By Joseph Brady, senior director of Digital Marketing, Reliant Funding
Welcome to the Experience Age. An average of three startups are launched per second, and each one is determined to become a nationwide success. Among businesses, the restaurant industry is one of the top boomers. It’s predictedthat by 2029, there will be 1.6 million jobs created by restaurants alone. The focus of every business is simple, to create the best experience for customers.
Restaurants aren’t new to nurturing customer experiences. So much thought is put into creating a palpable environment that will linger with the customer even after they leave, and that will entice them to return. Then technology disruption hit. The onset of the digitalization created an impact. The gap between businesses and customers has minimized. Transparency has increased with review sites like “Yelp!” and opportunities have risen to create larger and better experiences. Businesses had to be quick to adapt or they suffered. Here’s how your business needs to address this shift:
1. Understand customer expectations. Getting to know your customer, goes beyond just their demographic. What kind of apps and tools do they use? Are they ordering in or do they prefer to drive-thru? How do they prefer to pay? Understanding what your customer expects from your business can help you go the one extra step to provide for them. Smartphones rule this era, and right from viewing your menu online, to paying for it can all be done with the swipe of a finger. The digital channels your customers use can create a direct link with you, and if they’re satisfied with your food and service, you’ll have gained their loyalty to your brand. Customer expectations are continuously evolving and the importance you give to this can reshape your entire business.
2. Grab attention. The positioning of your digital presence really matters. Build marketing and engagement strategies to attract your customers 24/7. Maximize on technology your business can use to grab attention. Partner with other businesses to build something phenomenal. Pizza Hut’s partnership with Toyota to use automated technology that will cook pizza on the go may seem a little over-the-top for small businesses but it was effective in grabbing headlines for their brand. Another way is to put out great content from your business site, such as blogs, customer testimonials, how-to videos and much more. Strategize this according to your brand image and avoid repetitive content.
Social media is huge right now and has become a leading way for brands to connect to their customers outside of the restaurant. Several leading food chains use social media and apps as a direct way to tap into their customers’ lifestyle and stay at the top of their minds. Starbucks has mastered engagement through social media, as well as through an app that pays for coffee and food at their restaurant. They also boosted their loyalty program through hyper-personalized experiences and discounts for customers who are connected 24/7. Most businesses struggle to hold attention because the means to do so can prove quite expensive. Luckily, there are options to seek loans for restaurants and bars to give their business this boost.
3. Buildefficiency. While shifting the focus to customer experience and customer satisfaction can seem exhaustive, it shouldn’t come in the way of other critical back-end aspects of your business. Technology helps automate several processes that could otherwise prove time-consuming. Shorten the wait-times for customers by telling them how many tables are free or how quickly they can be seated through an app. This means you won’t have to face customers waiting in-house. You can also take orders in advance and automate the communication between the customer and the dining room. This lets staff spend time helping more on the back-end like accounting and inventory stocking. Using a restaurant management software can do all of this, as well as manage customer preferences, and their key information. Some software can even display table turnover in real time so your revenue is always in check.
4. Prioritize Delivery Service. Delivery service in restaurants is a business model that’s been catching fire. Despite the popularity of third-party apps and food delivery sites, it’s been proved that 81% of restaurant patrons prefer ordering from the restaurant’s website. This indicates a huge percent of people would visit your site to order food, and it’s critical your site is delivery-friendly. Several restaurants also choose to set aside a part of their kitchen and staff for delivery service alone. Delivery isn’t just beneficial to the customers; concepts such as dark kitchens have risen to save costs on running a whole restaurant. These kitchens exist only to make food and send them out and are generally off-limits to the public. Although it isn’t true that all restaurants will become a dark kitchen over time, it is a popular business model on the rise.
5. Train staff. With the digital transformation of restaurants, the staff needs to be appropriately trained as well. Luckily, several culinary and hospitality schools across the country are teaching students the various tools and software that are used in the industry. In fact, most software and tools themselves hold training for restaurant staff to sharpen their skills in digitization and automation processes. Hold periodic training for your staff and expose them to the various digital platforms your restaurant uses and cross-train within your business.
6. Manage finances in real time. Along with every other aspect of your business, the finances of it have been made much simpler with technology. Accounting and inventory management apps and software can help keep a steady hand on your business revenue, receivables and when to reorder stock. Monitoring and tracking your business real-time on a device can help you constantly make changes to your business as you stay fit. Allocate your budget accordingly, and work to expand your restaurant reach.
Several business owners believe that digitization has ruined business when in fact, it’s proving to do the opposite. The more quickly your business transitions, the more efficiently your business can be run, saving you time for other tasks and responsibilities. Consider this a fresh start; it’s time to scrap everything to start over and transform your business.
Source: Fast Casual