Success Using Technology Depends on You!

I recently visited a restaurant and observed an elderly couple struggling to view a menu.  A few minutes into their struggle, their server graciously presented them with an iPad version of the menu and showed them within a few seconds how to zoom in to read the menu better.  The couple had a wonderful time viewing the menu and learning about different options.  A few months ago, I gave my 93 year old grandmother my iPad when she became bed-bound.  Within a couple of days, not only had she gotten the grasp of many of the apps, but she had developed a Facebook presence and often posted on the walls of our family members.  A few weeks ago, she learned that she could find information about restaurants carry out options that could be delivered to her home.

As a restaurant technologist, I’m often asked by those outside the restaurant and hospitality industry why it seems that restaurants are late adopters of technology.  Some will say that because many of a restaurant’s customers are still at an age where technology is illusive. Many will say that it’s the cost of implementation or the learning curve that technology demands that keep restaurant owners and managers from grasping new options.  But often times, the reason new technologies don’t make it into the restaurant quickly is because restaurant owners see technology as taking away from the experience and environment they’ve put time, money, and heart into creating.  

Many restaurant owners fear that by implementing technology solutions, they will lose that personal communication aspect that the restaurant relies on to increase profitability. We all know that upselling is the key to increasing sales of higher margin items such as drinks, appetizers, and desserts.  The fear exists that by eliminating the power of persuasion, profits will decrease.  Many solutions we have seen in the past year do indeed threaten to eliminate the personal relationship between the diner and the restaurant, but if used wisely, technology in the front of house should work to increase two things: communication and security.

The largest argument I have heard against iPad menus and ordering systems is that it only meets a segment of the dining population that is comfortable with these devices, and those objections are absolutely correct.   However, imagine the scenario in which a server has just been seated with two tables.  One table is less technology savvy, uncomfortable with an iPad, and perhaps unfamiliar with the menu.  Another table is quite savvy and feels comfortable using the iPad to not only order, but get information about the menu items.  A server’s time with a customer is already limited.  By allowing the second table to view, select, and order their meals from the iPad frees up the server to spend additional time with the first table.  What is the key?  Training and individual response.

Training your staff on how and when to utilize technology with a customer is the key to bridging the communication gap.  A growing population finds iPad and iPhone apps to be a premium method of communication between themselves and the restaurant.  But there is still a large amount of restaurant customers who are uncomfortable with those technologies and would like for your server to go over the wine list with them in person.  Training and encouraging your staff to meet the customer’s needs on an individual basis is the key to successfully implementing the newest and greatest technologies without leaving large segments of your customers behind.

Additionally, systems such as wireless payment systems allow those customers comfortable enough with technology to increase their own personal security.  Not only does this allow the customer to feel more in control of their situation, it eliminates a degree of responsibility from your staff and decreases the allure of theft from your patrons.  Again, with these systems, you will find a large number of customers who would prefer to hand your staff their entire wallet than to associate their credit or debit card with a payment application.  But meeting your customer on a ground they are comfortable with is the key to maintaining a successful relationship.

Technology should never work to eliminate communication or interaction between the restaurant and the customer.  Instead, technology should enhance, facilitate, and personalize the communication.  When navigating through the many technology options, look for those solutions that allow you to carry the experience and environment you have built for your restaurant throughout every aspect of your customer’s visit.  Your environment is the key to your own profitability, so make sure your technology solutions line up.  Whether you are working with an iPad savvy 93-year old or a 50-something who fears technology, with successful staff training you can create and implement solutions that will help increase security and maximize communication for your restaurant.

Shawna Simpson is the President and Co-Founder of Diner Connection.  Shawna has 15 years of experience in management and consulting in the hospitality industries, specifically in the area of implementing successful technology solutions.  

Views: 169

Tags: communication, technology, training


You need to be a member of FohBoh to add comments!

Join FohBoh

Comment by Shawna Simpson on May 23, 2012 at 6:45am

Michael, I couldn't agree more.  Obviously, since my livelihood depends on restauran owners transitioning to technology, I do have to cling to that hope, but fortunately, the restaurant industry, although sometimes slow to adopt, is a good example of the business industry's version of survival of the fittest.  Now if I can just get my dry cleaner to adapt!

Comment by Michael L. Atkinson on May 21, 2012 at 8:46pm

Great post, thanks! As you can see, especially on your next visit to FohBoh, we are re-committing ourselves to restaurant + technology dialog and education. We need as many restaurant technologists and practitioners as possible posting and discussing this amazing industry-wide transformation. To be sure, customer experience management will be a big part of successful adoption. But, also awareness of what is happening in the market and how others are using innovation to improve the total experience; food, service and environment.

