Ashley Sheppard, Commercial Director, Call Systems Technology:
I’ve heard it said over the last year that the UK fast-casual market has yet to reach its full potential. However, we continue to ride the wave of the fast-casual revolution, with the likes of ‘artisan’ US burger brands, Five Guys and Shake Shack migrating to our shores in 2013, closely followed by Smashburger in 2014.
Since 1999, the US fast-casual sector has exploded, enjoying outstanding growth of over 500%, yet according to the National Restaurant Association, the sector enjoys just 7.7% market share. Apparently, the driving force behind the growth is due to evolving consumer tastes, coupled with creative restaurant concepts. However, something thathasn’t changed is consumer appetite for speed and convenience.
According to the latest report from Mintel on fast casual restaurants in the UK, a staggering 50% of consumers cited “quick-service” as the only reason to visit a fast food restaurant, this figure rises to three in five among diners aged 16-24 living in London. Consumer desire for fast-paced dining may explain the rising trend for pre-ordering food and drink ahead of arrival. Mintel concludes that operators who can increase speed up service, should be looking to enjoy a hefty advantage over the competition.
So, how can technology work hand-in-hand with fast casual operators to take table turns to never before seen levels during peak service, irrespective of whether a customer is dining in our taking out?
Some of the world’s leading fast-casual restaurants are using table location technology to deliver food fast, fresh and hot, whilst also reducing congestion around counters. The technology is refreshingly simple. A customer orders their food at the counter, they receive a guest tag – quite like a coaster, which communicates within designated areas, zones or individual tables with reference tags, even outside.
The systems unique technology increases efficiencies for staff who can locate a customer quickly and in real time, even if they’re on the move – simply because they know where each order needs to be taken. If it’s a take-away order, the customer receives a paging alert to advise them to return for collection. The impact of this alone cannot be ignored. By staff knowing exactly where customers are located, they can increase table turns, which in turn equates to increased revenues and profits for operators. Moreover, operators reap the benefits of faster service times and productivity levels.
The reporting capabilities of such systems are vital to operators, advising on volume trends and speed of service performance, putting invaluable data and insight firmly into the hands of operators to make informed decisions and take action when needed.
The question is, can technology finally take the UK fast-casual sector to its full potential? Absolutely. But it needs to be simple, fast, flexible and convenient, whilst also greatly enhancing the experience for not only the customer, but the operator too.