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Future Restaurant 2019: How QSRs Can Keep up with New Technology

To be successful with new technology, restaurants need to equip employees with the right tools to keep up. WWT's Vice President of Digital Matt Sebek recently attended the Future Restaurant conference, where technology advancements for fast-casual and quick-serve restaurants were explored.

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Customers always come first, but today’s consumers have more choice and power than ever before.

In today’s digitally-powered, data-fueled world, consumers expect instant access to information, frictionless transactions and ultra-fast fulfillment — especially when they’re hungry.

This expectation has led to a proliferation of technology that help fast-casual and quick-serve restaurants (QSRs). These services, such as in-app ordering, scan-and-go-kiosks and third-party delivery services, have quickly gone from novelties to norms.

However, as operators seek to take advantage of these new, customer-pleasing opportunities, they run a risk of overwhelming their employees. If employees can’t successfully manage these new channels and deliver a fantastic experience, then it’s all for naught.

Last week at the Future Restaurants conference (with support of Intel Corporation) — an annual event that sparks conversations on the industry’s most revolutionary solutions — I had the opportunity to glean insights from other experts and share World Wide Technology’s perspective on technologies that are transforming the restaurant business.

Restaurants succeed when they follow a three-pronged strategy that focuses equally on people, process and technology. This has become an adage in tech circles.

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Empowering employees to deliver a new customer experience

The collision of new and legacy technologies has created a gap in employee experience that has led to operational inefficiencies. While significant advances have been made to build the customer experience — curb-side pickup, scan-and-go kiosks, digital signage, and advancements in delivery options and loyalty programs — the employee experience has simply not kept pace.

As a matter of fact, when these advancements are not supported by the right processes and training programs, they can lead to increased job complexity and friction.

Gamification is one technique restaurant operators are using to ease this stress. For example, a training app can provide incentives to encourage employees to learn onboarding materials and complete the process. The same can be done for incentivizing increased sales. These methods are proven to liven the workplace and help employees get through sometimes-tedious tasks.

When companies evolve from simply “working harder” to integrating “games” into the workplace, it can enable new forms of communication and oftentimes bring the smartest ideas to the front of the room sooner. Currently, apps provide the most common form of gamified training, but it can also be done with low-tech tools like sticky notes. All platforms offer a way to automate processes, increase user engagement and motivate and incentivize behavior.

Data insights to the rescue

It’s important for restaurateurs to help employees manage the flurry of new customer-facing tools and options that are available. Data insights, however, offer the potential to fully optimize people, processes and technology to deliver both a fine-tuned workplace and a delightful experience for customers. Today’s data-gathering and analysis tools allow increased customer personalization and the ability to better predict the future, even as operations are streamlined and employees are positioned for success.

With data-fueled technology and processes, restaurants can better predict busy times of the day, the most popular dishes at different points in time and even which ordering or delivery channels are most likely to be used at a given moment. This information is powerful and enables teams to create more efficient workflows while anticipating customer needs before they walk in the door.

These efficiency enhancements have been shown to increase employee loyalty and satisfaction and even lead to higher tips by up to 25 percent — a good indicator of improved customer experiences.

The delivery dilemma

The rise of third-party delivery companies has been a double-edged sword for restaurateurs. They provide new opportunities to reach and serve customers, but they also create reputational risks that are difficult to control.

Restaurateurs can choose the right people, processes and technologies for their operation, but what happens after the food ends up in the passenger seat of a stranger’s car?

One solution for QSRs is to enhance their buy-online, pick-up-in-store experience to control what they’re losing through third-party delivery. Another is to look to emerging technologies like drone delivery or delivery pods to take delivery in-house and create more secure packaging. In the meantime, packaging solutions like peel-and-seal bags can help ensure delivered food arrives in the intended condition when it left the restaurant — Instagram-worthy.

As we enter 2020, delivery will continue to be a hot trend — both threatening and adding value to restaurants. Operators should invest in digital solutions and process enhancements to best control every factor that comes into play.

WWT has helped a broad range of quick-serve and fast-casual restaurants navigate these opportunities to optimize people, processes and technology. When implemented thoughtfully and properly, these emerging channels and touchpoints are tremendous opportunities for operators to reach new customers and bring existing ones back more frequently.

WWT teams, as thinkers and doers, work collaboratively with customers to ideate, plan and execute digital transformation solutions that solve unique business challenges. Since yesterday’s solutions won’t support tomorrow’s challenges, WWT is constantly innovating and building new technologies and offerings.

Want to learn more about WWT’s digital solution offerings? I invite you to connect with me on LinkedIn and visit WWT’s Digital Consulting page for more information.