Tablet's present an amazing opportunity for both guest and operator to connect and engage. Improving the menu experience yields explicit guest data - the holy grail of CRM. Layer social media and you have perhaps the most powerful technology to hit the restaurant industry since POS in the early 1970's. But, the menu is a critical part of the restaurant business, so it better work. All the time. It is this fear that will slow e-menu transitioning because slow-to-adopt operators like wearing a belt and suspenders. While hope isn't a strategy, it is something to cling to.




Social Wine Club for Craft Wineries


Kids LiveWell atwitter over Twitter party

In its continuing effort to promote more nutritious and flavorful children's menu options, the NRA will hold a Twitter party  -More

Starbucks could become top on-premise wine seller in U.S.

Starbucks is planning to slowly expand its evening sales of wine, beer and small plates to thousands of selected stores throu -More

The evolving nature of snacks

Snacks have shifted from an after-school treat to a meal alternative as meal times become more fragmented.  -More


Posting a job or finding a job starts here at FohBoh. Call us about special $25 posting packages to syndicate across all major jobs boards.

National News

Wahlburgers Announces Expansion Plans Including Franchise Agreement in Philadelphia

Wahlburgers has signed a franchise agreement with Hingham Associates, LLC that will bring five Wahlburgers to the metropolitan Philadelphia area over the next several years. The franchise group is actively looking at sites and is targeting a late 2014-early 2015 opening for its first restaurant.

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. First Quarter 2014 Revenue Up 24.4%

Comparable restaurant sales increased 13.4% - Restaurant level operating margin was 25.9%, a decrease of 40 basis points

Jamba Juice Announces Grand Opening of New St. Louis, MO Location

Jamba Juice Company announced the brand’s continued expansion in the St. Louis market with the opening of a Jamba Juice® store at 11477 Olive Blvd. on April 16, 2014.

Expert in Real Estate Analytics Joins Luna Grill

Luna Grill, the San Diego-based Mediterranean restaurant chain, is welcoming retail real estate industry veteran Greg Thorburn to its leadership team. Thorburn has been brought on board to fill the newly created position of Vice-President of Real Estate.

Rita's Italian Ice Awards Area Development Agreement for Kansas

Rita's Italian Ice has awarded franchise and area development agreements for Kansas and the Kansas City area, which extends to the Missouri side of the city, to franchisees and local residents Jay Miller, Jeff Miller and Pat Reilly.


If you are looking for capital to start or grow your restaurant, create the next 501c3, develop and launch the next app for the restaurant industry,or want to help your peers in some meaningful way, we want to know about it.


TED: Matthew Carter: My life in typefaces - Matthew Carter (2014)

Pick up a book, magazine or screen, and more than likely you'll come across some typography designed by Matthew Carter. In this charming talk, the man behind typefaces such as Verdana, Georgia and Bell Centennial (designed just for phone books -- remember them?), takes us on a spin through a career focused on the very last pixel of each letter of a font.

TED: Jeremy Kasdin: The flower-shaped starshade that might help us detect Earth-like planets - Jeremy Kasdin (2014)

Astronomers believe that every star in the galaxy has a planet, one fifth of which might harbor life. Only we haven't seen any of them -- yet. Jeremy Kasdin and his team are looking to change that with the design and engineering of an extraordinary piece of equipment: a flower petal-shaped "starshade" that allows a telescope to photograph planets from 50,000 kilometers away. It is, he says, the "coolest possible science."

TED: Norman Spack: How I help transgender teens become who they want to be - Norman Spack (2013)

Puberty is an awkward time for just about everybody, but for transgender teens it can be a nightmare, as they grow overnight into bodies they aren't comfortable with. In a heartfelt talk, endocrinologist Norman Spack tells a personal story of how he became one of the few doctors in the US to treat minors with hormone replacement therapy. By staving off the effects of puberty, Spack gives trans teens the time they need. (Filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet.)

TED: Jennifer Senior: For parents, happiness is a very high bar - Jennifer Senior (2014)

The parenting section of the bookstore is overwhelming—it's "a giant, candy-colored monument to our collective panic," as writer Jennifer Senior puts it. Why is parenthood filled with so much anxiety? Because the goal of modern, middle-class parents—to raise happy children—is so elusive. In this honest talk, she offers some kinder and more achievable aims.

© 2014   Created by FohBoh.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service