79% of customers think that restaurant technology improves their dining experience. 36% of customers feel that online reservations are one of the most important tech features, and 42% of customers prefer email receipts. In the UK, fast food quick-service restaurants like McDonald's have installed high-tech ordering screens, but have fast-casual dining (i.e. Chipotle, Five Guys), casual dining (i.e. TGI Fridays, Nandos, Wetherspoons), and fine dining (i.e. full service restaurants that aren’t chains - local Indian or Italian) restaurants added any new innovations to improve diner experience? Find out the restaurant technology trends in 2017: everything you need to know.
1) Server Call Button
On an airplane, you can call the flight attendant if you need a drink, but in a restaurant you have to flag down a busy member of waitstaff and if you don’t see your server, you may have to call out to someone who is just passing by. No one wants to be that guy who’s frantically waving to get the attention of your server. To eliminate this problem, a new tech trend is installing server call buttons on tables. That way if you need that bottle of ketchup, that forgotten jug of water, or that drink refill, your server is at your fingertips. Plus, it’s less invasive to other diners. Call buttons are cost effective as they can be simple lights, a call button, or signal.
2) Tablets for Ordering
Tablets are popular already in the US - either server handheld tablets that allow servers to take their guests’ orders and send the order directly to the kitchen or tabletop tablets where guests can order and pay themselves.
3) Free Wifi
Customers are often, unfortunately, glued to their phones! But even if they are making the effort to be social, then customers often appreciate free wifi to check that business email at lunch, send that text iPhone to iPhone when meeting a friend for dinner, checking Google maps, or looking up the menu online. Whatever the purpose, customers rate free wifi as an important restaurant trend, that statistically makes customers come back. Make the password easily found and accessible for customers.
4) Online/Mobile Ordering and Payments
With our high-tech age, customers like to be able to order online or on mobile before they arrive. Pick ups are convenient for on-the-go customers who can order and pay online and all they have to do is swing by in 15 minutes (or whenever the app or website says the order will be ready). Some customers also like to be able to pay using mobile apps or online sites as well - although this feature is more popular with younger generations.
5) Loyalty and Reward Programmes
Customers love to be enrolled in loyalty and reward programs, and be recognised with the likes of priority seating or a free starter. Reward programs are popular at coffee shops such as getting a free coffee after ten purchases, and the same can be applied to any restaurants from casual to fine dining.
6) Touchscreen Ordering
As said previously, McDonald’s now has touch screen ordering, but in many restaurants in the US and in Europe there are tablet ordering systems in place. This convenient ordering system will continue with ways of allowing customers to browse a menu on screen, order what they like, get the bill, and add items as they need.
7) Better Ways to Split the Bill
In the UK, splitting the bill requires everyone using their phone calculators, and hoping the restaurant will allow one person to pay £26.50 and the other person to pay the remaining balance, but in the US, restaurants have long had bill splitting technology where the receipt comes divided by what each guest ordered with subtotals and then the main total. If restaurants won’t come up with better tech, then app developers will! There are now bill splitting apps where one party can pay the bill, and you can pay your friend back via the app.
8) Online Reservations
Many customers love the ability to reserve restaurant space online. Restaurants like the Toby Carvery have online reservations, but the tech trend of 2017 is to include more online booking for other restaurants.
9) Email Receipts
Many customers are forgoing paper receipt options and prefer instead to have their receipts sent to their inbox. That way, they can still keep track of what they’re spending in their budgeting spreadsheets without the pile of receipts on the desk.
10) Meal Progress Bars
Another tech trend for 2017 is the meal progress bar, which shows an estimated time for meals to be fully cooked whilst guest wait for their food - especially on busy nights. With online ordering, the progress bar lets customers see when food has been cooked, is out for delivery, or when the food has been delivered. For a more low-tech version of this trend, menus could give an approximate wait time on dishes (i.e. Caesar salad -10 minutes - versus the lamb shank - 25 minutes) so guests can understand relative wait times.
11) Feedback Technology
Many restaurants are now placing tablets on their tables with games, menus, the updated bill, and so forth, but you can easily have some feedback technology on the tables even if it’s just a simple happy or sad face button options. Getting feedback is vital for restaurant success, so you want to have ways that customers will provide feedback because once they get home it’s easy for them to forget and get distracted.
12) Interactive Tables
High tech restaurants are including fun, interactive tables in which images are projected on the table for an interactive dining experience. Gone are the hibachi grill setups! Restaurants have gone really high tech. Entertainment, video, and beauty all at your table whilst you enjoy a delicious meal. Very soon this little petit chef, grilling a steak in front of your eyes can be a reality (or at least provide entertainment until your food arrives).
13) ...Delicious Food!
None of these trends will matter if the restaurant food isn’t delicious! Perhaps one of the most important factors in restaurant trends is that customers enjoy their food. If they cannot stop thinking about your signature dish or cocktail, they’re more likely to come back.
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