The labor crisis was one of the biggest stories for the casual dining segment in 2019. But the arrival of the new decade doesn’t mean that this narrative is going away any time soon. Minimum wage inflation is extending beyond coastal states. What exacerbates this problem further is the fact that the unemployment rate remains at its lowest in the last 50 years. Yet restaurants are now growing at twice the rate of the population. For these reasons, restaurants will continue to face staffing pressure into 2020 and beyond.
Managing a profitable restaurant has never been more challenging. How does a restaurant chain continue to differentiate itself while making operational ends meet? By adopting technology that allows a restaurant to enhance its point of differentiation: the guest experience. The best technologies are ones that alleviate operational burdens on servers, allowing them to focus on enhancing the guest experience and driving brand loyalty.
- Digital ordering
According to the National Restaurant Association Consumer Technology Survey 2019, the top technologies that consumers are looking for are ones that increase convenience and accuracy of orders. Digital ordering via a server handheld device allows a server to improve order accuracy, send orders directly to the kitchen from the table, and boost check sizes with easy upselling. This feature is especially important when server turnover rates are so high.
A new server usually needs to train for many hours in order to memorize the menu and perfect the art of upselling and cross-selling. With sky-rocketing server turnover rates, the time and sales lost due to lack of consistency in service pile on further. The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell estimated that the cost of employee turnover averages around $5,864 per person for a guest-facing staff member. Having a device that allows a server to search for menu items and directly send orders to the kitchen on the spot drastically improves order accuracy.
In addition, servers save time by not needing to walk back to the POS terminal to input orders. As the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell notes, “electronic ordering can help restaurants improve order accuracy and employee productivity.” Servers can use the time saved by focusing on upselling menu items to guests.
- Integrated guest relationship management
With so much information that consumers are now sharing with businesses, guests have grown accustomed to expecting personalized experiences. But in Deloitte’s 2017 survey of US diners, only 37 percent of guests reported that they were very satisfied with how restaurants demonstrate that they know them.
Server handhelds allow servers to store and retrieve guest information, resulting in improved guest relationship management. Digital ordering through a server handheld device automatically stores information such as what guests like to order and how much they usually spend.
But what is a restaurant to do when swamped with so much data? Having the right technology platform to leverage the information in a productive way is what takes guest relationship management to the next level. An integrated solution such as the Presto Server Handheld allows servers to store and retrieve guest information on the spot, including details such as allergies, food preferences, prior orders, important dates, and loyalty awards to offer a personalized experience beyond the restaurant table. For example, the Presto platform enables restaurant marketers to send guests personalized offers that would be likely to entice them back. In a 2016 OpenTable study, 95% of diners responded that they’d be more likely to return to a restaurant if the staff catered to their personal preferences.
- Personalized upselling
Tailored dining experiences aren’t just an aspect of fine dining restaurants. According to the 2016 OpenTable study, almost 70% of respondents said they would enjoy a more personalized dining experience from casual restaurants.
Engaging experiences that drive guest engagement and a connection to the brand are more important than ever in today’s competitive restaurant industry. The right tool that keeps guest information at servers’ fingertips enables on-the-spot improvements in guest experience. With server handhelds, servers on their first day at a job can upsell the best recommendations as quickly as someone with 10 more years of experience. Personalized recommendations also result in a boost in check size and server tips.
- Gamification and real-time feedback for servers
With new and sophisticated technologies comes the question of whether restaurants are able to implement them effectively. By using server handhelds that offer gamification capabilities, servers are effectively able to train themselves as they work.
Gamification motivates servers and boosts performance by offering reward points and leaderboards. Servers are able to receive real-time feedback on how they’re performing (for example, whether they’ve checked on a certain table enough), and what they can do to improve guest experiences and their tip sizes.
In addition, server handhelds enable servers to see real-time feedback that guests provide them. Digital survey tools enable guests to review their experience while they’re still at the table and alert staff instantly of negative feedback. This gives staff the chance to make corrections before guests leave, and is crucial to avoiding negative online reviews. In a survey of US diners, 94% of respondents answered that online reviews influence their dining decisions.
To drive customer loyalty, repeat visits, and sales growth, restaurants should select technologies that enhance their guest experience. An integrated solution such as the Presto Server Handheld is essential for servers to collect guest information and turn the information into actionable insights in real time. Restaurant brands that invest in empowering their servers and enhancing their customer experience at all touchpoints will have the biggest advantage in years to come.
Presto’s platform offers a comprehensive set of solutions to increase staff productivity, improve guest experience, and deliver actionable insights to managers. Please contact us to get detailed product information or to schedule a demo.