Restaurants and the restaurant industry, in general, is a growing sector, where consumers today spend more than twice as much as they did just a few years ago. This growth has been greatly influenced by the impact that technology has had on the different areas of these companies. The whole sector, and especially the fast-food chains, has been very receptive to incorporating innovations into their activity.
On the other hand, today’s consumers seek in every interaction with the restaurant, through the different channels, a high-quality experience, both in the final product – food and drink – and in other related aspects that are also part of the purchase, such as comfort, attention, speed, personalisation, etc.
It is therefore not surprising that the leading restaurants and catering chains are undertaking digital transformation processes to help them increase their market shares in a highly competitive environment. The winners in this competition are those restaurants that invest intelligently in technology, not only from an operational point of view but as a real revolution in their strategy and business model.
Where does the digital transformation start?
First of all, we must bear in mind that the digital transformation is not limited to the acquisition of technology (hardware or software). The digital transformation implies a change of paradigm based on the opportunities offered by technological advances to produce a profound change in organisations and even in business models.
In this sense, the restaurant sector has known how to adapt perfectly to this philosophy and has incorporated the digital mentality into its organisations to the point where we find ourselves with authentic new business models, such as the appearance of home food distribution companies such as Just Eat or Uber Eats, for example.
Digital transformation inwards and outwards
Companies that successfully implement the digital transformation do so at all levels of the organisation, both internally, in human resource, financial or purchasing processes, for example, and externally, at the point of sale or in marketing activities. This implies that, in practice, technology projects must be applied both in the processes facing the public and in the internal processes.
On the internal side are all the processes from the acquisition of the raw products to the production of the final dishes. This means transforming the processes to anticipate consumer demand and satisfy it at minimum cost, or in other words, with maximum efficiency in the operation. This area includes different areas, such as human resources management, training, order reception, purchases, suppliers, deliveries, cooking, etc.
As far as the public is concerned, we must consider how to incorporate and improve, thanks to technology, aspects such as experience at the point of sale, customer management, loyalty, order taking, reservations, marketing, mobility, etc.
One of the aspects that have been less exploited so far has been the digital transformation in the management and maintenance of assets. This activity which has often been seen as a necessary second level process has however a very large impact on both profitability and user satisfaction and experience. Just think of how a breakdown in a beverage vending machine, deep fryer or air conditioning affects the business at a time of peak attendance.
Intelligent asset management also provides information that can be very useful in a digitalised company, such as consumption or the history of incidents on equipment.
Some examples of digital transformation in restoration
There are many ways in which the digital transformation has changed the concept of restoration as it was known just a few years ago. We will now review some examples which, despite being fully incorporated into the restoration business and our experience as users, are relatively recent in time.
The digital presence
Nowadays it is essential to be on all the channels where customers are and to create content that serves to attract them to our restaurant. Social networks, specialised recommendation platforms, including Google itself, websites or mobile applications allow the restaurant to integrate itself into the habits of today’s consumers. Interacting appropriately with customers in these channels will help us position our restaurant at the moment of decision: where (or what) like today?
Paper and pencil have long since given way to digital tools for taking orders and sending them directly to the kitchen. There are even restaurants that allow customers to place their orders using mobile applications before they arrive at the restaurant. This can be useful, for example, to speed up movement around the premises during peak hours and facilitate faster and more efficient service. Among other advantages, it improves communication between the room and the kitchen, reduces the margin of error when taking orders, improves customer service time and also gives you more freedom to define your experience.
In the same vein, some restaurant chains already allow their customers to customise the dishes on their menu, adding or removing ingredients according to their preferences without the pressure of the point of sale. Even at a higher price, many customers appreciate the possibility of enjoying a fully customised experience that allows them to be creative and participate in the preparation of their meal.
For the restaurant, this usually translates into a higher bill, but it also makes it easier for users to share their experience with acquaintances and friends, making the experience viral. It also increases loyalty, as users can save their preferences for their next visit to the restaurant.
What started out as something new has now become commonplace in many restaurants. The kiosks allow the user to control the way they order without the pressure of the queue, with the next customer waiting his turn or the waiter waiting for his decision. Some studies indicate that the use of kiosks will increase in the coming years, both because of the benefits for the user and because, on average, the orders placed at the kiosk improve the amount of the purchase and the margin.
Digitisation has made home service universal and one of the biggest trends in the sector. Orders by phone have given way to mobile applications, which allow the user more control and a better experience when placing the order, as well as updating the status of the order and the estimated delivery time in real-time, for example.
This is a clear example of a new business model that has led many restaurants to have kitchens dedicated exclusively to home service and to create strategic agreements with delivery companies.
A key component of the digital business transformation is the ability to analyse the information obtained through the digitalisation of processes and the interconnection of different systems. Analytical and Big Data tools allow us to dive into millions of pieces of data to obtain useful information for the business: customer behaviour, purchasing habits, trends, etc. In this way, companies can get to know their customers better, reducing the cost of acquisition and increasing the loyalty and value of their product.
The use that can be made of all this information affects all areas of the company: the marketing plan, purchases, the creation of menus, customer service, etc.