Technology is transforming the dining experience, from the kitchen to customer service. By using available technologies, restaurants can increase efficiency and personalize the customer experience, meeting guest needs before they even realize they have them.
Chef Robert Irvine, who hosts Food Network’s “Restaurant: Impossible,” thinks tech-savvy restaurants are the most likely to succeed in the changing landscape.
“Being technologically proficient will keep you in touch with your customers and suppliers, help you better manage your inventory and how many tables you can turn in an evening, and even help manage power and water usage, appliance efficiency, and security management,” Irvine said.
The key to tech
The best technological foundation, Irvine said, is “a fast, reliable secure network with great connectivity and support. It might not be sexy but without it, nothing — and I mean nothing — works as well as it could.”
Along with robust Wi-Fi, Irvine recommended two other essential technologies.
“A system to manage employees and inventory — everything the customer doesn’t see — and something to interface with your customers to make sure they’re satisfied,” he said.
The internet has changed the way people evaluate where they’re going to eat, with aggregated customer reviews playing a major role in informing new customers.
“The minute anyone writes something online,” Irvine said, “they potentially have a global audience, so it’s incumbent on hospitality businesses to try to get a handle on that feedback.”
Hospitality technology will continue to improve, so getting ahead of the curve is vital. However, you shouldn’t rush upgrading your restaurant’s software.
“I see a lot of business leaders try to crash-course their whole company in a few days or a week, but sometimes a month is needed,” Irvine said. “You have to understand that, with some tech, learning how to use it can be like learning a new language.”
The key to great hospitality is a seamless experience, Irvine says, which is something technology is poised to facilitate.
“The product isn’t a meal, it’s the entire experience,” he said. “The ambiance, the service, the food, the entire package.”
As such, technology is essential for competitive service.
“Technology isn’t really a choice anymore,” Irvine said. “It’s a central piece to the evolution of the hospitality industry. When you think of it that way, how can anyone afford not to focus on it?”