The Self Serve Restaurant - It's all about more beer!

Recently, I was having dinner with my family at a favorite local brew pub.  As is typical at this establishment, the service was slow - we waited 20 minutes or so to place our drink order.  When we received our food, we were missing one of the most important meals - my young daughter's grilled cheese.  And as we enjoyed our food, we were ready to order another round of beers - but by the time our server made it back to our table, we were done eating and just asked for the check.

I bring this up not to complain about the restaurant.  It's a busy place, the servers are running around like crazy trying to cover all the tables, and they're only human. Mistakes are made.  The grilled cheese eventually came ...was comped... and all survived. We visit frequently despite the mediocre service because we enjoy the casual atmosphere.  

As a restaurant owner, you may think "That just doesn't happen at my place - my servers are better trained than that.  We pride ourselves in good service."  But in reality, I'll bet most casual dining establishments leave some of their customers waiting at all the wrong times, and in doing so not only are they impacting customer satisfaction, they are leaving money on the table.  When I think about how many extra beers I may have ordered over the years if my server was just there at the right time . . .

That's why the newest trend in self serve ordering makes so much sense for casual dining establishments. Customers are used to do-it-yourself technology.  From airline check-in to supermarket check-out, self service puts customers in control.  In fact, in a recent NCR survey, 77% of customers said they wished for more self-service technology in physical stores.  Most of your customers have ordered from a restaurant online - and enjoyed the experience.  So why not give them that same power and control over their dining experience inside the restaurant?

A self-serve ordering kiosk at the counter or even on every table gives customers the chance to access the menu at any time, ordering what they want, when they want it.  They can browse the offerings without feeling rushed, and they can select specific options they want - without the intermediate communication through a harried server.  

What's more, pictures, graphics and descriptions are not limited to the space on your printed menu.  Pictures help you sell more food, and detailed information about every item can satisfy your customers' thirst for knowledge, nutrition details, origin stories, etc.   Technology can provide suggestions and recommendations as reliably or more so than your best server. 

So are we advocating the end of waitservice as we know it? Of course not - your staff will still be needed to provide a friendly human touch, focusing on making the food as good as it can be and ensuring your guests are satisfied.  But when you can have a full-time order taking machine, powered by your customers, for the monthly cost of just one or two shifts, why not add this option?  I'll just bet that all that extra beer I buy will pay for it!

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Tags: app, ipad, ordering, self, service, technology

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