship with its customers goes beyond the physical boundaries of the establishment.
Restaurants are integrating technology with intention throughout the customer journey, from pre-service to post-service interactions.
“Guests expect restaurants to know their preferences and respond to them in kind,” Stroud said. “They also expect a lot of the most important information to be available online. For instance, operational hours, menus, table types, when reservations are going live, social media handles and so much more.”
Best-practice uses of technology can make the restaurant experience seamless both for guests and restaurants themselves.
“The best innovations and technologies in the restaurant space today are very intentional and don’t disrupt that customer journey,” Stroud explained.
It’s about how restaurants leverage the information guests share through the technology they’re using to enhance the experience that matters, she added.
Restaurants can then anticipate needs and preferences, providing thoughtful touches such as having highchairs ready for families or reserving quieter corners for those seeking a more intimate atmosphere.
One way restaurants are seeking feedback and improving their offerings is through diner surveys.
These intentional surveys provide an opportunity for guests to offer their opinions and thoughts on their dining experience.
“It can be quite powerful for restaurants, and I think a really exciting moment for guests to offer their opinion and thoughts on what their experience was like,” Stroud said.
Automated surveys, in particular, have proven to be powerful tools for restaurants, as they provide feedback in a closed-loop model. This allows restaurants to make necessary adjustments and continuously improve their services.
What might those improvements look like? Stroud said they center around innovations in the customer relationship management (CRM) and payment space.
“There are huge opportunities to take what is typically the least enjoyable part of the meal — paying the bill — and turning into a much more efficient and frictionless experience,” she said. “And I think QR codes and the tableside handheld devices are really good examples of this and how it’s really taken off.”
While customer-facing technologies are visible and impactful, there are also game-changing technologies in the back end of restaurants that may go unnoticed by guests but are revolutionizing the way restaurant partners operate and manage their businesses. For instance, American Express offers various technologies and solutions for businesses of all sizes, including restaurants, like automated payments solutions and access to working capital. These offerings help restaurants manage their businesses effectively and reinvest in their growth.
Resy Pay, Resy’s QR-based mobile payment tool, streamlines the payment process by allowing diners to see their check and pay it, without having to wait for a server to bring the check.
Whether a restaurant is new or established, attracting new diners and turning them into repeat guests is critical to long-term success.
Booking data from Resy shows that after a user makes a second reservation on the platform, they start making reservations more frequently.
One way American Express and Resy are driving repeat business to restaurants is with The Resy Tastemakers, a month-long campaign to help Generation Z and millennial diners discover and try new-to-them local restaurants and to support small businesses.
As the industry evolves, the restaurant sector must remain at the cutting edge to retain and attract customers. By adopting intentional, non-disruptive technology and keeping an eye on emerging trends, restaurants of all sizes can position themselves for long-term success. The future of dining is undoubtedly digital, and those restaurants that embrace this reality are poised to thrive in the ever-evolving world of hospitality.