Working With What You Have
Using Your Existing Tech to Enhance Restaurant Revenues May Be Most Effective Strategy
The biggest challenges for hotels heading into 2023 are labor, labor and labor. While your first thought here may be of problems staffing associate and front-line positions, the industry’s labor issues also extend to managerial and IT positions. Critical for all tech-stack considerations is the ‘human stack,’ wherein the biggest obstacle to some new hardware or software deployment is the lack of IT resources necessary to get it through.
And so, we are often caught between a rock and a hard place. We want to innovate but we don’t have the teams to innovate as quickly as we want or need. This means a good near-term approach is to deepen your utilization of your existing systems. And a good place to start is your restaurant.
Thus, even with autumn upon us and peak summer demand fading, it’s still probably better to go after the ‘low hanging fruit’ than to reinvent the wheel. For the intersection of F&B and technology, this means augmenting your usage of your existing systems and platforms, optimizing wherever you can before deploying something completely foreign or requiring lots of IT prowess to get up and running.
With that in mind, many of these suggestions may appear as ‘soft tech’ because they are less so pertaining to APIs or SDKs and more so about those tweaks you can execute today in order to drive more table reservations and better average covers. Now alas, the list:
- Total visibility of hours of operation. One big trend that the pandemic accelerated is the shift away from three square meals per day at fixed times. People are dining whenever and often working from restaurants over brunch, slunch or happy hour. But given all the labor disruptions, people will only go to a place if they know it’s open, so be sure to post your hours on all digital channels and keep them all fully up to date.
- Advertising your WiFi access. Speaking of working from a restaurant and all other forms of digital nomadism or remote work, this bleisure psychographic wants to know in advance if WiFi is available. Then once on premises, they want the password immediately and without needing to prompt a server (and wasting the server’s time).
- Pets and patios. People want to dine out with their pets, but again they will only go where they know their furry friends are accepted. Next, even though summer is done, it’s already time to start thinking about your strategy for enhancing revenues from outdoor dining next season. This all starts with clear messaging on your digital channels.
- Still about search. Your SEO improvements will be a perennial task and from the above three it should be clear that much of your work this fall pertains to be more descriptive and gradually building ‘rich content’ for Google’s bots to crawl through.
- Platform analytics. Beyond Google Analytics for the front-end website or whatever metrics your parent brand can supply from your vanity site, the platforms you use for your restaurant—POS, online booking, third-party reviews and so on—also provide some worthwhile stats that you peruse for more insights.
- Platform promotions. Marketing budgets may be in their nadirs, so look to see what activities you can partake in through your partnered vendors. Despite any monetary costs, these will likely be easier on your time (the most limiting factor) and help to breach new social circles that will also help to drive more longer-lead-time reservations to prevent last-minute labor crunches.
- Chatbots and conversational AI. This one requires a bit more work, but still fun as a closer. We’ve come a long way since IVR and voicemail. Given how busy your servers are, they can’t answer the phone. Concurrently, customers don’t want to hit VM; if no one answers, they are on to the next restaurant. Chatbot enhancements to your website live chat can help address repetitive questions to prevent inquiry abandonment, while the near-future sees a few intrepid conversation AI vendors entering the scene that can provide machine learning tools to your voice channel in a manner that’s far more frictionless than IVR.