Studies continue to show us that most consumers now prefer experiences over owning things, and that is just one of the many reasons why the restaurant industry continues to be so lucrative. Unfortunately, reaching new demographics can be incredibly difficult, and many entrepreneurs don’t know exactly what they can do to get new clients and then turn those individuals into lifelong customers.
Another common problem that many restaurateurs are running into is inefficiency in the workplace. Keeping equipment well-maintained, and tracking vital data are all complex and time-consuming projects that can divert your attention away from sales and restaurant promotion. While new technology won’t solve every problem in your restaurant, it could greatly increase the efficiency of your business with routine automation and help you attract more customers to your restaurant business.
The Internet of Things (IoT) in the Restaurant Industry
Before you delve into the customer relations variable in this equation, you might first want to consider what steps you can take to streamline your back of house operations. Anyone who has ever managed or owned a company knows just how easy it is to get bogged down with seemingly trivial chores.
IoT smart devices have exploded in popularity in recent years, and they could have a huge impact on the way that you run your business. With a handful of IoT sensors, you will be able to monitor the health and performance of your kitchen equipment so that you can carry out preventive maintenance before any of it breaks down. You can also monitor food stations and make sure that everything is up-to-code.
Setting Up an IoT System
Not many years ago, you would have to piece together an IoT system from scratch if you wanted to take full advantage of this technology. Luckily, that has all changed, and many companies are now producing commercial IoT systems that work right out of the box. The total cost and complexity of the system depends on your preferences and exactly what you would like to be implemented. As a general rule, entry-level IoT systems are relatively inexpensive, and that type of technology will help you collect basic data like ambient temperatures, humidity levels, and energy usage.
From there, the sky’s the limit, and you can use internet-ready devices to track all types of information throughout your business. Here are some more ideas you can use the IoT systems for:
- connecting your kitchen appliances for remote device control (to start cooking) and signaling that the food is ready
- providing automatic reports for restaurant audits
- locating guests who have ordered beforehand and now have come to the restaurant
- managing food wastes and food storing capacities as well as informing cooks of the food due dates
- maintaining cooking appliances and replacing some parts of them
- reducing energy use and bills for it (you can use IoT to set up appliances to turn off when not used)
- providing insights about customer tastes and preferences
There are plenty of ready solutions you can use for your restaurant business like Monogoto, IoT Edge, or OriginIoT.
While that hardware has revolutionized certain aspects of the industry, it isn’t necessarily going to help you draw in new customers. You might be able to offer your clientele an excellent experience once they walk through your doors, but getting those individuals into your business might be a complicated and frustrating process. That is why many restaurant owners and entrepreneurs have turned to software like the OpenTable app.
What Is OpenTable?
OpenTable is one of the largest reservation apps on the market, and many people are surprised to hear that the company has been around for over 20 years. Even though this service was originally released in the United States, it quickly spread to over 20 countries. After its acquisition in 2014 (and having acquired eight competitors before that), OpenTable was implemented in over 50,000 restaurants throughout the world. The primary purpose of this service is to streamline the reservation process for restaurants and their guests as well as to drive more customers to restaurants.
Benefits of OpenTable for the Diners
There are quite a few reasons why just over 131 million people are seated with OpenTable every month. For diners, this piece of software takes the guesswork out of making reservations. Instead of sitting on the phone or heading to a restaurant’s website, diners can simply make a reservation with a few taps of the screen. This app also has a handful of time-saving features such as a streamlined search function and the ability to save one’s favorite restaurants. To be more precise, here are the other top features you get with this restaurant management software:
- location-based restaurant suggestions
- reviews and ratings
- various options for seating
- restaurant vizit history
- online payments and integrations for point of sales
- software for guest and table management with reservation tracking, order confirmation, shift and employee reports, and restaurant productivity analytics
OpenTable and Restaurants
While OpenTable is an excellent tool for customers, there are some pros and cons that restaurant owners need to be aware of. This app can open up a whole new world of potential clients, and that could increase your profits by quite a bit. Even if you have your restaurant listed on a wide variety of review apps and services, you might still be missing out if you don’t have a dedicated reservation app. Many people aren’t going to call or head to your website simply because there are easier options out there. OpenTable will help you tap into a huge market of avid diners who love heading to restaurants. In addition, OpenTable makes money by selling business management tools to restaurants. Those tools can be very useful and they will help you train your employees, but the costs are often prohibitive.
Unfortunately, there are some clear drawbacks as well. OpenTable makes money by selling various services and features directly to the restaurants. If you would like to be listed on the app, then you must pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee that adds your restaurant to the search function.
To improve your chances of being found in the search function, you can pay an extra fee and be listed as a featured restaurant. Whenever a diner makes a reservation, you will be charged a fee as well. What we’re trying to say is that you’ll keep paying quite a penny to OpenTable with every single order made. Also, OpenTable supplies a special bonus program for users that you can connect your restaurant to. Once your customers earn 2,000 points from restaurant visits, they will be able to trade them for a dinner or a great seating option.
Probably, one of the biggest troubles with being listed on the OpenTable list is the fact that you don’t directly spread awareness of your brand, but become one of the restaurants on or cafes from the list. Therefore, you have to take measures to strongly identify your brand and to get into the customers’ heart from the very first visit.
Creating Your Own App
Using a service like OpenTable could open up a whole new demographic for your business, but you might not be ready to pay the fees. Many restaurants are working with razor-thin profit margins, and those additional expenses are quickly going to add up. You must also operate completely within OpenTable’s sphere of influence, and their services or prices could change at any time. Those are just a few of the reasons why many entrepreneurs are now focusing on creating their own apps.
Developing an app like OpenTable is more affordable than ever, and you are going to have full control over every aspect of the software. With the right development team by your side, you will be able to pick and choose exactly which features you would like to include in the app. Your app can also help you collect and analyze some business-specific data, and that information might be vital to the success of your company in the coming years.
Upgrading Your Operations With the Right Technology
This technology probably isn’t going to revolutionize the restaurant industry overnight, but it could give you that competitive advantage that you have been looking for. Your IoT devices will streamline your back of house operations and minimize your overhead costs. On the other end of your business, you can use an app like OpenTable to connect with customers, collect essential data, and build your own sphere of influence. There are examples of the companies that have successfully developed their own software for restaurant management and combine their promotion campaigns with the opportunities that OpenTable supplies for attracting customers. To be more precise, these are Momofuku, a worldwide restaurant chain, and Alinea, a restaurant from Chicago. The latter has even developed its own restaurant reservation platform and is going to gradually decrease the use of the OpenTable promotion services.
With the proper implementation and training, all of this technology could have an incredible return on investment. Once you have the proper software and hardware in place, you can then turn your attention to other aspects of your business.