Our on-demand online lifestyle has reached the restaurant business. Several major chains are handing control of the dining experience over to their customers and getting out of the way. The preliminary results indicate the tech-heavy, help-light approach that uses self-serve tablet technology in place of wait staff is resulting in more customers spending more money per minute.
Rather than send staff over to take customer orders, restaurants such as Applebee’s and Outback Steakhouse are instead letting diners order at their own pace from electronic menus. The system is more efficient as customers don’t have to wait for busy staff to take their order, and the chain stores are generating a little extra revenue by offering pay-to-play games on the tabletop tablets.
Thanks to the relatively low cost of the necessary restaurant tabletop technology, it is up to each restaurateur to decide if electronic self-service is the way of the future.
The Technology of Self-service
The bottom-line results from the initial wave of tabletop technology self-service are impressive. It has been reported that average sales rise by 11% per minute in restaurants employing the new technology. This is a combination of a 1% rise in spend per guest and a 10% reduction in the time a table was occupied. Provided you have customers eagerly awaiting a table, that’s an impressive return on a low-cost technology.
While some larger chains, including McDonald’s, have employed large self-service kiosks, others are employing nothing more advanced than an iPad and digital point of sale system. Applebee’s have placed the latter on every table and found that 70% of customers use them to order and 50% for payment. It is also making a further $1.99 per pop from the 15% of customer that pay to play video games on the restaurant tabletop technology.
The tabletop iPads in these chains are used to place orders, including modifications, and to take non-cash payments, but in smaller establishments they can become the central hub of the entire business.
Affordable Restaurant Tabletop Technology
Point of sales systems have blossomed from little more than glorified cash drawers to become multimedia business hubs used by both customers and staff. The tablet interfaces used as electronic menus in the examples above can also double as fully operational terminals for your staff, or as portals to the business side of things. Using Cloud computing, you can access your accounting, purchasing, human resources, staff management software and more from the same device you later hand to a diner.
These systems are highly affordable as well. Most are available as packaged hardware/software bundles that retail through subscription services – costing independent restaurants as little as $30 a month. The mobile tablet devices act like in-house versions of your online ordering system, with highly visual interfaces and highly modifiable menus. Each terminal links with each staff station throughout the restaurant and every order and sale is mirrored front-of-house and in the kitchen to ensure a smooth in-service run.
The technology can also offer an insight into how efficiently your restaurant operates.
Self-service with Data Science
Once you digitize service by placing every order, refill, loyalty discount, and additional pickle through the same central system, you can start to manipulate the resulting data. A modern POS system will establish a live link to your perishable and hard stock and be able to generate information on the flow of food and profits through your business.
This real-time reporting will give you a straight answer on whether your customers prefer self-service or the traditional route, how much each type of order generates, and how much staff resources are spent on each kind of dollar earned.
These are unique insights available only to you, and they should guide your decision as to whether your restaurant needs to be conversational or self-serve.
What’s Your Call?
With the technology clearly within the budget of most restaurants and easy enough to install that it can be up and running within a day, the question falls back on the owner/operator as to whether this is the kind of ambiance you want for your diners.
Any restaurateur would have to at least consider a setup where fewer staff each make more money while turning over a higher rate of customers, but it would appear to be an all or nothing solution. You’d be hard pressed to sell your room as a romantic or intimate experience if half your guests are playing video games or ordering without conversation. On the other hand, the extra tickets you turn over with the automated system will be undermined if half your covers are engaged in lengthy wine debates with the staff.
So what’s your call – do you want to run a self-serve or full service restaurant?
At talech we design POS systems with the flexibility to suit every kind of restaurant. Whether you want to let your customers serve themselves or your staff to act as informed guides we have a system to suit. Sign up for a free demo today and do customer service your way.
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