How tech is shaking up the food and drink industry

Guest blog: Emma Smith, CEO of Bath-based restaurant loyalty app Memberoo, on the tech that's changing the way restaurants do business
2nd October 2017

The food and drink industry is one which is renowned and reviewed for its overall level of experience ranging from the staff that serve you, the ambience of the venue and, ultimately, the culinary skills of the chef. Yet, in recent years we have seen an increased use of technology within the restaurant sector to improve experiences and accessibility, grow and retain customer bases and ultimately boost bottom lines in a highly competitive market.

“Restaurant tech has been instrumental in changing the way that restaurants do business”

 

In this article Emma Smith, CEO of Bath-based loyalty app Memberoo, kindly shares her insights around what she believes is happening in the restaurant technology market currently and how this can have a long-term impact on customer purchasing habits:

What is restaurant tech?

Restaurant tech is a broad term which quite literally means any technology that is available within a restaurant. Whether that’s a climate control system, a mobile payment app, electronic stock control or even free Wi-Fi for the venue – any technology that aids a restaurant can fall under this definition.

One of the most popular forms of this is the introduction of online delivery services such as Deliveroo (now worth over $1.5 billion) and Uber Eats. However, loyalty apps like Memberoo have also been developed to help boost customer loyalty and retention rates given the explosion of options now available in the restaurant sector.

Ultimately, technology has been so successful within the food and drink industry as it has connected venues to a wider audience and allowed restaurants to gather more customer insight whilst serving a larger number of customers at any one time, therefore increasing profits.

Reducing waste and improving efficiencies

Restaurant tech has been instrumental in changing the way that restaurants do business, particularly focusing on how customers pay and interact with their servers and environments.

For example, McDonald’s now has self serving kiosks in a number of stores worldwide, meaning that they can process food orders with no human interaction, saving time and cutting business costs. However, it’s not only McDonald’s that has adopted a faster payment approach but restaurants like Wahaca, Wagamama and even Starbucks have introduced an option to pay via app, meaning the server does not have to bring them the bill but instead customers can reference a table on an app to pay the bill or simply put through their order themselves.

TGI Fridays has also introduced the capability to pay through Amazon accounts for pick up orders and although this has currently been launched in the US, it’s only a matter of time before this service trickles through to UK branches.

Tech can also help particularly with focusing on increasing the number of orders without requiring additional staff to cope with this. Think of apps like Deliveroo – they allow restaurants to take an additional amount of orders without customers having to leave the comfort of their own homes in order to get the restaurant experience. This whole experience can be tracked live, leaving restaurants accountable for their efficiency and keeps customer satisfaction levels higher due to the fact that they remain informed about the status of their order.

“Restaurant technology can be very effective when collecting valuable data”

 

Technology has helped businesses realise efficiencies in other ways too. For example, startup Ingest AI helps restaurants operate more efficiently using machine learning. By utilising all of the data available to restaurants, this system helps forecast customer patterns, reduce the volume of food waste and increase restaurant functionality.

Think of the data

If utilised correctly, restaurant technology can be very effective when collecting valuable data. Let’s take the example of Wi-Fi – every customer expects this to now be readily available wherever they go and to have access to it. Customers will expect to have to supply data whether that’s an email address, name, contact number or even a Facebook profile.

This can help restaurants, large and small, capture relevant data about clients which can aid overall marketing campaigns and can help tailor product offers to customers who are most likely to purchase particular items. It can also help restaurants to understand what branches are most convenient for customers.

“Putting a direct offer in front of customers through technology can help customers make faster purchasing decisions”

 

This can also be said of customer loyalty apps like Memberoo. Although providing customers with exclusive offers and promoting restaurants to consumers, it can also be utilised from a business perspective to nurture loyalty while learning more about customers and their buying habits. In turn, this can also help businesses grow and increase profit margins via improved-decision making from garnering an in-depth understanding of customers and their buying behaviours.

For example, over the past year, Memberoo has been working with Bath-based coffee shop, Mokoko. During this time, they have gained 316 active members on the loyalty app who continue to purchase from the coffee shop. Research shows that retention rates for an average coffee shop is 15% yet Mokoko has seen a 79% retention rate with the average customer spending almost 10 times as much as a customer who doesn’t use the app.

Making purchases easier

In most cases, effective restaurant technology will increase value for a business and demonstrate to its customers that they are evolving. For example, restaurant tech can help customers make purchasing decisions through offers. Memberoo recently put an offer on the app for Mokoko offering a Flat White coffee for £2 in comparison to the usual price of £2.60. During this time, customers belonging to the Memberoo loyalty club bought 17.02% more Flat Whites than customers who didn’t belong to this club. By putting a direct offer in front of customers through this technology, it can help customers make faster purchasing decisions and can overall increase profits for businesses.

“It’s easy to question… whether technology will enable us to have the dining experience without us facing any human interaction at all”

 

There has also been a development in technology which allows guests to split the bill and pay directly at the table without having to consult a server. For example, the Qkr! App is used in over 370 restaurants in the UK including Wagama, Zizzi and many more. By streamlining the paying process, it can help to entice customers who may be in a rush as they know they will not have to heavily rely on the customer service of their waiter.

Restaurant technology is continuously developing, making it easier for the consumers to get what they want while business owners receive access to the data needed to grow their business and make it work more efficiently. Overall, it is working to help businesses make a profit and to adapt to consumer buying behaviour in a digitally focused world. However, it’s easy to question how much further this can be pushed and whether technology will enable us to have the dining experience without us facing any human interaction at all.