Technology can be used in your restaurant to impact the customer experience, communicate the concept's brand messaging and increase an operation's efficiency. However, acquiring technology just for the sake of having it is a waste of money.

It’s important to find the right ways to use digital alternatives. Always ask yourself: Is this truly what my customer wants?

I have found that before you use technology in your restaurant, you need to ask yourself three key questions:

  1. Can I ensure that it will always work?
  2. Is it truly an effective representative of my brand?
  3. How will it affect the customer experience?

Digital assets should be used to meet or exceed customer expectations. Otherwise they can be anything from unnecessary to detrimental to your brand. The three biggest returns on investment when it comes to technology are digital menu boards, POS systems and data collection.  

  1. Digital Menu Boards. Restaurants are incorporating digital signage and menu boards into their spaces. These can be useful if you change offerings frequently, either over multiple dayparts or with the seasons. However, the basics of good menu board design still apply when switching to high-tech alternatives. Just because it's new technology doesn't mean you can abandon the tried-and-true principles of legibility and perception. You need to ensure you can hold a person's attention long enough for them to easily scan the menu and cull it down to two or three options.

    Digital menu boards can be a great tool in your space if they enable you to convey information and make the transaction process more efficient. However, the diner may struggle to understand the offerings if slides are changing or images are scrolling past. Don't let the innovation of digital menu boards become a distraction. Technology should improve the customer experience and not slow down your operation.
  2. POS Systems. Interactive POS screens should provide your employees with important information and improve order accuracy. Technology allows you to master ordering times and throughput. Tickets stay in the queue until they are completed, and the system can change the order status based on target delivery times. Many concepts have this feature, but they aren't using it to its full potential. For example, if an order enters the red zone, doing something about it will resonate with your guest. Set it up so that the POS system will send a notification sent to the manager who can then personally apologize for the wait and appropriately compensate the customer. This is using the technology to truly make a difference in the guest experience.
  3. Data Collection and Relevant Messaging. Finally, technology provides a huge opportunity for restaurateurs to track purchasing habits of guests in order to improve return visits and increase brand loyalty. You can use loyalty programs, online ordering or mobile app profiles to gather useful and pertinent information. This allows you to provide relevant messages to customers regarding products that are of actual interest to them. For example, if someone is consistently ordering a specific meal, let them know when you release a limited-time-only dish with a similar flavor profile. In this way, you can use technology to engage with existing customers on a whole new level.

Overall, you need to ensure your technology and brand messaging is relevant to customers. If used efficiently, it can improve brand value. Only then can you truly make it worth the investment.

Looking for more on technology integration and restaurants? 

Three Phases to Technological Success for New Restaurants

Make Room for Kiosks: Customer-facing technology requires savvy design decisions

Make Technology Hospitable 

Tech Tools: How Technology is Reshaping Dining

Steve Starr, president of starrdesign in Charlotte, N.C., is a nationally recognized leader in restaurant and retail design. While his insight and expertise span the hospitality industry, his focus is on branding, consumer behavior and the development process.

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