Tech Gives Restaurants a Human Touch

Imagine a family has a reservation at the Boston café you manage. They’ve never been there before, yet they are greeted by name when they approach the hostess station.

Your café is part of a restaurant chain that includes a New York location where the husband has been bringing his family to celebrate his wife’s birthday, every year for the last decade. Since he made a reservation online, your reservation management system knows this is a family tradition. If the reservation management system is also synced to restaurant review sites, your staff may also have noted that he gave the restaurant chain’s New York café a rave review for remembering his wife’s birthday last year.

Know Your Customers

Just like dating sites use profiles to find someone’s perfect love match, restaurants are using them to design their guests’ perfect dining experience, from the way they’re greeted at the door, to seating them at their favorite table. Restaurants everywhere are leveraging front of house technology tools to take their customer service to the next level.

In the past, your servers may have kept the preferences of their best customers in a tiny pad tucked into their pockets, or a notebook behind the hostess stand. Today, restaurant reservation management software tracks diner visits and even suggest loyalty rewards like complementary dishes or drinks based on previous ordering history. This is especially useful for large chains. So wherever a diner travels they feel at home, in your restaurant.

Websites like OpenTable can store customer preferences and other personal details that staff might pick up during the course of service. This could include whether the customer is celebrating a special event, the names of family members, food allergies, or if they usually dine with small children. And that’s just the start!

The latest tech-powered restaurant reservation management software offers simple tools that create memorable dining experiences. The Guest Book feature in HostMe also allows staff to record key details like preferred wine choices and seating locations, plus add special requests to reservations. On Cue for Restaurants, a free iPad application, provides table management and staff paging. Resy enables two-way texting for reservations and wait lists. Yelp Reservations gives your staff access to an automatic wait list that fills tables for you if there’s a last-minute cancellation. Zomato Book provides real-time analytics and insights based on operational and customer metrics so you can make smart, data-driven improvements to your service.

“There are little touches that change the entire dining experience,” says Bryan Siegel, Director of Hospitality at New York-based LDV Hospitality, which operates a mix of high-end restaurants, cocktail lounges, and cafés. 1

Knowing what your diners like and don’t like can make your staff seem more like friends and diners feel more welcome at your establishment. It can also keep them coming back for return visits. This is especially important when you consider that according to a recent OpenTable estimate, only about 5% of restaurant diners (on average) return to the same restaurant within the following 12 months.

Tech With a Human Touch

While technology helps restaurants track customers across times and locations, many restaurateurs agree that it’s the human touch that makes the difference. They also suggest you empower your staff to make decisions about rewarding customers based on their profiles so it feels more personal and less like a one-size-fits-all approach.

“You have to get the whole team involved,” says Sean Sullivan, Vice President of Service for Atlanta-based Ford Fry Restaurant Group. He also noted that back-of-the-house staff can come up with creative rewards for customers too. In one case, a chef gave a bottle of specialty olive oil to a regular diner. So Sullivan suggests encouraging your employees to  “surprise and delight” customers. 1

Diners Want Tech on the Menu

So what do diners think of all this tech? According to the OpenTable Technology and Dining Out 2017  survey, they love it. 56% of diners said they wanted restaurants to know their preferred table or seating area. Diners also said they would like restaurants to know special dates, such as birthdays or anniversaries (45%), number of times visited (35%), and dietary preferences (26%). 78% of diners also noted that the ability to use technology to add themselves to a waitlist before they arrive at the restaurant would improve their dining experience.

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Tech-Ready Hostess Stations

Of course, before you can take advantage of all this tech, you’ll need a tech-friendly hostess podium to house your reservation management system. Designed with versatility in mind, our hostess stations feature adaptable shelving that can be easily rearranged to make room for a PC tower or extra storage. So they have plenty of space for your restaurant management system and other electronics. Grommets help keep cables organized on the station’s surface and base. The Hostess Station’s extensive line of stands and stations can also be customized to suit any decor, from vintage to modern. Our Wilson Art paneling is available in over 700 laminate styles including wood, stone, and metal.

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Deluxe Hostess Stand with Antique Tobacco Pine laminate panels, optional Menu holder and seen above with example PC tower, keyboard, and monitor (not included)

Contact us at 877-232-0344 and we’ll work with you to build a custom hostess station that will accommodate your reservation management system and suit your restaurant’s style.

1. Hamstra, M. (2018, August 23). Know thy customer. Retrieved November 27, 2018, from https://www.restaurant-hospitality.com/operations/know-thy-customer