- On June 23, 2022
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The last few years and the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced us to rethink how we interact, especially in consumer spaces. In 2020 businesses quickly had to figure out new ways of connecting with consumers, who in turn had to adapt to new digital habits. In addition, thanks to the crisis, digital and automation technology trends that were still slowly integrated into the industry had to be fast-tracked to accommodate the shift. However, it is clear that as time passes and the pandemic is over, some of the changes made so far will stick around. All of this is culminating in a true restaurant digital transformation across the industry.
At the peak of the crisis, every activity or function that could be performed remotely made the mass digital migration. Many people began to work from home, companies held virtual meetings, consumers shopped online, and classes were held virtually. Some restaurants even had to create ghost kitchens dedicated to online delivery orders and curbside pickup orders. The truth is that some of these changes provided great convenience, increased productivity and offered high efficiency. They also provided a better customer experience, and now consumers want to continue enjoying those conveniences for the foreseeable future.
Deloitte has observed these trends as they have emerged throughout the pandemic in an article titled, ”The restaurant of the future: A vision evolves”. As we go through Deloitte’s insights and analysis, we’re looking at the digital transformation of restaurants during and after the pandemic.
Restaurants and Technology
If restaurants have ever been slow in adopting innovative digital solutions and technology in the past, this changed in 2020 and 2021 after the pandemic forced many restaurants to close or limit operations. To save the food service industry, many establishments had to look beyond the traditional method of running a business. They had to adapt to the new reality of social distancing.
Today, in 2022, many restaurants are using technology in their operations not just to survive, but to thrive. Businesses had to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and ahead of the competition. It has become common for restaurants to offer services like online ordering, self-checkouts, contactless delivery, and pick-ups.
Asking the Big Questions: What Does a Modern Restaurant Look Like?
One of the first things Deloitte addresses in their article is this question of modern restaurants and what it means to operate a restaurant today. They pose questions like, “What does the modern ordering process look like?” and “What counts as a restaurant?”
While these questions and their answers may seem simple, it’s important to bring the focus back to what’s actually happening: a redefining of the restaurant industry and restaurant business models. Here are some answers to the questions Deloitte is asking:
In 2021, restaurants focused on adding multiple channels to reach the consumer. However, as tension over the COVID-19 virus eases and regulations are loosened, it is time for restaurants to figure out how the multiple channels created can work collectively. You need to know how to balance your operations to ensure customers in all channels are appropriately catered to. For example, if you allow online orders, drive-through and dine-in services, how is your business laid out to ensure absolute satisfaction? Many restaurants today have different stations to cater to customers from various channels. For example, there will be a dine-in area for walk-in customers, a pick-up point for online orders and delivery apps and another area for drive-through customers.
The industry could also use automation to fill in gaps when managing online orders, improve customer communication and perform back-house operations to save energy and time. This will allow restaurants to focus on other core businesses while reducing employee pressure and saving money.
3 Anticipated Restaurant Trends
Of all the insights in the Deloitte article, one of the most valuable is their research into the restaurant trends of the future. Deloitte is not just shooting in the dark with these trends; the results are based on consumer surveys conducted before and after the pandemic. In addition, they also interviewed brand executives for their insights on what trends are being adopted by restaurants today.
1. Ultimate Convenience
We are past the days when customers would wait in long lines to get their favorite meal or a spot in their favorite restaurant. If they are, it’s probably a special occasion, but day-to-day, most people are after convenience. If they can get their food within the shortest time and with minimal effort the modern customer will likely choose that. Research shows that up to 75% of customers are willing to switch to a competitor brand as long as they prove to be more convenient to do business with. Another study says customers do not mind paying more for a convenient experience. Therefore, customer convenience is among the factors that set your food business apart in today’s economy.
The pandemic has forced restaurant businesses to redefine what convenience means to customers. In a world where contact is restricted or minimized, services like a drive-through, online ordering system and contactless payment solutions offer convenience. However, the emphasis on convenience does not mean that restaurants should ignore providing good experiences. This applies to both the take-out and dine-in customers. There are a variety of digital solutions restaurants can use to improve customers’ experience. This could include digital displays showing waiting times, menu boards or sale offers. Also, having active and interactive social media pages, using artificial intelligence to improve customer satisfaction and automating some processes to increase customer efficiency.
