How to Integrate Technology in Your Restaurant

Ever visit your favorite restaurant only to find out that everything has changed? The décor is different, the menu is unrecognizable, and you, the diner, are left to figure it out. The same phenomenon is now happening in reverse.

The familiar behaviors of diners that restaurants used to bank on are rapidly evolving, thanks to things like technology and social media. Can your restaurant adapt to this new breed of diner?

Keep them seated

According to the Mintel study, “Technology in Restaurants – March 2014," today’s on-the-go consumers are dining in less and using takeout and drive-throughs more. Because takeout tabs are generally lower than those of patrons dining in, this trend could spell trouble for profits.

However, the same study shows that restaurants can keep patrons in their seats – and generating higher tabs – by entertaining them wire-to-wire. In addition to flat-screen televisions they can watch while waiting for a table, consider free Wi-Fi and accessible plug-ins or charging stations to keep their devices powered up. Personalized entertainment, such as in-booth music or television, is also a way to create a lasting (and more lucrative) dining experience.

Communal entertainment, such as trivia or bingo, is yet another effective method to entice diners to stay. It can also create a community feel that drives repeat business, as groups of friends or families institutionalize trivia or bingo night at your establishment.

Keep them talking

The same Mintel study also revealed that diners are using social media and review sites more than ever to guide their dining decisions. While there’s a definite upside to this, managing the feedback, positive or negative, can be a challenge and will require a concerted, consistent effort.

On Facebook, reward positive feedback with “likes” and thankful responses.

Twitter lets you express your gratitude for positive comments by “favoriting” or “retweeting” them. By showing patrons your approval, you’re reinforcing the emotional tie they have with your restaurant, which can engender repeat business and brand advocacy.

If the feedback is negative, respond professionally or take the issue offline, if possible. Whatever you do, don’t clam up. While dialoguing with your customers via social media can be demanding and requires continual vigilance, not responding sends a message that you don’t care, which can be far more detrimental than a negative comment.

Keep them saving

While coupons and discounts will always be in vogue, today’s restaurant goer prefers ease and instant access. Rather than paper coupons that are cumbersome to clip, save and locate when it’s time to redeem, try e-coupons they can produce with their smartphone or device. The same holds true for rewards and loyalty programs – if they’re online and easy, they’ll go over well with today’s patrons.

Keep them honest

Review sites, such as Yelp, Urbanspoon, Allmenus and TripAdvisor, have given restaurant patrons a forum to opine at length about your establishment. This can be very good, if they’re saying nice things about your ceviche; however, it can be detrimental if the feedback is negative.

Right or wrong, today’s restaurant owners must recognize that today’s patron has an opinion and loves a forum, and that the smart thing to do is be a part of it. In fact, by actively engaging with your online reviewers, you can control the message and be the proactive voice of truth.

For example, perhaps a reviewer mentions that their fried chicken took a bit long to arrive. By acknowledging this and explaining that the preparation techniques required to prepare their dish demands a little more time, you’ll enlighten and educate a potential advocate.

Don’t wait for negative feedback to formulate potential responses. By troubleshooting worst-case review scenarios ahead of time you can answer a critic quickly should the need arise. You may never have to deal with a reviewer who claims your valet parking attendant dinged his Dodge, but if it happens, you’ll be ready.

Restaurants evolve by understanding the changing tastes in patrons. By understanding the new ways they’re using technology and social media, your restaurant can continue to evolve successfully.

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