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The Menu – the latest insights on restaurant technology trends, customer successes, and best practices.

Restaurant Tech | Driving Improved Guest Experience in 2020.

Laurent May
Head of Ready
Technology has emerged as a driving force in hospitality. From tablet-based POS systems, to guest-controlled ordering platforms, to digital menu boards – new technology has the ability to reimagine the way operators and guests interact with their surroundings completely.

The trends seen in 2019 are an indicator of what’s to come in 2020, as implementation of new technology will only become increasingly vital to sustain and maintain a functioning and profitable hospitality venue.

Tech Trends in 2019

2019 saw the maturation of startup POS companies working to compete with legacy POS providers. These new systems have successfully prioritized a broad ecosystem of partner and native functionality, solving problems that legacy POS systems simply don’t have the open platforms, or the appropriate partner price points, to solve yet.

We saw the implementation of new technology like table-side ordering, pay at the table technology, order kiosks and guest-controlled platforms, however improvements in guest experience focused mainly on the search and discovery stages of the customer purchase cycle. Platforms for reservations and wait lists, as well as third-party delivery apps are a prime example.

These platforms have gained such popularity that virtually every venue uses a variation of this tech in order to ensure their guests are able to assess, book and purchase without the hassle of speaking to someone, lining up or missing out.

What’s to Come in 2020

As technology in 2019 focused on the initial stages of food consumption, tech in 2020 will shift dramatically to expand and further cater to the guest’s desire to have convenience, connection and control throughout the purchasing cycle, with a sophisticated tech-enabled experience from initial discovery to post and return purchase.

The “During”

Traditionally, a guest’s experience focused on, and was determined only by, ambiance, food and service in a traditional dining setting. While this still remains true, guests now also have the desire to have control and to feel connected to the venue in new and innovative ways.

This has led to an increase in demand for guest-controlled ordering, whether that be self-ordering on your smartphone, tabletop kiosks or table-side tablets. The growing demand for this connectivity will undoubtedly lead to an increase in implementation of this type of tech as more hospitality venues adopt it to remain relevant.

As far as backend capabilities are concerned, POS systems will increasingly need to be fully integrated into all of the various systems required to function. From reservation platforms to kitchen display systems and inventory trackers, all solutions will need to work cohesively to create an easily accessible and adaptable one-point system. POS providers that aren’t able to support a broad integration ecosystem will be increasingly less appealing to hospitality operators, who now more than ever are seeking consolidated platforms to help streamline and simplify their operations.

The “After”

As it stands, when a guest leaves a restaurant the relationship and the experience come to an end. Venues currently have a missed opportunity to provide their guests with the ability to give feedback about their experience in a simple and accessible way.

There are platforms such as Yelp and Google Reviews that allow guests to rate their experience, but these are third-party operated, typically not affiliated with the venue and require the guest to sign up independently of the dining experience. As a result, the opportunity for direct communication between the guest and the venue is lost.

In 2020, I believe hospitality venues will seek a more direct way of receiving valuable feedback that could help them improve their overall service or provide insight into the success of ongoing or new initiatives.

For example, using a pay-at-the-table platform like Ready within the venue itself gives restaurants the ability to automatically ask guests to rate their experience at the time of payment. This technology allows operators to request and receive feedback in real-time, mitigating risks and enhancing the end-of-meal experience.

With the explosion of third-party delivery services, restaurants will also be seeking ways to connect with and maintain direct relationships with their guests instead of risking this relationship being owned by third party aggregators. With the abundance of dining and hospitality options available to people, the need to increase loyalty to venues is higher than ever.

In its current state, full-service restaurants often turn to discounting in return for guest loyalty which can impact the perception of their brand and set a lower price expectation for guests. Existing loyalty programs for full-service restaurants are expensive, difficult to operationalize and are full of friction both for staff and guests. Even with the most robust and best implemented programs, this level of friction results in a low participation rate. In 2020, we’ll see venues implementing self-service, automatic and user-friendly loyalty programs at an increased rate.

Hospitality Tech is Here to Stay

The rate of new tech adoption will be a driving force behind why guests choose a venue, why they come back and it will absolutely be a determining factor of venue success as we enter a new decade.

A well-rounded guest experience will rely heavily on technology to ensure that guests enjoy the experience from beginning to end and everything in between. From the second customers search for a venue online, to their in-house experience and their final touchpoint as they leave. Consumers are in for a more streamlined, positive and fundamentally transformed dining experience in 2020.

Laurent May is the Head of Ready.

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