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How real time technology is giving restaurant operators a helping hand!

What are the real-time effects of technology for restaurant operators? Here, in Ashley Sheppard’s column for Restaurant Magazine as Guest Technology Editor, he explains his prediction.Towards the end of last year, Google Maps announced its latest iOS update, providing live data for consumers on how busy a restaurant is at any given time. Back in 2015, when the technology was first launched, consumers would check the app for a restaurant’s ‘popular times,’ allowing them to see when it was at its busiest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the most accurate as it relied on predictive statistics, not live ones and didn’t account for things like special events. The update to real-time data means consumers can discover with great accuracy if they are likely to secure a seat straight away, or be faced with queuing – therefore giving them that all important choice of opting to visit another location.

The live feature takes the software to the next level – advising consumers when a one-off event is taking place, whilst the app provides general information on busy times throughout the week based on data gathered over a long period of time. For an operator, they’re able to see how long a customer spends at their restaurant, providing valuable insight on general customer flow.

Google Maps got me thinking. What other consumer facing technology has the means to evolve into the operator space? Back in February, I listened to Tom Weaver, the CEO of Flypay taking part in a panel discussion at Pub17, which looked at the technology shaping the future of the industry. Tom is an advocate of the ‘Amazon Dash Button,’ which is exclusive to Amazon Prime Members. Dash is a Wi-Fi connected device that re-orders a customer’s favourite product(s) with the press of a button – so think washing machine tablets, toilet paper, razor blades even skin moisturiser. Once the order has been placed, the indicator will turn green to show the order was successful, or red if unsuccessful.

Is there any reason why the technology couldn’t be adapted to the restaurant industry? I don’t see why not. Imagine being able to push a button back-of-house to re-order those all-important items from suppliers such as eggs, vegetables, meats, cheeses and cleaning products.

Amazon Echo is another form of technology working hard to help the restaurant industry. The Echo is a 360-degree omni-directional speaker powered by a virtual assistant called Alexa. The smart device allows its customers to order dinner, check the weather, turn on lights, adjust their thermostat, call a cab, play music and so much more, using only their voice. Ask Alexa to tell you about local restaurants. “Alexa, what restaurants are nearby?” It is also possible to narrow the search down further. “Alexa, what are the top-rated Indian restaurants?”

There’s absolutely no reason why restaurant operators shouldn’t be embracing the real-time effects of advancing technology. This technology is called real for a reason. It is all about bringing more operators than ever before to the forefront of consumer thinking, and ultimately driving footfall – which is a great thing indeed for the industry.