Changing the Face of Restaurant Technology


Increase customer retention right now with what you already have

One of my favorite quotes comes from Teddy Roosevelt: "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."

It's a simple quote and yet it means so much.

In terms of restaurant operations, I see owners and executives constantly paying tribute to Roosevelt's words, oftentimes without even knowing it. They create a customer experience grounded in the menus they've created, the stores they've designed, and the service they provide. Yet there are always ways we, as an industry, can use today's technology to deliver a customer experience beyond traditional expectation.

Application technology is just one branch reshaping the restaurant landscape. For consumers, apps such as Yelp, Nosh, and UrbanSpoon provide access to information that can greatly influence consumer behavior—from where they dine to what they order. Meanwhile, apps like NoshList are changing the culture of operations within the restaurants themselves.

In terms of mobile application technology, an ABI Research study estimated 56 billion smartphone apps were downloaded in 2013, with another estimated 14 billion tablet apps downloaded the same year. Additionally, according to a 2012 National Restaurant Association poll, 46 percent of restaurant customers said they would use a restaurant’s smartphone app if available.

For restaurant operators, the use of apps has the potential to streamline operations, increase efficiency, and promote more customer engagement, increasing profit as a result.

Much of today's application technology can support two-way communication between restaurant staff and guests, and waitlist management software is leading this trend.

With American consumers dining out now more than ever, waitlist apps are changing one of the most arguably antiquated seating systems, replacing pad and paper with a technology that can calculate average wait times for guests, add customers to a seating list, and even remove them when necessary. This takes the guesswork out of seating times for restaurant patrons and allows them time to walk around outside of the restaurant until they receive the text that their table is ready.

If a customer is off-site when they receive notice that their table is ready, they can respond (via text) with the amount of time it will take to get back to the restaurant. This ensures that a host or hostess isn't guessing whether the customer will return and whether they need to hold the table. Rather, it is promoting a stream of communication between staff and guests that breaks the barrier between good and great customer service.

Not only does this build increased diner trust, but it retains customers who often leave a restaurant prior to seating due to misreported wait times. These apps also work on iPads and other “smart” devices, making them even more easy to learn to use—and feasible for you financially. After all, the constant replacement of buzzers or other paging systems adds up quickly in terms of time and money lost.

It's unlikely one of your customers will walk away with your iPad, but it is likely they will appreciate the application technology that correctly calculates their wait time and alerts them, via text, when their table is ready.

Not only has new waitlist technology increased seating efficiency for the brands that use it, executives have freely noted that it has improved ticket flow into the kitchen and overall ticket times in process.

This tells me that app technology is changing the face of restaurant operations and creating increased opportunity for table turns and customer retention. When it comes to doing “what you can, where you are, with what you have,” clearly the tools are available for pushing the boundaries into a new paradigm of operational success.

The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.

Craig Walker

Craig Walker, founder of GrandCentral (now Google Voice), is behind the launch of NoshList, a free waitlist app available on iPad, iPhone, iPod, and Android mobile devices. The app is currently being used in Red Robin and Buffalo Wild Wings locations across the United States. Craig brings more than 15 years' experience as an entrepreneur, venture capitalist, corporate executive, and attorney to Firespotter Labs, parent company of NoshList. Prior to Firespotter, Craig was Entrepreneur in Residence at Google Ventures.

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