As a market research consultant in the food service Industry for the past 11 years, I’m blown away by how the industry has evolved, especially in these past couple of years.
Restaurant customers are asking for technology to enhance their experience and they are receiving it. Over the past few years, restaurants have started to offer customers Wi-Fi enabled tablets at their tables. These tablets allow guests the opportunity to:
- Order food and drinks right from their tables
- Play games while they wait
- Pay for their meal
Some companies have opted to provide their servers with mobile devices to help increase productivity. TGI Fridays’ vice president and CIO, Tripp Sessions says “the technology allows servers to double the number of tables they’re able to handle.”
The development of mobile apps throughout the restaurant industry is also steadily increasing. Mobile apps provide guests with special offers, incentives and features. The goal of these apps are to enhance the overall guest experience while they interact with the brand.
However, mobile app adoption has not seen the same steady increase. A recent study found that 56 percent of consumers said they were “very unlikely” or “unlikely” to download an app for an individual restaurant following a meal. But some consumer apps like Starbucks and Panera Bread have seen an increase in mobile app usage, accounting for 20-30% of retail sales.
Every day it seems as if there is some cool new trend getting everyone’s attention.
- Secret Menus are becoming a hot topic in the restaurant industry and now you can find a majority of them posted online. McDonald’s boasts a special burger on their secret menu that rolls a Big Mac, Filet of Fish and McChicken all in one, Red Robin released their secret hangover cure in January and Jamba Juice has an array of secret menu items and secret hidden flavors.
- It’s all about the food trucks. Grabbing food on the go has become the latest craze in the restaurant industry, offering customers customizable options quick and in virtually any location.
- Yelp, AllMenus and other social media platforms are driving traffic to restaurants based on online reviews and recommendations.
A Local Touch
In addition, community involvement is also a consideration for consumers. Restaurants that encourage community involvement distinguish themselves from their competitors and foster personal relationships with their customers.
So What’s Next?
Good question. With enhancements in technology occurring everyday, the next big thing is likely right around the corner. What do you think it’s going to be?