5 Technology Trends to Know

QSR Magazine – In an age when technology is king—of every consumer and in every industry—it’s no surprise that four out of five customers believe technology improves their restaurant experience, according to research from restaurant software provider Toast. That’s just one of the reasons why today’s brands are putting innovative technologies to work in their stores, and often reaping the rewards from it.

But with the plethora of high-tech options out there, how do brands know what’s worth the investment? We polled several operators and industry experts to uncover which technologies are changing the game in five different areas of the restaurant—and which ones they’re itching to explore next.

Often entwined with today’s highly personalized apps and loyalty programs is another trend popular among restaurant marketers: gamification. Chipotle has long been a leader in the food-gaming space, but brands like Popeyes, Auntie Anne’s, Taco Bell, and Burger King have been pioneers as well.

“In gamification, there are very sophisticated linkages to marketing and promotions, to discounts, to loyalty programs,” says Scott Langdoc, vice president of consulting at Boston Retail Partners. “There’s a way in which the customer cannot just win the game, but actually get measurable benefits—be it by discount or promotion or some other award—as a result of spending time with the game on that app.”

With minimum wage and operational costs rising, a growing number of chains have turned to digital and automated ordering platforms—think tabletop devices, iPad ordering, digital kiosks, and various online ordering systems—to replace employee labor and increase sales volumes.

However, recent research from the National Restaurant Association shows that while many consumers appreciate high-tech options like online ordering, kiosks, and mobile payment, they aren’t looking for a total switch to automation in their limited-service experience. That’s why Boston Retail Partners’ Langdoc says many operators are providing consumers with choice above all else, combining ordering technologies like kiosks and tabletop devices with the age-old counter-service option. “Touch-point choice is more of the successful trend instead of just assuming that we’re going to see this holistic black-and-white migration to automated ordering,” he says.

To aid in the confusion that often comes with a plethora of ordering options, Langdoc says, a number of brands are opting for useful (though not-so-sexy) technologies like order-status screens. Restaurants are likely to manage the multiple points of ordering by installing digital displays that tell customers when their order is in process, complete, or ready for pick-up.

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