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The Restaurant Business Is Set For A Revolution In Technology But Could There Be Looming Problems?

table-tracker-systemsHaving new technology like mobile phone ordering and tracking, ordering kiosks, custom mobile apps, table location using cell phones, online only ordering and a host of other technologies designed specifically for improving the customer experience sounds like a great idea… but are they?

The rise and rise of the restaurant and eatery since 2007 is wonderful and everyone loves to eat in them. But there are a substantial number of potential customers that cannot use those technologies no matter how they try. And it’s not really their fault!

There is no doubt that technology can improve customers experience. There is a substantial percentage of customers that are not at all savvy with using technology and that is a problem. Consider that the value of fast food restaurants in the UK in 2017 for fast food including takeaways alone was a massive £5.1 Billion but adding up across the whole sector to over £14 Billion and even what seems to be smaller percentages of potential customers adds up to massive loss of business.

While 56% of consumers between the age of 45-64 do use technology in restaurants that leaves a massive 44% of that age group that do not use technology. Indeed, for the USA around 65% of customers over 55 prefer to be served by waiting staff.

Careful consideration of how and where technology is used to improve customer experience is a key consideration for its success, after all who wants to ignore up to 44% of customers because the technology was less than perfect? Remember that the National Restaurant Association says that the number one feature cited by ‘baby boomers’ was a loyalty and rewards program so integrating that in to customer experience technology creates a win/win situation when enticing that sector of customer in to your restaurant or business.

It is noted that in the UK the government has provided national statistics about personal wealth by age where the average liquid wealth was at its highest between age 55 to 64 so it makes a great deal of sense where technology could be introduced as a customer interface that the technology itself does not turn away the wealthiest people with disposable income in UK from any restaurant or business.

Having a focus towards mobile phone ordering is fine for the younger generations, but most readers will know friends over 55 that struggle daily with their cell phone. Deloitte suggest that there has been a substantial increase of smart phone users over 55 between 2012 and 2017 by as much as 71% change but that certainly is no real reflection of how many of those over 55’s use the phone for smart apps. In fact, Deloitte estimates that at least 1 out of 4 consumers aged 55+ who own smartphones have never downloaded a single app. With that level of app use in the 55+ age group those problems for restaurant technology currently remain high on the agenda but seem largely unaddressed by developers and most often ignored by restaurant operators.

It is also worthwhile noting from a recent ‘greenlight’ survey that where the internet is concerned the over 55’s currently spend over £14 Billion through online shopping and are the fastest growing demographic in that area but they tend to be largely ignored by retailers and restaurant customer facing technology development by manufacturers. Bear in mind also that ‘greenlight’ also commented that for 65+ demographic that spending actually reduces compared to the customer in the 55 to 64 age group. Understanding this fact can help to identify which technology will help or hinder that demographic with the resulting increase in sales.

But technology in restaurants is not just about the front of house customer experience, there are other attributable technologies now appearing in restaurants that directly contribute to the overall customer delivery of quality service such as staff tracking that can provide key metrics about staff efficiencies to improve service levels and reduce costs accordingly.

Thinking about current trends where this same demographic of 55 to 64’s is concerned the payment process can also be a hurdle. While many newer payment methods might involve mobile pay, or server tablets, kiosks or apps, consideration has to be given to the effects those technologies will have in deterring the 55 to 64 age group from visiting any restaurant.

It is clear that over time younger generations will eventually migrate to being older technology savvy customers but ignoring the important 55 to 64 age range is not recommended if your restaurants are catering to that demographic already.

Of course, there are other technologies that ARE friendly for the 55 to 64 demographics out there that don’t involve ANY difficult customer level high technology use by the customer such as a table tracking system by Long Range Systems of Dallas TX, USA. Their ‘Table Tracker’ is simple to use and the only customer involvement is to place a ‘puck’ on the table they choose to be seated at. Service is improved dramatically and it’s a fact that the over 55’s love great service demonstrated by their love for waiter service.

So, there are a number of questions that need addressing where technology is either implemented or might be in the future, things like:

• Are you limiting your own customer base to millennials? If not:
o How does the customer experience technology impinge on potential client involvement of the 55 to 64’s?
o Are you happy insomuch as the highest disposable income sector of 55+ might not visit your restaurant because of technology concerns?
o Have you seriously considered the aspect of customer facing technology affecting your restaurant sales?

• Do you propose further investigation of the technology products you currently use?
o Review currently installed customer facing technology to address 55+ client sector
o Consider the 55+ client base BEFORE committing to technologies that might not attract the 55+ demographic due to the technical complexity when presented to them.

Customer involvement from all adults is king when using technology to enhance customer experience in any restaurant environment especially where sales are concerned.

Anthony Mckenzie is a Managing Director of a company involved with technology solutions for the restaurant sector and also an international reviewer of technology products for vertical sectors of business. Anthony can be contacted by visiting lrsuk.co.uk

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