5 Ways to Push Your Restaurant Into the Digital Era

A modern restaurant operating in the digital era, serving the breadth of tech-savvy customers sitting at their tables, simply cannot thrive without going digital. That is, unless you’re running a restaurant in a yet undeveloped nation where livestock is still allowed to run rampant in the streets!

Digital solutions make everything run more smoothly. Customer service levels increase exponentially, sales go up considerably, and stress on your staff goes down massively.

Digital cafe

Going digital might seem expensive at first, but you have to look at it as an investment. The following digital add-ons will pay for themselves VERY quickly and will in fact start to save you money soon after you’ve recovered your initial payout:

1. Offer a customer app for your restaurant

Create an app that allows customers to do anything and everything with their phone that your employees can do for them in store. Allow them to view menus, customize their orders, see upcoming events and promotions, and even pay their bill right from their smartphone.

This is a great solution for easing the burden on the phone staff for takeout orders, but can also make the dining experience more seamless for your sit-in clients too. Many of you might wonder if you’ll still be getting your money’s worth from your wait staff. Fear not – their job’s already hard enough as it is! They’ll still have to work, they’ll just have more time for all the important stuff they’ve been neglecting.

2. Use digital menu boards and/or tablet menus

This should be a no-brainer, but walk into 10 restaurants and at least 3 them will still be using antiquated non-digital menu signage. Perception is everything to customers and digital customers want to see digital displays. You can keep your menus more up-to-date, and change them on-the-fly to include spur of the moment deals to increase cross-sales and up-sells.

Same goes for at the table. You’ll already see mobile tablets at the tables of popular restaurants like Applebees and many others. Customers can view their menu, place orders, ask for extras and drink refills, engage on social media, and also play games while they wait on their meal (it should be pretty obvious how this can ease the burden on kitchen and wait staff). Worried your wait staff will lose tips? No way! Doing this increases tips, revenue and overall customer satisfaction, among other things.

3. Monitor customer activity on social media

In fact, stalk all customer activity religiously on social. Some owners, who haven’t fully adopted their business to the digital era, may tell you this to be obsessive behavior. However, if you don’t monitor and engage with customers as quickly as possible, it will literally make you a social pariah. Not good!

Whether comments be positive or negative, you can prove that you’re a business that cares by responding in kind immediately. Invite complainers to contact you by phone or by stopping into the restaurant to work on a solution to their dilemma. Respond to positive comments with a simple “Thanks for stopping by our restaurant. We hope to see you again really soon.”

4. Include digital signage throughout the restaurant to maximize current and future sales

Place digital signage displays with slideshow-type rolling ads about the restaurant and its products strategically throughout the restaurant. Too much can definitely be distracting. However, placing rotating ad boards above eye level (ie., the seated customer’s view), in areas where multiple eyes can view them, will increase sales significantly – generating much more revenue than static poster ads which also increase your marketing costs due to the high costs of designer and printing expenses.

Experiment with the ads you choose. Rotate them for specialty menu items, upcoming menu items, desserts, expected wait times, social media comments, drinks, upcoming events (ie., 2 can dine for the price of one, kids eat free days, upcoming entertainment events, etc.) Busy restaurants can even work out deals with other local businesses to place paid advertisements on your boards, or referrals deals where customers can get a deal at another place if they mention your restaurant’s name.

Paying with smartphone at coffee shop

5. Reduce headaches with a fully customizable POS

There are a number of POS software for restaurants out there to choose from. Some are decent, some great, and some downright spectacular. You can take your business to a whole other level by integrating all your restaurant’s operations, including inventory, into one solution. Forget about the days of messed up orders due to poor handwriting and sauce-stained tickets.

Servers can input orders easily and include special instructions from customers, orders are then sent back to the kitchen staff and can be printed or displayed on a digital order board (ie., no tickets getting obscured by food or drink!) Orders are totaled and sent to the ticket/billing system to be printed when the customer’s ready to pay. Inventory is automatically updated to reflect changes.

Wait staff won’t take orders for sold out ticket items because the POS will alert them as soon as a shortage occurs. There are numerous benefits that will benefit your bottom line and customer service practices considerably. No restaurant can really survive and thrive without a full-solution POS!

Closing Thoughts…

As you’ve learned, pushing your restaurant into the digital era isn’t just something “you should do” when you get around to it, or feel like spending the money. It’s something you have to do right now to enjoy the cost-saving, revenue-generating, stress-reducing benefits technology can offer your business.

Chance are, your competition has already made the shift. What are you waiting for?