Check, Please! IoT and Restaurant Diner Relations

Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 5:00:00 AM David Weber  
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In the cutthroat restaurant business, the customer is king (or queen), a fact proving especially true in the age of social media where bad service can go viral instantly. But attracting and, ultimately, keeping loyal diners is harder than it has ever been. This is where IoT innovations can play a big part.

Attracting customers

IoT solutions enable restaurants to employ a variety of methods to attract diners, including some that simply weren’t possible before.

To encourage immediate drop-in dining, storefront devices can send limited-time special offers (“discount valid for the next five minutes”) to the smart phones of people walking by. Offers can be customized based on time of day, lull periods, weather conditions, size of party detected, accidental overstaffing, or any number of factors. Specials can get even more granular depending on device implementation. For example, devices could access a potential customer’s public Facebook food preferences and instantly create an offer based on those criteria.

There are even more creative ways to attract customers not in the immediate vicinity. Advertising and social media campaigns would ask for a diner’s cell number, plus preferences, in return for discounts. The restaurant then could offer highly specific deals to fill tables during slow times or during a sporting/concert event. If a diner is close by, the system can send an offer to fill a table that just opened up due to a canceled reservation. Custom meals can be developed via ‘crowdsourcing’ efforts—the system detects a group of diners, related or unrelated, have a combined interest in a cuisine or dish, and the restaurant can oblige. Likewise, if the restaurant over-ordered a specific ingredient or an ingredient was about to spoil in a few days, an “enjoy your favorite dish featuring XXX” offer could be generated.  

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Eating establishments also can ‘unattract’ customers if there is a staff shortage or other emergency, such as a broken stove. Diners with reservations would be offered a free dessert or appetizer for a future meal if they rebook—before they even left home. Or, if they choose to keep the reservation, would be offered some other incentive. Strange as it sounds, this builds customer loyalty as diners value a restaurant being honest with them rather than having to endure a “when is our food coming?” scenario.

The possibilities are endless, limited only by resources and imagination.  

The dining experience

IoT also redefines the dining experience, creating memorable moments for even the most mundane meal. Once diners book a reservation, their information is entered in the system, including any special requests. Upon arrival, the system sends a notification stating the table is ready or exactly how long the wait will be. If the wait is longer than a preset time (say 30 minutes), the system automatically can offer a free drink or appetizer as compensation. In the meantime, the table is prepared to the diners’ exact specifications, including extras such as child booster seats, wine, bottled water, gluten-free rolls, or any number of other options. In fact, the entire meal can be ‘automatic’ if every course is chosen prior to arrival.

IoT technology dramatically improves service levels, too. Since detailed information on diners is collected, each guest is treated as an individual that the wait staff ‘knows’ already. This is similar to service received on a first-class airline flight. Each table is monitored based on arrival times, food/drinks ordered, and other factors. Alerts are sent when preset times for any given diner action are reached. For example, five minutes after taking a drink order, an alert would notify staff to take a food order if they hadn’t already. Other alerts generated could include table check-in reminders, unexpected kitchen issues (food is late or unavailable), upsell reminders, diners’ pre-selected requests/dietary restrictions, and more.    

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Combined, all these initiatives are a win-win situation for everyone involved. Diners always enjoy a top-flight eating experience, regardless of the type of restaurant, and often save money as well. Wait staff and management are able to deliver superior customer service more efficiently, and can handle unexpected emergencies without compromising the restaurant’s reputation or viability. Best of all, the majority of the ‘magic’ happens behind the scenes—the restaurant essentially operates as it always has, only better.

For more information on how to improve the dining experience, contact Aeris today.

Topics: IoT, Restaurants, dining experience, food services