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2 4 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • M A R C H / A P R I L 2 0 1 7 Consultant's Take While new technologies promise to make restau- rants more efficient, operators should focus on using them to improve the customer experience. KIM JENSEN-PITTS Founder KJP Marketing Services Make Technology Hospitable T echnology almost always prom- ises to make things faster, more efficient. That's certainly how many restaurant operators view it, from digital menu boards to smart- phone apps to tablet ordering and other advances that are now available to them. That's not a bad thing. But it shouldn't be the main way restaurateurs look at technology-based solutions. Operators must remember that if they're going to be successful in the hospitality industry, solutions must be hospitable. That means that they shouldn't use technology in a way that makes the guest experience feel automated or impersonal. Instead, restaurateurs should look at technology as a tool to enhance the guest experience. If done well, reduced expenses and increased sales will follow. Feel Their Pain First, operators should ask what the customers' pain points are. Then, they can explore how technology can ease that pain. Take restaurant wait times, for ex- ample. It's not uncommon to encounter wait times of an hour or more on a busy night. Many operations address this problem with smartphone apps that let customers reserve a place on the waitlist before they arrive. That's a good use of technology to improve the cus- tomer experience. But operators should consider taking it even further. For ex- ample, if guests are waiting for a table, why not let them order during their wait, then bring their food as soon as they sit down? Not only does this make for happier customers, it also reduces the workload on waitstaff and increases table turns. Take care of your customers first, and the money will follow. Full-service restaurants in particu- lar could see a reduced labor load and higher customer counts by rethinking how they ask customers to pay. We're so used to the process that it's easy to overlook how clunky it is: You flag down your waiter and ask for your check. The waiter leaves, returns with your check, then leaves again while you review your bill. The waiter comes back, retrieves your credit card, runs the card and then returns with the receipt for you to fill out and sign. Smooth, intuitive pay- ment options on tablets or smartphones speed up the process, and the credit card never leaves the patron's hand. Some large casual-dining chains have rolled out tablets for each table, but it's not clear when customers should flag down a waiter versus use the tablet or how to get a receipt. Some operations try to monetize tabletop tablets by charging a small fee to play a game. This can actually detract from the customer experience by making them feel nickel-and-dimed. When I run into such a clunky sys- tem, I know what's behind it: The new technology has been strapped onto the operation's legacy POS system. Since they weren't built to work together, the