Friction is the big problem that haunts both guests and staff alike. No matter what side of the dining experience you’re on, any clog in the pipeline creates a negative experience that is internalized and leads to bad reviews and staffing churn.
A friction-full dinner is laden with problems. A server is too overwhelmed by covering shifts to seat a family of five. The family of five is irritated and ends up waiting an extra 30 minutes to order. Next thing you know, it’s a cascade of minor issues building to a whole problem. It’s no one’s fault; restaurant friction is pipeline irritation from bumps and issues in the dining process.
It may seem like small potatoes, but this friction is at the heart of negative reviews, empty lunchrooms, and staff who never seem to stick around. When left unchecked, it can damage small businesses, and even larger chains feel the pressure to prevent friction in the dining experience.
So what exactly makes a frictionless experience? Simple: supplementary technology that teams can add to their toolkit. In good, frictionless order-and-pay experiences, guests order food from their phones and pay on their own by scanning a QR code. Great frictionless experiences involve even further collaboration, such as guests starting tabs from their phones or chatting through a staff messaging platform. Harnessing the power of tech is crucial for bringing businesses into the newest phase of the food and beverage industry. The reduction of friction starts with knowing how to smooth the road and why it’s so important.
Curbing the staffing churn
Frictionless order and pay, more often than not, are guest-led. This happens for two reasons. First, guests want to have a say in their experience and feel more in control of when they come and go. Second is that guest-led order and pay take the pressure off the server.
Rather than having servers juggle the responsibilities of engaging in conversation, taking orders, (sometimes) running meals to tables, and processing credit cards, other team members share the load. There is a good reason servers are some of the highest-churn jobs in the country; being a great upseller and waiter takes a lot of hard work, one that’s only made more complicated by friction.
That’s where good tech comes in. Creating a frictionless experience for staff, from the back of the house to the front, is vital for retention. At Bbot, we recently found that our customer, Cobble & Co. in New York City, had seen no staff turnover in the six months it had been open. By implementing our frictionless ordering and payment technology platform, manager Eduardo Lopez was able to increase wages by $2 for front- and back-of-house employees.
“It’s all about how you use the tools given to you as a manager,” Lopez says. “And for me, it’s always been how I put my team first.”
Low turnaround times for ordering food and delivering checks also tend to increase tips for servers—a major factor in improving retention. This does, however, run the risk of lowering reviews if there’s not enough server attention. But easing the burden to create a hybrid experience reduces that friction enough to create the best of both worlds.
Let’s get into the guest portion of why frictionless order and pay are so important. For one, guests find tech to be more useful and necessary than many would think—and why wouldn’t they? It reduces error and smooths out the edges of a bumpy process, allowing guests more say in their own experience.
With tech, guests can make their own decisions about when to order, when to re-order, and when they want to pay and leave the restaurant. While server-led ordering does offer the chance for an upsell before closing a tab, even the best waiter in the world can’t keep their other tables engaged when talking to a table.
Frictionless mobile order and pay marry the best of both worlds, allowing collaboration that cuts wait times but keeps the human connection. After all, there’s no replacing servers; they’re the backbone of the restaurant business. But by empowering guests to select orders from their phone and pay when they choose, they are able to create their own seamless dining experience.
Restructuring the restaurant industry
The restaurant industry is deeply rooted in tradition and expectation; analog ordering is part of the equation. But as times change and expectations shift, we find ourselves at the precipice of change. In the past year alone, technology has evolved at a breathtaking pace to suit the demands of the pandemic and the flexibility needed to follow state guidelines.
A frictionless order-and-pay experience is becoming our version of Zoom technology; everyone has it, and if you don’t, you’ll soon be picking it up in bits and pieces. In fact, market data firm Juniper Research predicts QR code payments will see a growth of 240 percent between 2020 to 2025.
As we move forward into the rest of 2021, we’re beginning to see that just because we’ve always done dining a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way. Many industries are turning toward remote work, and there’s the general sense of “no going back.” But that’s not a bad thing; it’s what’s going to help us get through this pandemic and beyond to build future-proof businesses.
Steve Simoni is the CEO of Bbot, an online, contactless order-and-payment platform. Prior to Bbot, Simoni worked in technical sales support and product management for SaaS companies, including Marketo and EverString. As a serial entrepreneur, Simoni previously founded a B2B technology company for the sales profession, an experience where he learned crucial lessons about product-market fit.