Every retail transaction seems to trigger a request for an email or cell number, so a business owner can contact the purchaser to promote offers and encourage a return visit to a physical store. This type of personalization is designed to improve the guest experience and lead to greater consumer loyalty.
The food industry is no different. In fact, limited-service brands are facing increased pressure to update their technology systems to leverage a more customized guest experience. Because they are also challenged by the combination of higher wages and labor shortfalls, implementing the right technology can enable automation in areas such as mobile payments and order customization.
The key to leveraging technology is an IT network that supports a brand’s most critical needs — one capable of ensuring security and flexibility while allowing for growth regardless of shifting market conditions or customer demand. Today, many restaurants are embracing software-defined WAN Edge technology — a modern approach to networking that’s ideal for delivering performance, security, and affordability at remote business locations.
To continue elevating their guest experience, operators should consider the following trends that are increasingly affecting the industry:
1. Exploiting mobile conveniences.
2. Increasing customer loyalty.
3. Optimizing cloud architecture.
4. Going digital to increase customer engagement.
Exploiting mobile conveniences
Smartphones are great at making daily life more convenient. This includes using mobile apps to order food and deliveries, regardless of when or where hunger strikes. In fact, a survey by Market Force Information found that nearly 40% of consumers had placed a food order using a smartphone within the previous 90 days.
Mobile technology is more prominent than ever inside restaurants too, with the growing use of tableside tablets and self-service kiosks to customize orders or accept payments. Additionally, 68 percent of restaurants now offer Wi-Fi for guest use.
This increased demand for mobile device usage has restaurants turning to software-defined networks that are built for speed, security, and PCI (payment-card industry) compliance. These flexible networks are ideal for supporting online orders, as well as traditional in-store payments or mobile-based payment systems and apps.
Increasing customer loyalty
Providing a stellar customer experience differentiates a brand from its competitors, so it’s not surprising that 72% of restaurant digital innovators planned to “increase spending on CRM, mobility and loyalty” in their technology budgets.
Tech-savvy customers realize their purchasing power matters, and they want to be rewarded for their loyalty. The good news is that QSRs have a variety of choices for engaging with customers — whether through email, via mobile apps and notifications, or through in-store digital signage — part of a multi-faceted approach that helps grow the business by engaging customers and incentivizing repeat business.
A highly distributed business, CEFCO Convenience Stores realized its long-term growth depended on a positive customer experience across its network of 225 stores in the Southeastern U.S. The company embraced SD-WAN Edge technology to deliver services such as loyalty and gift-card processing, application enablement, and more.
By deploying new cloud-based applications, CEFCO saved money that had previously been spent on IT staff visits to remote sites. Moreover, the brand’s evaluations revealed that its new technology freed enough time for one IT professional to focus on strategic opportunities that would accelerate the company’s strategic business initiatives. All told, the company saved time and money while increasing network availability, which ultimately translated to better customer service.
Optimizing cloud architecture
If store technology infrastructure is built upon a legacy WAN, the complexity and expense could hurt profitability. However, utilizing cloud-based networks that adapt quickly to changing business needs can save significant time and IT resources.
For example, the operator of 18 Arby’s restaurants in southern Indiana and Kentucky, Lavco Food Services understood the need to uphold the corporate brand while delivering a unique customer experience at each of his locations. Even as a non-technical person, the owner was closely involved in all of the restaurants’ operations and appreciated an easy-to-manage IT solution.
One of the core challenges for Lavco — and for many others — is that its 18 stores used a different point-of-sale system than the corporate Arby’s POS system. That meant Lavco needed a workaround to support its platform for credit card processing, along with additional security measures to ensure PCI compliance.
In this case, cloud technology wasn’t disruptive, but it provided the agile infrastructure to keep up with compliance mandates and allowed the business to integrate data across franchises and corporate back-office apps to improve decision-making.
The ability to quickly deploy software updates, as well as new revenue-generating apps and services, can create unique opportunities to maximize margins and profitability.
Digital signage and other in-store screens can display a restaurant’s menus or provide entertainment, news, local weather and sports — or even branded social media dashboards and live promotions.
Such dynamic and customizable displays can enhance customers’ dining experiences by engaging them and reducing perceived wait time by up to 35%.
More important, digital signage can also expand customers’ baskets: for example, by highlighting seasonal menu items or showcasing special limited-time offers. SD-WAN Edge technology delivers the network performance and reliability to make it happen.
A strong foundation for growth
As markets continue to shift according to changing customer demands, digital-transformation technologies pave the way for competitive differentiation and new opportunities for business growth. To capitalize, restaurants can leverage a technology partner with deep knowledge of the latest retail services and experiences that can provide insights on integrating SD-WAN Edge technology with existing infrastructures.
As quick-service restaurants continue to embrace data usage for personalization and customer engagement, they can benefit from a daily view of customer behavior — including purchase history, clickstream journey, or in-store visits. In turn, QSRs can connect this information to real-time events happening in proximity, such as weather, local sporting events, and so on, to help store owners plan operational needs like staffing and inventory.
QSRs that embrace modern SD-WAN Edge technology will be better equipped to take advantage of these trends and ultimately win by keeping their customers coming back for more.
This article was written by Michelle Arney from Fast Casual. News Features and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.