2. Frictionless Digital Experience
Part of the transformation restaurants must go through is understanding their next generation of customers. Millennials and Generation Z are tech-savvy, connected, and opinionated individuals. To appeal to this group, restaurants must include innovative and seamless technology solutions.
Think of mobile apps for your business where customers can order and pay anytime without contacting you. Having an app alone is not enough. The app must be easy to navigate and load fast enough so customers do not get impatient and abandon the process. For example, if a customer orders once from your app, save their information such as address and billing details so they do not have to provide these details again the next time they order. In addition, you can create a history of the various payment methods or addresses a customer uses on their app.
Personalization makes customers feel valued, and the next generation is keen on their experience with your brand. Use technology to track and store customer data so you can improve their experience through personalized service. This could be sending a notification when favorite meals are on offer, giving discounts and coupons on special occasions or holidays or suggesting alternative products for them to try.
3. Heightened Safety
Most innovations in the restaurant industry tend to focus on the consumer aspect while the backend of it, where most of the work takes place, is not always the priority. However, incorporating modern technology into a restaurant’s daily operations can significantly enhance health and general safety. Of course, health safety is a big concern for many consumers, but did you know features like temperature logs, employee illness logs, and automation of some operation processes can help avert a crisis?
For instance, you can have a device to track the temperature in cold-holding units at all times. This minimizes waste and prevents foodborne illnesses by ensuring food is always stored at the right temperature. Another feature like illness logs can help you avoid a food contamination crisis by separating healthy employees from sickly ones. Digital tools also help you hold each employee accountable. They can help track what was supposed to be done when it was to be done, and who was to do it.
Beyond food safety, general safety is also essential. Restaurant owners should consider investing in tools and machines with AI that automate processes. This could include fire safety devices, gas leak alarms or intelligent equipment such as refrigerators and multi-cookers.
Consumer Trend Data
Deloitte also collected consumer data that provides a broader look at current trends, preferences, and behaviors. Here are some of the highlights:
- 57% of consumers prefer to use a digital app to order food for off-premises dining
- 64% prefer to order digitally on-premises at a QSR
- 37% of customer prefer drive throughs for restaurant ordering
- 3 out of 5 customers expect the same quality and freshness in delivery and takeout as they do in the dining room
- 40% of customers who order off premises prefer to use a restaurant’s own branded website or app
- The average customer participates in 2 loyalty programs
- 54% of customers are willing to order from a partially or fully automated kitchen
- 33% of customers said enhanced cleanliness and safety will make them more likely to return to on-premises dining sooner and to dine out more frequently
- 55% of customers would pay a higher check size—between 10% and 50% more—to know about the safety and cleanliness that surround food preparation and transport
- 50% would consider driverless or drone food delivery
- 81% of people who use drive throughs would opt for an automated voice system built into the drive-through
- 79% of consumers are likely to order from ghost kitchens (a 20% increase from last year)
How Should Restaurants Take Action?
After addressing all the rapidly developing trends in the quick service restaurant industry, it might be a challenge to identify what exactly this means for restaurants. We have all this new information, but what should we do with it? How can you, as a restaurant owner or executive, take action? Deloitte has a few recommendations. Here are the highlights of some of their recommendations regarding delivering on digital:
- Branded apps are digital table stakes: Develop a reliable app with an easy user experience to allow consumers to order and pay from anywhere.
- Personalization fosters customer loyalty: Make your brand’s digital experience personalized to guests’ trends and patterns. When they see that you understand their preferences and behaviors, they want to come back.
- Provide digital payment options: Offering fast digital payment methods is an important part of providing increasingly frictionless restaurant services.
- Keep up with emerging tech trends: Modern challenges call for modern solutions, so be ready to innovate and increase your standards when it comes to technology in the restaurant industry.
As a digital signage company with years of serving the restaurant industry, the need for increased digital services in restaurants doesn’t come as a surprise to us. The only thing we would add to Deloitte’s analysis is to not underestimate the value digital solutions in the actual restaurants. In addition to convenience, digital technology and safety, restaurants should consider investing in interactive digital kiosks. This is a self-service solution where you can share information about your brand through a customer friendly interface.
Keyser provides complete end-to-end signage solutions. If you are looking for digital display signs to bring attention to your business while communicating your brand message, contact Keyser today. We understand that the current technology trends are vital for your business’s success, and we tirelessly seek to develop solutions that will help you grow.