The food and beverage (F-B) industry has risen to meet the changing expectations of consumers. Players have spent time rethinking and reconceptualising how to engage with patrons to create operational structures which deliver services according to emerging expectations. Technology for restaurants has played a vital role in driving these trends forward.
This demonstrates how technology impacts culture and how culture and world events, in turn, impact how technology evolves. What principles are at work that help to provide a glimpse into where things are now and where they're going? Let's consider some important points to help cast some light on how important technology has impacted what the F-B industry is currently and what it can be.
Self-driven ordering processes continues to trend
Developing steadily in the 2010s, empowering guests with more control over the ordering process has been hurried along in leaps and bounds through 2021. Self-directed ordering represents a shift in ownership of the process directly to guests who increasingly want the latitude to manage the details of what they want at their own pace and often on their own devices, too. After the height of the pandemic, this is more relevant than ever, with consumers having a new appreciation of personal space and avoiding crowds, line-ups, and face-to-face interactions.
The rise of third-party applications has become the cultural norm, with mobile devices at the centre of the ordering process. The same can be said of restaurants and food services concepts offering QR code scanning. These QR codes empower guests to access menu items remotely or on location and get SMS alerts when those orders are ready. Further to that, ordering via in-location kiosk options continue to enable guests to place sometimes highly customised orders without the risk of being misunderstood by staff at a traditional terminal, with greater order accuracy and less waste.
Location agnostic functions that change the ordering dynamic
This raises another point about where guests place their orders as well as how they place them. Mobile technology has removed physical space and distance when it comes to interacting with an offering. This dynamic creates fluidity and freedom for guests to explore their options at leisure from wherever they are.
This concept of not having to be in a specific location to place an order is significant, certainly adding to the idea of guest control over the process. But it also has implications on how restaurant locations may or may not be organised in the future, with delivery-only services like ghost kitchens becoming a conversation piece more and more. Mobile ordering and these new models don't necessarily mean the end of traditional locations but rather suggest the opportunity to explore a more diverse means to serve the modern guest.
Restaurant technology and guest expectations – perpetual motion
As dramatic as some of the changes have been lately, the relationship between technology and cultural norms continues to be illustrated in how the industry has always responded. The guest experience is best defined by how consumers expect to interact and by how well organisations respond to their needs and sensibilities when it comes to the basics. The perpetual motion between cultural norms and technology informing each other provides the momentum for this.
Technology and culture continue to inform each other, with consumer expectations of an ordering experience in line with the same channels by which they manage other aspects of their lives; web-based UI and mobile technology by which they can manage their own experience. The underlying principle is the provision of a stable platform to enable them to get what they want easily and quickly, with order accuracy as a given.