As competition in the food and dining industry gets even more fierce, restaurants need to innovate to stay ahead of the game. Hospitality Technology provides valuable insight into how restaurants are preparing for the future with survey data that represents an astonishing 18,845 locations around the world.
The data covers a range of topics, from business drivers to budgets to innovation trends to goals and much more. It compared restaurants who are known for being leaders in innovation, as well as restaurants that lag behind. It also highlighted the differences between how different segments of the industry are addressing technology strategies.
Enter the “omni-experience”
One of the overarching trends revealed in the study is the concept of the omni-channel experience. Although many restaurants have been hesitant to embrace it, it's one of the most crucial elements of being competitive in an increasingly digital world.
So what is the omni-experience? It's an integrated approach to entering analytics around customer’s preferences via a blend of digital and physical channels. This combination of physical and digital analytics is called “phygital” and it can be used to gain a better understanding of guests and to create better and more consistent experiences with the brand.
Importantly, this focus on the omni-experience marks the first time in a decade that digital engagement with customers has replaced efficiency as the top goal for restaurant IT investments.
Why analytics are vital
In the past, restaurants haven’t deeply embraced analytics to make decisions. However, analytics can be an incredibly important tool for staying ahead of the curve and standing out from the competition.
For example, many brands use the power of customer data to improve their loyalty programs. Starbucks has become a leader in personalization. They've created a powerful personalization program that has increased email offer redemptions by 100% as well as achieving a 300% increase in revenue from offer users.
In addition to front-of-house analytics (i.e. insights around the customer experience), another just as important but often forgotten area that requires analytical prowess is back office operations. Monitoring vendor pricing, managing food costs, and streamlining processes will become increasingly essential for restaurants.
Improved business and customer analytics
So what's in the cards for the future of analytics? Many restaurants are looking into moving this data into the cloud so that it can be accessed from anywhere. 25% of restaurants surveyed said that their analytics were already in the cloud, 15% were considering the move, and 18% were actively exploring it.
Increased employee productivity
In the report, David Cantu Co-Founder and CCO of HotSchedules, writes about how a restaurant's tech strategy can boost employee engagement and productivity. He describes how highly engaged restaurants leverage polling, surveys, messaging and communications to connect with their workforce.
Technology can help a restaurant have the right people scheduled at the right time. You don’t want to have too many staff on at once, but you also don’t want to be short staffed either. When employees have the freedom to access their own schedules and trade or pick up shifts, this makes scheduling significantly easier for employees and managers.
Mobile payments are here to stay
The survey asked operators to identify items that were important to them in terms of innovation. Mobile payments were at the top of the list for 67% of restaurateurs. When looking at particularly innovative companies, they placed even more importance on mobile payments — with 75% calling it one of their top priorities. According to the study, 39% of restaurants say that payment and data security is a top strategic goal for technology investments in 2017.
Mobile payment has become more prevalent in recent years. In the past, companies that have been against it have insisted that customers don’t want to use it. However, research has shown that customers will use mobile pay systems if they're available.
According to HT’s 2016 Customer Engagement Technology Study, three out of every five diners want to use mobile payment. 56% of the diners surveyed said that the ability to use mobile payment would influence their selection of restaurants. However, only 49% of restaurants offer mobile pay options at the moment. According to the study, 21% of restaurants surveyed plan to add mobile payments in 2017.
Streamlined BOH processes
Perfectly in line with the trend of cloud accounting and mobile payments is the trend of automating processes. For example, Plate IQ automates everything from invoice data entry to vendor payments to cost reporting, making those necessary but time consuming tasks more efficient.
Technology is the way forward
What this study found is that restaurants are steadily spending on tech, even though sales are lagging. Many brands are looking to find a competitive advantage by using the right innovative technologies. Solutions such as Plate IQ can provide significant savings.
Although 2016 warned of a restaurant recession due to a volatile election cycle, revised overtime regulations, and decreased grocery prices, restaurants are still heavily investing in technology. The HT study showed that restaurants are prepared to spend as much on improving their technology as their budget will allow — as these brands move forward into 2017 and beyond.