The restaurant industry is constantly evolving, but keeping up with it as an independent operator is incredibly challenging.
The new wave of restaurant tech and constantly changing guest habits (both in-house and online) means restaurants have to continually pivot their operation and come up with ever more inventive ways to stay ahead of the competition.
If you’re a traditional restauranteur, the thought of learning from the fast-food industry might feel a little inappropriate, but we think there are a few emerging trends in that sector that will provide some inspiration for your own business.
Here’s what we expect to see in 2018 when it comes to fast-food:
Automation will take off
Fast-food kiosks have had something of a troubled upbringing, but it looks like they’re finally here to stay.
What’s more, experts believe that self-serve kiosks will be a common fixture not just in fast-food outlets but also within traditional restaurants over the next few years.
This is automation at work, and it doesn’t necessarily mean the great, big ordering units you’re met with in most McDonald’s venues these days, either. Ordering at the table can also be ‘kiosk-ified’ with discreet touchscreen units built directly into the table that enable diners to order their meals without human intervention from staff.
And that doesn’t mean an end to waiting staff in traditional restaurants, because that level of service will forever differentiate them from fast-food outlets. However, the more automation you can offer your diners, the happier they’re likely to be.
A key difference between fast-food outlets and traditional restaurants has been the way in which bills are settled. The former is very much a ‘pay-at-the-till’ affair, while the latter is usually a little more relaxed, with the bill arriving – hand-delivered – once the diners have decided to call time on their experience.
Now, pay-in-advance is expected to fundamentally change how fast-food is ordered and paid for – and your business might benefit from it, too.
Thanks to the explosion of mobile apps that enable online ordering from the palm of your hand, diners are becoming accustomed to paying before they even enter the establishment. You simply order your food on a smartphone, pay there and then, and head to the restaurant to collect your order.
If you’re considering offering takeaway or food delivery from your restaurant, pay-in-advance is a must and offers the added benefit of ensuring rogue diners aren’t able to leave without settling the bill.
Super-fast payment methods
Contactless payments are now commonplace in the UK. Known as ‘NFC’ (near-field communication), it enables people to simply tap their credit card, smartphone or smartwatch on a Chip and Pin terminal to settle the balance.
It’s a super-fast, convenient way of paying for stuff, which is why it hasn’t taken much encouragement to tempt people away from cash payments.
If you’re not already offering contactless payments in your restaurant, you need to get tooled up ASAP, but also be mindful of other payment methods such as pay-in-advance (see above) and apps that enable people to securely store their card details for quick future ordering and payment (such as Apple Pay).
There are no losers here, either; customers can pay quicker and you can reduce the time taken to settle bills either at the table or bar.
Don’t ignore the fast-food industry if you’re a traditional restauranteur; it has long been the breeding ground for countless technological and service-based innovations that eventually achieve mass-adoption.
Which fast-food industry trends are you most excited about?