To date, the use of technology in restaurants has centered mostly around managing purchases, money, personnel and, sometimes, tables. After all, this industry is built on human connections and is rooted in all the real-world smells, tastes, sounds and feelings that make a great night out.
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While the idea of great hospitality and customer relationship management (CRM) is not new — it's the heart of the restaurant business, after all — many owners, general managers, reservationists and wait staff still rely on their memories, or simple paper and pen, to make notes on loyal diners and deepen those relationships.
But what's new is that tech advances in CRM software have begun to revolutionize this process — making it faster, more scalable and more interactive. As restaurants continue to adopt these innovations in tech, guest relations are likely to change, to become more personal and more elevated. It will become easier, in fact, for small, independent restaurants to achieve higher levels of service, creating an elevated guest experience before, during and after a meal.
How will technology change your interactions as a guest at restaurants, in terms of the level of personal touch they offer? Here are three ways.
1. You’ll be treated as a regular, even if it's your first visit.
Imagine that it’s your first time at the sister restaurant of your favorite spot, and you’re greeted at the door by name, which instantly makes you feel at home.
It’s almost as though the staff at your local place called ahead to make sure your visit went smoothly. Or, maybe you opted to share a digital dining profile with a newly opened spot when you made your reservation, and without saying anything to the host, you find yourself seated at a corner table next to the window, just the way you like.
You’ve never stepped foot in that particular restaurant before, but already you’re being treated as regular. In these ways, technology will help facilitate the same treatment you normally receive as a regular when you try a different restaurant (in the same group) for the first time. New tech will ensure that individual places, restaurant groups, franchises or chains understand you as a guest across all locations.
2. You won’t have to remind restaurants about anniversaries and birthdays.
You sit down for a meal with your significant other, excited about the anniversary the two of you are celebrating. Or maybe you’re out to dinner with a group of friends, for your birthday. Regardless of the occasion, there’s always that awkward moment where someone pretends to use the restroom but is really trying to tell a waiter about the reason you're celebrating — and ask for a birthday cake.
With better CRM technology, a more customized level of service is here. We don’t have to remind anyone — from close companions to childhood friends we haven’t spoken to in 15 years — that it’s someone's birthday. And we can thank social media.
Soon enough, restaurants will ask if or how you would like a special occasion marked, before you even ask. If a birthday or another special date is public and on display for the world to see, the level of hospitality a restaurant can provide will change in a meaningful way.
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3. New hires will treat you as your favorite wait staff would.
You walk through the door of your favorite restaurant, and instead of a familiar face behind the host stand, there’s a new maitre’d — but he or she still knows who you are and that you’re a loyal regular. With new systems, staffers on their first day can learn about VIPs, regulars and other special guests.
These are details that your existing staff have filed away in their memories (or sometimes, on paper note cards or old-fashioned computer terminals). So, even if there have been personnel changes at the restaurant you’ve been visiting for years, you will still receive the intimate, consistent experience that’s kept you coming back each time.
With technology-enabling CRM, hospitality will reach new heights. Before you even walk in the door, new and old staff will be well versed on your preferences and special occasions. And, as more restaurants begin to embrace these tools, you’ll start to see an ever-warmer, more tailored dining experience.
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So, the next time you’re out, don’t be surprised if the new hostess greets you by name at the door and treats you like the loyal regular you may soon become. You've earned it, and thanks go to the restaurant's CRM tech.