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Restaurants to Focus on Digitally-Driven, Personalized Guest Journeys

March 26th, 2019 by

With this year’s restaurant technology conference MURTEC behind us, I’ve had some time to reflect on my many conversations with industry technology vendors and restaurant operators. A key takeaway this year—is a clear shift in the dining guest journey. What was once considered a point of differentiator has now become table stakes. In fact, digital and mobile technology investments are no longer means for success—but required for survival.

Digital technology restaurants are focused on in 2019

Below are six areas we expect to see prioritized for restaurant chains and operators in 2019.

  1. Customer ordering options. Not only do there need to be options for customers to place orders any way they’d like (phone, web, mobile, in‑person), but there will be an increased focus on providing that same flexibility when fulfilling orders. Having the understanding that a customer may want to order by phone and then decide to eat in when they arrive, while the next day they may order online and prefer to pick up their order through the drive through. That same flexibility needs to apply to payment options. Being flexible, agile and having the technology in place to support these customer preferences will be essential going forward.
  2. Off-premises dining (OPD). Restaurant operators are looking forward to the revenue growth opportunities available when customers order food from their restaurant for pick up or delivery. The ability to natively support the plethora of third-party delivery companies will be key, as will the value of providing their own branded OPD capabilities.
  3. Guest engagement innovation. As advanced technologies mature, and dining guest acceptance become more customary, we can expect to see a rapid adoption of technologies like voice-assisted ordering, ordering via auto infotainment systems, augmented reality (AR) for both guest and staff immersion, and the broad acceptance of restaurant-oriented Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity improve the overall automation and efficiency of restaurants.
  4. Leveraging customer data. Managing the guest journey is one thing but providing a true personalized experience at each stage is another. While incentivizing guests to participate in loyalty programs is important—leveraging the customer data effectively at each stage of the guest’s engagement is what will create the right combination of customer satisfaction and financial value.
  5. Next-generation POS platforms. Restaurants today require increased flexibility and scale from their mission-critical operational technology platforms. This often means shifting to a cloud-based platform, and in some cases, includes more native mobile tools. In either case, a continued reliance on a long-standing legacy POS system will make the shift to digital much more challenging.
  6. Agile thinking. The continuous increase in guest expectations will require restaurants to adopt agile approaches to everything, from strategy to development, processes, and most importantly, digital and system investments.

The overarching message was clear from guests, vendors, and operators—digital transformation is critical for today’s hyper-competitive restaurant operations. One thing is for sure, if you aren’t moving fast enough toward this revolution—you will have a hard time keeping up with the industry, your guests, and your competition.

Digital Dining: Restaurant Technology Increasingly Drives Customer Satisfaction

September 18th, 2018 by

Restaurant operators, whether they are global brands, franchisees, or independents, are investing heavily in a wide variety of digital technologies. That’s great – but their customers really, REALLY wish they would speed these initiatives up. In fact, the race to satisfy these expanding digital expectations will directly impact restaurants’ ability to grow, or even maintain, customer loyalty and market share going forward.

Digital Dining: Diners using digital technology at a restaurant

That’s the conclusion of a recent study conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by Windstream Enterprise and BRP Consulting. The study’s survey of 1,225 restaurant patrons and 60 restaurant IT decision makers revealed a core issue: diner’s expectations for a quality digital experience – from selecting restaurants via research on their phones, to mobile order-ahead, to using guest Wi-Fi after they arrive – is outpacing the ability of restaurants to deploy digital solutions to meet these needs.

Customer expectations across age demographics

Key high-level findings of the study, titled Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations include:

  • For customers of all ages, digital technology across the entire dining journey influences 40 percent of all restaurant visits. Digital is now a core element of that expected dining experience.
  • Millennials lead the charge in this trend, using digital to enhance their dining experience in more than half of all restaurant visits.
  • Over the next 24 months, all restaurant guests will start weighing digital factors incrementally higher than traditional factors, creating a new level of table stakes that will establish a higher base level of dining expectations each customer will have – every single time they eat out.

The gap between execution and expectations

The study’s unique methodology, which compares diner expectations to restaurants’ ability to deliver, reveals a wide and growing gap. Over the next 24 months, that gap will reach 29% in mobile/web order-ahead; 20% in contactless/mobile payment ability; and even 15% in simple Wi-Fi availability. Smaller gaps exist in every phase of the dining journey, and restaurants have a lot at stake in closing them. The good news is, many restaurant operators are making concerted investments in the right technologies.

Encouraging signs for restaurant operators

Restaurant operators are planning on average a 2x to 4x increase in digital technology deployment in the next 24 months

The overall good news is that restaurant operators are largely attuned to what’s happening in this digital evolution – and are planning, on average, a 2-4x increase in digital technology deployments over the next 24 months. This level of investment will put unprecedented (and unexpected) demands on a restaurant’s entire IT platform, especially their network and communications infrastructure.

It’s a fascinating and opportunistic time for key industry stakeholders. Every restaurant operator interested in seeing how their brand and technology strategy compares to guest expectations and competitors can download the complete Windstream Enterprise-BRP Consulting digital restaurant study, which includes details on both the survey methodology and survey findings.

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