In today’s world, technological innovations and trends move quickly and you have to stay on your toes to respond. In the restaurant industry, you may notice food companies with separate tech-focused concepts or units designed to test new ideas. Quick-moving brands, such as those that are able to leverage technologies like mobile ordering or drones, self-driving cars, augmented reality, and voice assistants, quickly establish a foothold early.

This may leave you wondering: How can you keep your eyes on the future and keep your consumers happy?

Technology is solving tensions in the restaurant industry

Technological changes are so rapid today that it becomes almost too hard to keep up. It can be all too easy to get caught up in what you should do. But just as you vet technology adoption based on its potential benefit to your restaurant, keep in mind that your guests are more apt to support technology usage if you explain how it benefits them. So entering the digital food evolution starts with understanding your target consumer.

And that begins with understanding this: The takeoff of technology is happening as a way to solve four points of tensions in the restaurant industry.

  1. Connectivity: Building digital connections with restaurant guests has typically been about blending the boundaries between physical and digital; now it’s about making those connections seamless and relationship-building.
  2. Curation: Curating restaurant offerings once revolved around providing options that satisfy individual value perceptions. Today, curation involves data-driven improvements for personalization, as well as health and wellness solutions.
  3. Experience: Enriching the guest experience has focused on entertainment beyond the transaction; now you must also provide unique, differentiated spaces and environments.
  4. ConvenienceGuests are looking for stress-free, one-stop shopping – AND delivery at lightning speed, perfect execution, and products, services and offerings that are customized to them.

How well do you know tomorrow’s consumer?

As you think about technologies to adopt, be sure you’re looking around the corner. Today’s digital food evolution could look very different tomorrow.

Being connected means one thing today, but tomorrow may mean another. For example, many people say they are interested in ordering meals from restaurants using voice applications. But about three-quarters of 18- to 34-year-olds in a recent Harris Poll said that they’re likely to think positively of companies that offer text capabilities for ordering, paying, and more. And brands like Domino’s are responding. Domino’s Anywhere initiative allows you to order a pizza by Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Echo, smart TV, smartwatch and most important, text messaging!

And social influence and curation -- that’s changing, too! Social knowledge, the collective information and influence from your peers and family, used to be as simple as educating your guests about new ingredients. Today, all we need to do is look at the fact that the price of avocados is at a 19-year high, thanks to the virality of #foodporn and avocado toast, to know that content curation around food is changing what we eat.

Loyalty? It’s about hyper-customizing the experience. That’s not easy – but it is possible, and more programs will strive to achieve this level of personalization in the near future.

And let’s not forget about convenience. Today’s consumer loves the idea of ordering takeout from their favorite restaurant from their phone. Tomorrow’s consumer? They’ll want more. Chick-fil-A is consistently ranked as a top QSR brand for consumer satisfaction in the American Customer Satisfaction Index report. Why? They launched a mobile app that allows users to order and pay ahead, customize meals and skip lines at the register.

How does a restaurant address technology the way consumers want?

  1. Be proactive in addressing technology wants and concerns.
  2. Incorporate flexible technology to adapt to consumers’ changing desires.
  3. Keep value and personalization at the forefront of strategy.
  4. Don’t get lost in the need for speed; find a balance of speed and experience.
  5. Consider the entire experience, not just the immediate win.

It’s no surprise that consumer expectations keep getting higher and higher, but the best restaurateurs adapt and use the technology not as technology says, but within the limits of what the consumer needs and the restaurant can deliver.

This article sponsored by Coca-Cola.