There are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of online articles predicting the biggest restaurant trends of the New Year. By now, every restaurant owner should know what to expect from the industry in 2014. But what about by 2020?
It might seem like the distant future, but major players in the restaurant industry are already making plans for six years down the road, especially when it comes to technology. Understanding the newest trends in the rapidly-changing tech world and, more importantly, how to integrate them into your restaurant is crucial for every business owner.
The bottom line seems to be that if you want to envision restaurants in 2020, just extrapolate from technology available today in many fast-casual restaurants. More than anything, today’s restaurant technology will simply evolve to further improve the customer experience.
Industry Experts Predict Trends of 2020
Nation’s Restaurant News interviewed executives at restaurants and research groups across the country for their 2020 predictions. Here are just a few trends mentioned in the report:
- Mobile apps that enrich the guest experience, whether they’re in the restaurant or at home. That means offering recipes, wine pairings, nutritional information and so on.
- Facial recognition scanners to help restaurants recognize repeat customers and personalize their marketing efforts to those individuals
- Self-ordering via mobile devices or kiosks
While these offerings might not yet be mainstream, there were a couple other technology predictions included on the list that are already used in fast-casual restaurants around the country.
Survey Tools Provide Interactive Feedback
Digital survey tools have quickly become the instrument of choice for restaurant owners who want to avoid negative online reviews, be more in tune with customer opinions and get smarter about their establishments’ strengths and weaknesses. Unlike mail-in comment cards or online surveys, digital tablets give customers a chance to review their experience while they’re still at the restaurant.
Perhaps the best feature, however, is the unique ability of these tablets to record responses in real-time and instantly alert a manager if a customer records a negative experience, allowing him to address the problem immediately.
This style of interaction between customer and management is what Phil Crawford, chief information officer for My Fit Foods, Inc., calls “table-touching” of the future. Crawford, however, predicts this type of restaurant review will be available on smartphones in 2020. Until then, restaurant managers can depend on digital survey tablets to get real-time reviews from their guests.
Table Tracking Technology Provides Order Preparation Management
Another major feature expected to become mainstream in 2020 is an order preparation management system. Creating a quality control system centered “at the point where the whole of everyone’s efforts is most vulnerable and can make or break the business” will be crucial, according to Brian Still, president of Derministics Inc.
Many fast-casual restaurants use this type of technology already in the form of a Table Tracker system. This system streamlines the entire process in a restaurant, from the time the customer places an order to the time staffers clear the table. Each stage is timed, and a color-coded display shows employees exactly how long each order has been out. This allows the restaurant staff to prioritize their tasks to get each plate out as efficiently as possible.
As with the digital survey tablets, the Table Tracker system will analyze performance data providing management insights into its operation to address efficiency issues.
Rather than waiting until 2020 to implement these customer-oriented tech features, fast-casual restaurant owners can use such technology today to give diners a better experience and keep them coming back for more.
Find Out More About the Future of the Restaurant Industry
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Jason Barge is a marketing manager at LRS and an expert in communications for the hospitality industry.