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What’s Next in Restaurant Tech

· restaurant,Tech Trends,Guest Experience

Historically, the proliferation of tech in the restaurant space has been one of cautious advancement. Today, technology goes beyond simply improving transaction speed and ordering efficiency. Operators no longer have to worry that tech will stand in the face of hospitality cornerstones.

When thinking about technology adoption, restaurant segment and concept often drives the conversation. Fine dining establishments can help enhance the guest experience by tracking preferences and habits. Quick service and fast casual businesses keep pace by increasing transaction speed, managing front and back of house efficiency and connecting with consumers in an increasingly digital world.

What direction will restaurant tech take going forward? We look back at 2016 for some insights.

Wearable Technology

Adoption of wearable technology in the restaurant space was announced in late 2016 by Union Square Hospitality Group in collaboration with Resy. While tablets and smartphones might be seen as intrusive to a fine dining experience, smart watches worn by front of house management allow for a more subtle integration of technology. The relocated Union Square Café is the first USHG property to adopt the practice. The restaurant will equip all floor managers and sommeliers with an Apple Watch, relaying valuable guest information including wait time stats, VIP arrival, and instant sommelier notification when a table orders a bottle of wine.

The watch’s technology will be anchored in a new operating system known as ResyOS. The app incorporates POS, mobile payment, reservation, and service communication all within one environment. One of the biggest upsides of this technology is its ability to manage mobile payments. According to Statista, 2017 will see over 50 million unique users making a proximity mobile payment. As guests increasingly choose to make payment via their mobile device, servers will need real-time access to transaction results. In the future, wearable tech will allow for these payment updates to keep pace with guest usage.

Mobile Payments

While wearable tech provides a great example of how mobile payment may be streamlined in the coming years, the majority of restaurants are not yet ready for this new wave of transacting. In some ways, restaurants have been slow to onboard mobile payment technology because consumer adoption has not yet reached a tipping point. In Toast’s annual survey of diners across the US, 58% of guests never pay with their mobile device. In fact, 44% rated the ability to pay with a mobile device as “not at all important.” However, data from Servy’s mystery shops and guest feedback demonstrates that customers that do embrace mobile payments appreciate the convenience and continue to utilize the technology.

Despite hesitation in the marketplace, the growth of mobile payment will be led by the younger generations whose lives are already dictated by the mobile world. 2016 closed with a reported $75 billion in in-store mobile payment (across all sectors). This number is forecasted to reach over $500 billion annually by 2020. For restaurant owners, integrated payment-loyalty programs are one good reason to adopt the growing trend.

Digital Ordering

Digital ordering has grown considerably over the last few years, with Domino’s in particular standing out as a pioneer. Domino’s has advanced its order “AnyWhere” agenda across so many platforms, there may be too many to name. Orders can be made via multiple brands of smart watch, by tweeting or texting a pizza emoji, asking Alexa, talking to a Google home, chatting with a Facebook messenger bot, using Samsung’s Smart TV app, speaking aloud in a Ford with SYNC AppLink, and even with just one click (or in this case- “zero clicks”). Whether Domino’s AnyWhere is just a great marketing campaign, or if it really does drive business, one thing is certain: digital ordering has become increasingly important for the restaurant industry.

Orders made ahead of time can drive higher check averages. In 2015 when Taco Bell first launched their order-ahead product, app orders were 20% higher on average than in-store purchases. Single entity businesses often rely on ordering systems like GrubHub and Eat24 that place their offerings in direct competition with other businesses. While it is important to have an online ordering presence on these dominant platforms, there are definite drawbacks to this model; namely the 10-30% surcharge on every order. For restaurants with multiple locations, there are several companies that offer custom solutions for online ordering needs. Olo and ChowNow are two companies offering digital ordering engines for both mobile and web experiences. These companies allow for customized branded environments that are in stark contrast to the marketplace experiences that are found in GrubHub’s and Eat24’s platforms. Shake Shack recently launched their own mobile app with order ahead capabilities.


Consumers normally associate taste with food, but a a restaurant experience actually encompasses all five senses.  Data from Servy reveals that music selection and music volume are positively correlated with overall guest satisfaction. In thinking about ways to differentiate your business from the competition, vibe and atmosphere can become an important extension of your unique brand.

The music in your restaurant may not jump out to you as a new tech opportunity, but some of the old ways of securing music rights were confusing and frustrating for business owners. Paying licensing fees to multiple performing rights organizations such as BMI, ASCAP and SESAC was necessary because it was time consuming to check which artist belonged to each organization.

Several music streaming services have simplified the process by offering business accounts that offer a large selection of licensed, commercial-free music. Rockbot and MOOD are two examples of simplified music solutions for business. In the age of hyper-personalization, Rockbot offers a customer engagement product called Engage. Guests can download a jukebox app that allows them to make music selections for the entire restaurant. Operators are able to pre-set parameters so that all guest selections are made within an approved library of content. Getting guests to download the app may take some convincing, but it does come with some cool perks. Return customers can be greeted with their favorite song upon entering the restaurant. Baseball fans would liken it to having their own walk-up song as they head to the plate.

About the Author: Lauren Keiling

Lauren is a graduate of the Restaurant and Culinary Management Program at the Institute of Culinary Education. Her culinary experience ranges from prep cook and front of house, to catering and food delivery. Lauren has lived, worked, and dined in NYC for the past 8 years.

About Servy

Headquartered in New York, NY, Servy is a next generation mystery dining platform. Unlike traditional secret shopping, Servy diners for their meal, providing restaurants with organic feedback from their target clientele. Servy helps restaurants measure performance and ensure standards are upheld at all times.

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