Winner, winner, chicken dinner – 6 ways to capture casual diners this year

What makes us feel good about eating out these days?  Food, sure – service, yes, of course.

But it might surprise you to know that almost 80% of people today feel technology is the thing that improves their guest experience.

That was one result in a recent survey that found it was particularly true when the technology delivers a speedy, personalised service.

If you run a casual dining outlet, you already know about the need for speed.

The rise in popularity of casual dining has already been well-documented, and is partly driven by today’s busy lives, and partly by the arrival of hungry young people in the eating-out market who are used to getting what they want, right now.

And hotels around the world have also been reaping the benefits of personalisation for some time – for instance, Best Western’s new boutique brand Vib is catering for an ever-demanding clientele with customised service including personalised food and beverage.

On the other hand, on what you could call Uber-isation, the ‘sharing economy’  is seeing competition ranging from home cooks to some chains developing hubs where meals are prepared for delivery to people’s homes.

OK, it’s essentially a takeaway, but it’s a new way of looking at it and a definite threat to traditional restaurants, even the casual ones.

And add to that the imminent threat of potentially higher wage, property and supply costs, and a scarcity of staff – and the dining industry has a lot on its plate.

It may be a pun, but it’s no joke…

But before we decide it’s curtains for the casual dining industry, let’s remember one thing:

“Casual dining will outgrow all other channels and achieve spend of well over £5 billion by end 2016, finishing at 13.7% ahead of the casual dining spend recorded end of 2014.” That was the result of a survey by NPD Group.

So casual dining is on a roll, with guests typically spending between £10 and £20 and lingering in the restaurant for up to 45 minutes, according to data from Casual Dining Conference.

But these are people on a roll too. They’re in a hurry, they want it now, and they want it to be just right for them.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner, as they say – but if you want to be the one providing the dinner, you’d better get a move on.

So, inspired by that amazing statistic on restaurant technology, we’ve identified 6 great ways to capture casual diners in 2017:

  1. Come on in – it’s sooo easy…

They’re out there and they’re HUNGRY. So what do they do? Look at their mobile phone, of course.

More people in the world now own a mobile phone than own a toothbrush – and check their phone more than 150 times a day. (ABC News).

Will they find your restaurant there? Yes, if you use clever apps such as Zapper that not only give them reviews and menus but also let them book right away, in a click.

On the other end of the line, your restaurant EPoS (electronic point of sale) technology – such as Aloha by NFS Technology – is working 24/7 taking their booking – and storing all their details.

  1. Quick, grab a seat

Your party arrives. Thanks to your EPoS, you know who they are, and you can greet them personally. Big tick.

Table technology can help you get them seated quicker, because you can see your floorplan on an iPad in real-time. And if there is going to be a wait, you can manage their expectations by telling them exactly how long it’s going to be, and offering them a drink while waiting.

This reduces the incidence of walk-outs substantially.

  1. Faster food

Remember, they’re HUNGRY. EPoS systems like Aloha mean your staff can take the order at tableside and send it immediately to the kitchen.

The order is always accurate, no matter how many customers are dining, and the old pad and pen is replaced either by bespoke EPoS handsets or mobile devices such as iPads.

Even more importantly, there’s no trekking back and forth to the kitchen with orders, so your delivery staff can spend their valuable time interacting with the diners.

Friendly and quick – tick, tick…

  1. Yum, yum, yum. Yum.

The food is delivered quickly, and it’s delicious. That’s because restaurant technology provides reports that capture menu trends and sort out what’s selling and what’s not, so your offering is always desirable.

It’s good news for the customer, and it’s great news for you, because you reduce kitchen waste and benefit from accurate forecasts that can inform your procurement decisions.

That’s a huge tick, for everyone.

  1. Tap – paid

So OK, those plates are clean, and your guests now want to be out of the door and on with the rest of their night or day.

EPoS technology not only means your staff can prepare the bill accurately at tableside – even dividing it up easily.

Customer convenience receives a huge boost because they can pay by debit or credit card, or even apps such as Zapper. Your staff can print out the receipt at a remote printer.

So the party is gone in a jiffy, and your tables are once again free for use. It’s estimated that tableturn can be increased substantially – and it’s more big ticks all round.

  1. Catch ya later…

Your diners are gone, but not forgotten. Thanks to the data capture power of your restaurant technology, their contact details and preferences – vegetarian? Gluten-free? – are safely stored.

It means you can create customer loyalty and reward programmes to bring them back again and again with the help of targeted marketing that gives them personalised offers that you know will be attractive.

It can be the start of a beautiful relationship.

And that’s what it’s really all about in 2017, isn’t it?

Today’s casual diners – the Millennial youngsters, the families, the busy businesspeople – actually WANT you to know them, because it works for them.

It means you know exactly what they want and give them it, and you deliver it to them quickly, fulfilling every demand they can make from a casual dining outlet.

And whether you’re in the chicken dinner business, or whether you’re terrific at Tex-Mex or bang-on with a burger, that’s a winning recipe even in tough old 2017.

* To find out more about Aloha EPoS from NFS Technology, visit