Food and Phones

You’ve heard it, and you’ve probably said it: “How did we ever survive without a smartphone?”

A little over a decade after the iPhone’s 2007 debut, the smartphone has embedded itself into every aspect of our lives. It likely won’t take 10 years for today’s technologies to become our new normal, even those that sound “sci-fi” today.

Real-time-data feedback is one technology likely to become a common part of restaurant operations. Restaurant experts surveyed for Restaurant Industry 2030, the National Restaurant Association’s deep dive into what restaurants will look like over the next decade, shared predictions about the likeliest developments for restaurants by 2030.

Among their top 25 predictions for 2030 are three tied directly to the power of real-time data:

  • Turning point-of-sale (POS) data into actionable knowledge for operators will become easier.
  • Restaurant operators will be more likely to implement more local, targeted and customized promotions (ranked No. 20).
  • Technology will be more effectively used to control costs and enhance management efficiency.

What will real-time data allow a restaurant operator to do? Here are a few scenarios:

  • Capture lightning: Real-time data will warn you if a limited-time-offer or promo goes viral. Hopefully you won’t sell out, but if you do, you’ll be able to adjust your menu quickly to offer a great second-choice option.
  • Turn complaints into compliments: Customers can comment on tableside tablets about any issues they’re having (long wait, loud music, cold vent, a late order, bad service) and the manager can correct the issue on the spot.
  • Fill tables: Assemble waiting lists of customers you couldn’t accommodate for a reservation; systems based on real-time data will contact them when a cancellation frees the table.
  • Seize the day: Real-time data can use past sales history to help you adjust production based on the weather, the temperature, the day of the week, the time of year, holidays, local events, and any other salient input. If it’s raining, expect delivery and drive-thru orders to jump and counter sales to slow. Watch your social marketing automatically generate coupons to draw people in.
  • Hone or honor staff members: Know immediately which employees are excelling and which are falling behind by sales, tips, customer surveys and peer comments. Use the positive performance data to reward stars; that visibility and encouragement goes a long way in retention. For those falling behind, use the data to double down on training.
  • Manage your reputation: Through real-time data, you can receive alerts if a negative review posts and jump on it immediately.
  • Manipulate your menu: Find out what’s selling, what’s not and figure out how to capitalize on the information within a single meal period. Turn a slow mover into a discounted special.
  • Single-use surveys: As customers use their table tablet POS to check out, use the process to ask one pertinent survey question. A single question is easy and even tempting to answer. What do you wish you knew? Go ahead and ask – and get valuable data in real time to help you adjust on the fly.

American Express is a sponsor of the Association’s recently released Restaurant Industry 2030 report.