“Smart dining” has begun. What changed? The commercialization of the mobile phone and tablet made the use of rich software applications easy for consumers through simple touch gestures. Finally we could experience the magic of great software on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.
It was only a matter of time before this explosion of technology would find its way into the restaurant industry. The National Restaurant Association recently announced that as many as 63 percent of restaurant guests rely on tech to place orders, make reservations, look up restaurant locations, view menus and nutritional information. This number only seems likely to increase as millennials, enter the workplace and start to expand their purchasing power and market influence.
Guests do not simply interact through human engagement and physical interfaces like paper menus, but also through virtual interfaces like tablets and mobile phones. While some may lament a perceived decline in human interaction, smart-dining era waitstaff are unshackled from rote tasks (like remembering burger toppings) and able to focus on more personal interactions with guests. Restaurant operators can also make data-driven decisions that account for their back-of-house, employee performance and guest demands. Guests enjoy more control and convenience, with powerful tools like diet and nutrition information at their fingertips.
Restaurants need to wholeheartedly embrace smart dining or risk their brands becoming stale. Consumers today expect speed, convenience and modernity. While operators may switch out their POS systems once a decade, consumers are more accustomed to upgrading phone and tablets every year. How will they react when some restaurants offer experiences that are obsolete?
It’s an exciting time to be involved in food hospitality; future generations will look back and see the advent of this “smart dining” era as a pivotal turning point in the industry’s long and storied history.