When diners order their burger and fries these days, it often comes with a hefty helping of digital on the side.
Digital transformation is truly gripping the UK restaurant industry now – and I’m sure it can provide answers to some of today’s key challenges.
We’ve seen huge changes in diner behaviour during the last few years. Restaurants have had to work hard to keep up with their changing preferences.
These trends affect both takeaway eating and in-restaurant dining, and are making differences in every area from casual and fast-casual dining right up to the fine-dining sector.
To-go customers once used to visit the outlet and wait while their order was prepared. Now, they order online, maybe through an app, and collection or delivery from the outlet or via a service like Deliveroo.
Eating in a restaurant also looks a lot different, with customers making a thorough investigation online before they make their reservation, looking for reviews.
Once they get to their chosen restaurant, they then experience a digitally-enhanced experience all the way from being seated to ordering and providing payment.
Even fast-food diners are finding their experience is getting faster, as they make their choices from self-service kiosks and boards that integrate seamlessly with kitchen automation for super-quick food delivery.
There’s a huge range of eye opening statistics that show just how much the industry has already changes.
One recent report, for instance, said that 75% of consumers go to Facebook when looking for a place to dine.
Leading restaurateur Adrian Valeriano has said that his data proves over 47% of reservations start out on mobile phones – he describes this as “massive”.
What’s more, 57% of customers are ordering their food online, via a website.
I could go on. Statistics show an enormous change in the way the UK public are using restaurants.
Much of this behaviour change is driven by the behaviour of millennial diners, but it’s not confined to young people. Across society, most people are now becoming accustomed to accessing all areas of their lives via a smartphone or tablet.
Even when people are actually dining, they are turning to a digital experience – around a quarter of people use their smartphone when they are eating, to take a look at information, watch entertainment or play games, or even interact with other people in the restaurant.
It’s more than likely that this trend will continue growing as ever younger generations join the dining world.
So it’s probable that keeping up with the digital transformation of restaurants is already more of a necessity than a luxury. I’d say restaurants of all types who ignore this brave new world do it at their peril.
This year has already been challenging for restaurants, and we’ve seen some high-profile restaurants and groups in difficulties.
I can’t imagine that the uncertainties of 2019, with Brexit looming over all of UK trade, will make things easier for the industry.
So restaurants need to take advantage of opportunities to gain an advantage – and I believe those who embrace digital transformation will be the ones to survive and grow.
We provide EPOS systems to restaurants, bars and hotels right across the UK, and they use them to streamline operations and build better relationships with their customers.
But this technology has gone far beyond EPOS. It now helps restaurants control and manage every part of their operations in a more efficient, guest-friendly way.
Restaurant management software helps customers find your place online and make their reservation, often using handy solutions such as OpenTable.
The restaurant technology then gives your staff real-time seating plans so guests are seated quickly or at least have a good idea of how long they might have to wait – this reduces walk-outs.
Diners find it acceptable to choose from menus on a tablet, and serving staff can take their orders on handheld devices at tableside, sending straight to the kitchen.
“This means dishes arrive quickly and accurately, and staff are able to take payment at tableside too, It means diners can eat and go swiftly – they like it, and it increases your table turn.
In the background, your EPOS system is providing useful business intelligence and reports, identifying trends, spotting best-sellers and helping you reduce waste and keep stock under control.
The technology also helps with labour control, helping you to roster effectively. Thanks to its detailed capturing of every keystroke, it also reduces the potential for staff fraud.
In my view, digital transformation will continue to present further innovations and benefits for the restaurant market.
The restaurant industry has been slow to adopt dynamic pricing, for instance. However, it’s now regarded as the norm in areas ranging from air travel to hotel booking.
The business intelligence capabilities of restaurant management systems will enable dynamic pricing to be introduced across many different restaurant environments.
This provides benefits for the restaurants, of course, but it also appeals to customers who enjoy a good deal.
I believe that digital transformation may well bring as many benefits to customers as it does to the industry.
Reliable data capture fuels the creation of the personalised experiences consumers enjoy these days – and restaurants who know the most about their guests’ preferences are able to target offers which will appeal to them.
Our NFS team will be at the Restaurant Show at Olympia from 1-3 October, and we’re expecting a keen interest in our restaurant management technology.
Hospitality technology is at an exciting stage, with its capabilities constantly evolving to meet the new requirements of both diners and restaurants.
We can’t make these difficult times any less challenging for restaurateurs, of course.
But by supporting the digital transformation of their restaurants, we can give them an end-to-end view of operations and excellent control at all times. That’s got to be a powerful weapon in any restaurant’s armoury of success.
* More information about restaurant management software is at www.nfs-hospitality.com. NFS will be at stand GM39 at the Restaurant Show.