While technology can never truly replace traditional human interaction with customers in restaurants, it is starting to become intrinsic to everyday life for most. With seven in ten UK adults turning to online reviews before buying an item, it is clear how often we turn to technology to help with basic decisions.
More people than ever before seek out positive online reviews before trying somewhere new and particularly in an age so rife with social media, it is a quick and easy way to filter the good from the bad. Customers no longer react to basic marketing campaigns and quick promotions and instead turn to their peers for trusted suggestions on where to eat.
Hospitality organisations have found themselves having to go above and beyond serving delicious food to get those precious positive reviews. And although good service, speedy food delivery times and value for money are all competitive advantages, creating customer loyalty is the key to ongoing success.
So how do restaurants engage with customers to create customer loyalty and how can technology help?
Start with the staff
Staff are the face of your restaurant so making sure that they know their goals and are briefed on their day ahead will mean their jobs become easier. Keeping staff happy in the workplace has been proven to increase productivity and decrease employee turnover. Fully communicating to your staff through an employee app or their EPOS system is likely to keep them engaged in the work they do. This will encourage positive working attitudes and positive experiences with customers. Good service is often reviewed and is high on customers’ lists when it comes to choosing an eatery. Ask yourself: would you dine somewhere that had good food but numerous negative reviews for service?
Putting control in the customers’ hands makes them feel as though they are controlling their own time. Mobile ordering programs can help boost ordering accuracy and with an emphasis on convenience becoming imperative in the modern day, the ability to order at the touch of a button is more sought after than ever. If customers receive the correct order within a reasonable time, they are more likely to return to your restaurant. Further engagement could come from allowing them to track where their order is, how long it will take to get to them and giving them the ability to easily customise their meals.
Apps can be developed to allow varying methods of interactivity for customers. Creating a ‘membership area’ within an app opens the door to several opportunities for engaging customers with your brand. Practical actions such as ordering, quick payment, loyalty rewards and a rating service would all be beneficial to you and the customer. There are further functionalities you can include also: gamification, getting to know your customer better by tracking their orders, tailored promotions and rewards and interactive menus will all work to engage the customer on another level. Putting your branding on a device that the average user reportedly spends five hours a day on will definitely keep you in the forefront of their mind.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
3D printing has taken the world by storm recently and there are already restaurants that are experimenting with this. This is not to say you should start printing your burgers but be prepared to embrace new technologies within this ever-changing digital world. People are always looking for the next best thing so taking that leap and staying a step ahead of your competition is a sure fire way to keep customers coming back.
No matter what technology you choose to engage customers, remember not to lose focus on what your business is really there to provide. While technology is more than useful with engaging customers and easing work life, it must work alongside human interaction rather than replace it. By enhancing customer experience, you are more likely to build customer engagement and create brand loyalty.