March has been a busy news month what with a flurry of announcements made at Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC) held in Las Vegas at the beginning of the month and the release of their Restaurant Technology Study: Charting a Course for Digital Dining.  Here’s a selection of some of the month’s top stories:

26% of restaurants plan to adopt digital ordering and 17% plan to install self-service kiosks.
The Restaurant Technology Study 2017: Charting a course for digital dining looks at how restaurants reset tech goals and budgets to put laser-focus on creating an omni-experience.  Some interesting information and statistics from the report include:

  • 17% growth in spend by operators in CRM, Loyalty, Digital and Mobile Software in 2016
  • 64% of operators plan to increase spend in CRM, Loyalty, Digital and Mobile Software in 2017
  • Creating memorable experiences will be what helps restaurants win stomach share and ultimately distinguish themselves from competition
  • 61%of operators state improving digital customer engagement/loyalty is the top strategic goal for tech investments in 2017
  • The top two challenges facing IT departments are measuring ROI (42%) and lack of IT budget (39%)
  • Tableside ordering devices, delivery services integration and interactive kiosks are 3 areas that are poised for growth in 2017
  • Digital ordering, analytics and CRM/Loyalty will be the top focus areas for systems migrating to the cloud in 2017
  • 26% of operators are planning to take up digital ordering for the 1st time and 34% are planning to upgrade their digital ordering solution
  • 24% plan to launch a consumer mobile app for the 1st time and 25% are to make improvements to their existing app
  • 17% plan to implement kiosks for the 1st time and 5% are planning to make upgrades. 5% are also planning to change supplier.


Digital ordering accounts for 1.9B food service transactions annually
A report by the NPD Group has found that digital food ordering is growing at a rapid rate with an 18% growth since last year.  They explain digital ordering is all about the mobile app and these findings represent a significant opportunity for restaurants to take advantage of apps that enable this. 50% of meals are being ordered at dinner time and 35% of digital order users were parents.  Aside from parents, the majority of users are higher income and under 35.  An NPD spokesperson continued, “Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using mobile apps, if restaurants or foodservice operators don’t have a mobile app, consumers may very well choose a restaurant that does.”

Automation is the answer for market demands, regulator concerns and even changing workforce
Automation doesn’t have to be a dirty word according to FastCasual and can help restaurants deal with a number of recent struggles including the fickle nature of foot traffic, the fluctuating supply and demand equation, labor-related grievances, minimum wage increases and the mega-moving millennial workforce.  Current consumer preferences show the market is leaning towards automation where savings can be made for time, money, productivity as well as visibility into areas of customers and the business that have previously inaccessible.

Half of all US quick-service food and coffee chains to be ‘order ahead within 5 years’
50% of all sales at US quick service chains will be placed digitally before the customers enter the store according to Crone Consulting.  Fewer than 10% mobile order ahead currently.  Texting customers when an order is ready and hiring more baristas to ease congestion are fixes some brands have used to deal with the increase in digital orders.  “Product process and people have to be re-engineered to pull this off.  Order-ahead features can boost a store’s capacity by 30% and if companies don’t get it right, we could see a bunch of stores going out of business,” explains Peter Crone, chief executive of Crone Consulting.

Create a seamless experience and reward loyalty to improve mobile ordering
Fast Casual gives 5 ways to improve your brand’s mobile ordering experience:

  1. Create a seamless experience by offering the best of in-store and online features such as mobile payment, full menu and customize items.
  2. Tell customer where to go and what to do when they get in store e.g. go to the host station or take out area and let them know you’re picking up an order. Use in-store signage.
  3. Reward loyalty to incent customer trial and habituation.
  4. Make your app a marketing channel by creating engaging content to drive sales conversion and reduce the risk of uninstallation.
  5. Keep it fresh by updating your app regularly and letting your customer know about promotions, events and more.

 

Going Mobile is one of 3 great ways to reach Millennials
Three great ways to encourage Millennials to return to your brand time and again include:

  1. Go Mobile. Millennials are on their mobile all the times so it makes sense your brand is too.  Put control of the customer journey in your guests’ hands with a mobile optimized website or a fully branded native app.
  2. Offer the personal touch. 51% of Millennials are willing to share personal information if it leads to more relevant offers and discounts.  With a mobile app, you can capture very detailed information about your guests and use this to drive smarter marketing campaigns.
  3. Deliver loyalty convenience. 42% of Millennials think brands should offer a mobile loyalty program.  By moving to mobile you give Millennials the control to manage their rewards and open a valuable communication channel to serve the highly tailored rewards your guests are looking for.  

 

Loyalty programs increase mobile visit frequency and spend
New research from Cardfree shows mobile customers tend to increase their frequency of visits to a retail page by 2 times making them more valuable thanks to the ease and convenience of mobile.  Not only are mobile users more likely to return but the time between their next visit is shorter too.  While most retailers understand that mobile is a requirement nowadays, this research shows it can have a big impact on sales and revenue to invest in mobile and get customers coming back more often.

Consumers are willing to embrace emerging technology
Oracle has announced findings that consumers are most willing to engage brands with new technology if they feel they are in control of their experience and that hospitality operators should be wary of implementing automation without personal service.

  • 33% of restaurant operators and 72% of hotel operators say guest facial recognition will be used within the next 5 years
  • 28% of restaurant guests would visit more often if service was faster because they were recognized.
  • 36% say ordering through a virtual assistant would improve the experience

50% say being served by a robot would not improve the guest experience