Why Your Restaurant Needs a Tech-Over

A tablet for a waiter?

If you think waiters can’t be replaced by technology, ask yourself: When was the last time you got cash from a bank? Or pulled into a gas station and had a cheery fellow in a spotless uniform rush out and clean your windshield?

Substituting technology for real-life waiters is not as far-off and futuristic as one may think. For all the skeptics out there, read the cleverly-headlined and profusely-shared “Hi, I’m a Tablet. I’ll Be Your Waiter Tonight” article published in The New York Times recently. The piece asserts that “restaurants have been late to the tech party, and many are now scrambling to incorporate tablets, apps, computerized kitchen equipment and data analysis capabilities.” In other words, restaurants are being transformed by technology, and not just when it comes to waiting tables. Diners are definitely on board with this. A survey by the National Restaurant Association found that more than 50% of consumers said that “they would use tableside electronic payment options,” and 44% indicated they would use tablet menus.

The customer is always…happy?

Several platforms have sprung up to provide this new technology, including Revel, Ziosk, and Tanjarine, the last of which links tableside ordering, entertainment, and pay-at-the-table service with server handheld devices. Restaurants that use these platforms report increased profits, more inventory turnover, and heightened levels of customer satisfaction.

We suspect that this is just the beginning: Consumer demand for instant, friction-free service in all aspects of their lives is only increasing. And now that apps like Uber are already providing that kind of service the second diners step out of a restaurant, they’ll surely want it inside as well. Besides, restaurants will probably realize the value in forming an association between themselves and these popular new tech platforms.

It’s the restaurant revolution

With waitering service covered and taking off, the next logical step would be integrating technology into more aspects of the dining experience. As a mobile app-creation platform that currently enables thousands of restaurants to connect and engage with their customers via customized mobile apps, that next step is something we at Swiftic have been thinking about a lot.

As things stand now, these customized apps let restaurants post daily updated menus to reflect daily specials. Users can make reservations through OpenTable and Urbanspoon. App users on both ends can integrate with GrubHub, Seamless, and Eat24. But with the anticipated development of technology in the restaurant realm, we expect a lot more things to improve for the customer before, during, and after the dining experience.

We expect that customers will soon be able to use a restaurant’s app on their phone to send their order to their table’s tablet before they even get to the restaurant. Diners may even be able to order their favorite dish to show up at their table precisely at 8:15 p.m.

Alternatively, diners could change their order, confirm it, and send it to the kitchen once they sit down. Consider the efficiency this would bring to the restaurant, and more importantly, the high levels of satisfaction it would bring to customers. We all know how frustrating it can be to try and find a waiter when a restaurant gets really busy.

Restaurant owners could track and monitor data such as individual customer behavior, menu choices, time spent at each table, and more. After the diners leave, a restaurant’s app could keep a record of what they enjoyed. That data would let restaurant owners offer them a discount on that dish the next time, recommend suggestions based on their culinary preferences, offer a coupon, or survey them on potential new menu items.

Puttanesca with a side of data

The development of customized apps has always meant that restaurants are as much in the data business as they are in the food business. Now more than ever before, restaurants need to think about the many ways they can “serve” this data that’s available to them back to their customers.

For example, those counting calories could be notified about the calories they consumed during their meals. In turn, this data can be integrated into fitness and wellness services within an app. Taking this a step further, users can be told how many calories they need to burn based on what they just ate, and how long different workouts will take to achieve that.

We’ve come a long way from the time when restaurant owners—and other small business owners—wondered why they would ever need a mobile app. Of course, there will always be skeptics. New technology always provokes that reaction; there’s probably still some people out there grumbling about the birth of the Internet. But—while there’s obviously no guarantees— this particular change looks like it could be beneficial for everyone involved.