Not too long ago, grabbing a bite involved hoping that your meal wouldn’t fall victim to the game of telephone in the kitchen and come out incorrectly. Today, the restaurant landscape has evolved as technology has rewritten the script. As we move forward into 2024, it’s clear that technology is not just enhancing but transforming our dining experiences. Here are three tech trends set to prevail that will define the way we interact with restaurants in the coming year:
- Omnichannel Evolution: Tailoring Solutions for Every Tier
Over the years, omnichannel integration has evolved from a new concept to a fundamental operational strategy. Now omnichannel integration stands as a pivotal technological shift, reshaping the connection between in-person and online ordering with back-of-house operations. Yet, the interpretation of “channels” can vary widely, as certain individuals may view a kiosk as a channel, while others consider TikTok as a channel, too. This is true to some extent, but probably hard to build a common tool that would allow us to drive a best-in-class kiosk application and a best-in-class TikTok strategy at the same time. Recognizing this diversity, the industry is set to witness nuanced approaches across different tiers of brands.
Tier 1: Pioneering best-in-class channels
At the forefront, Tier 1 brands will persist in building best-in-class channels, each catering to specific needs while consuming data from a central repository. The focus remains on creating tailored and efficient channels that elevate the dining experience. These brands will continue to evolve, adapting their strategies to meet changing consumer expectations while maintaining the excellence that defines their service.
Tier 2: Navigating between platforms and flexibility
Tier 2 brands find themselves at a crossroads, torn between the desire for an all-encompassing platform and the need for the flexibility and depth of features offered by a Tier 1 best-in-class channel. Striking a balance between these conflicting priorities, Tier 2 brands will explore solutions that provide comprehensive services without sacrificing customization and depth. The challenge lies in navigating the evolving landscape and adopting strategies that align with their unique business requirements.
Tier 3: Embracing all-inclusive platforms
For Tier 3 brands, the trajectory involves gravitating towards platforms that offer a plethora of services, even if customization options and advanced features are limited. The emphasis is on simplicity and accessibility, allowing these brands to leverage a wide range of services from a single platform. While configuration options may be constrained, the convenience of an all-inclusive approach aligns with the objectives of Tier 3 establishments.
As we venture into 2024, the omnichannel landscape will see a divergence in strategies across these tiers. From Tier 1’s commitment to excellence to Tier 3’s embrace of simplicity, each tier will navigate the omnichannel evolution in a way that best suits its unique position and aspirations within the dynamic restaurant industry.
- On-Demand Pay Movement: Empowering restaurant workers
As the restaurant industry grapples with the challenges posed by economic disruptions, a notable trend is the focus on raising pay standards and providing benefits for restaurant workers. One concept catching on across the industry is on-demand pay, which allows employees to withdraw money from their paychecks promptly after finishing their shifts. This is already playing a pivotal role in addressing the evolving needs of the workforce.
The process is easy and efficient, with taxes automatically calculated and deducted before employees can access their pay. This instant access to earnings provides financial flexibility for workers, particularly beneficial in a gig economy where financial security is a growing concern. Not only does on-demand pay empower employees by giving them greater control over their finances, but it also contributes to increased job satisfaction and employee loyalty.
Technology plays a crucial role in implementing on-demand pay systems. Mobile apps and digital platforms enable employees to manage their financial transactions conveniently from their preferred devices, ensuring a smooth and transparent process for both employers and workers. This not only aligns with the trend of digital transformation sweeping the industry but also demonstrates a commitment to meeting the expectations of a tech-savvy workforce.
In 2024, the adoption of on-demand pay is expected to become more widespread as restaurant operators recognize its potential in attracting and retaining workers. This innovative approach not only addresses the immediate financial needs of employees but also contributes to building a positive workplace culture. As the industry continues to navigate the complexities of a disruptive economy, restaurants that prioritize the well-being of their workforce through competitive wages and benefits are likely to stand out as employers of choice, attracting more competitive candidates, and ultimately, enhancing the overall quality of service and customer experience.
- Limited Time Offers (LTOs): Creating Buzz and Fostering Innovation
Restaurants are leveraging Limited Time Offers (LTOs) as a powerful tool to create excitement and generate buzz around their products. These temporary promotions not only introduce new menu items but also serve as a catalyst for innovation, driving customer engagement and brand visibility.
Social media platforms provide a dynamic space for restaurants to showcase their limited-time offerings, enabling direct interaction with customers and fostering a sense of community around these promotions. The use of hashtags, challenges, and user-generated content amplifies the impact, turning customers into brand ambassadors and creating a ripple effect of excitement.
As we move into 2024, restaurant concepts are expected to build on the success of such LTO campaigns, incorporating elements of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to enhance the overall customer experience. The Grimace Shake example serves as a testament to the potential of LTOs in not only driving short-term sales but also in building brand affinity and customer loyalty over the long term.
In the coming year, we can anticipate further innovations in LTO strategies, with restaurants exploring new and creative ways to captivate their audience. As technology continues to evolve, so too will the ways in which limited-time offerings are presented and promoted, ensuring that QSRs remain at the forefront of customer engagement and culinary innovation.
The Synergy of Trends: A Holistic Approach to Restaurant Innovation
While each of these trends brings unique value to the restaurant industry, their true impact is realized when they synergize. Restaurants that adopt a holistic approach, integrating these trends seamlessly into their operations, are likely to thrive in the dynamic landscape of 2024.
Imagine a scenario where a customer, having received a personalized LTO promotion on their mobile app, decides to visit a physical store to experience the limited-time offering in person. Upon arrival, the restaurant staff, empowered by on-demand pay and benefits, provide exceptional service, creating a positive and memorable dining experience. This level of integration not only fosters customer loyalty but also enhances the efficiency of restaurant operations.
As we venture into 2024, the restaurant industry stands at the intersection of technology, customer experience, and employee well-being. Establishments that embrace these trends with a forward-looking mindset will undoubtedly lead the way, setting new standards for innovation, sustainability, and success in the competitive world of dining.
Thibaud Denolle moved to Paris in 2013 to join Acrelec, a global technology company focused on reinventing the customer experience for restaurant and retail brands. He was first involved in the design of NGK self-ordering kiosks for McDonald’s, and in 2018, he set up the U.S. Innovation Center in Chicago. Denolle became the CEO of Acrelec America in January 2023.