Ashley Sheppard, Commercial Director, Call Systems Technology and Guest Technology Editor, Restaurant Magazine. As said in the December issue:
Everywhere I turn in my world of technology, I’m hearing about Augmented Reality (AR). Apparently, the market is expected to reach a staggering $660 million by 2018. Imagine if the UK restaurant market could take a huge slice of that pie? In 2017, it is going to be possible for a customer to use an app, point it in a direction to find the closest location, menu information and current wait times – and all at the touch of a finger!
Talking of wait times, we kick-started 2016 with the assumption that Brits love to queue. Actually, there’s nothing that annoys customers more than having to wait for a table, with no communication from front-of-house as to when that table will be available.
Thankfully, technology is changing the queue as we know it, playing the role of an operator’s virtual queue. Intelligent technology will be able to advise a customer how long they have to wait for a table, how many other people are ahead of them in the queue and most importantly, when their table is ready.
In the same way technology is working with operators to eliminate the queue, it is also working hard to make our future paperless. Moving from a paper-based to a paperless restaurant operation can be as simple as a restaurant deep-clean. Operators in the know use a mixture of taking orders through an electronic device that is sent directly to the kitchen, coupled with a pager, which allows chefs to inform front of house teams when orders are ready. Current table management technology ensures restaurants can streamline front of house operations to organise not only the seating of customers, but also wait lists, servers and sections, whilst also collecting key analytical data on trends in the business.
This year, I read that turning tables was the most annoying aspect of a restaurant dining experience for customers. However, this doesn’t need to be irritating if done smartly. If the kitchen reduced food wait times after ordering from 15 minutes for the starter to just 10, and the main course to eight minutes after the kitchen receives the nod for ‘mains away’, instead of 12 – the guest really won’t notice. It’s the small things like this that go unnoticed.
If I take nothing else from 2016 from a technology perspective, I’ll never forget finding these wise words from Bill Gates: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.
Technology working in harmony across front and back of house, truly is a beautiful thing to behold. The coalition of digital pathways from reservations, POS, customer insights, kitchen automation and capacity management are powerful tools indeed. We have experienced a digital revolution in 2016 and with the emergence of Augmented Reality into the restaurant space in 2017, it makes for very interesting times indeed.