Using APIs in restaurants

Technology sits at the heart of most businesses but, in the past, the ability to connect disparate systems in order to improve productivity and efficiencies was either incredibly complex or completely non-existent.

Now, we have lovely things called APIs. These technological marvels have opened up a whole new world for restaurants when it comes to joining the dots and creating a technical infrastructure that is not only coherent but which has real business benefits.

In this post, we’re going to look at how restaurants can use APIs to improve their efficiencies. But first…

What on earth is an ‘API’?

API stands for ‘application programming interface’. But we appreciate that will still mean very little to anyone who isn’t a programmer.

Think of it like this – if you need to connect two pieces of software together, they’ll have to talk the same language. For example, in a sales department, you may have a website that generates leads and an in-house application that enables the sales people to pick up the leads as they come in. An API would enable the website to send such leads directly into the in-house database so that all the salespeople have to do is view the contact details and pick up the phone. No manual entry required.

The most common use of APIs in hospitality can be found in hotels, where residents’ food and drinks bills generated in the restaurant can be posted to room invoices. When the operator presses ‘post’ on their till, an API will pull the necessary levers to transfer the items from the till system to the hotel booking system. Again, no manual or duplicate entry required.

How restaurants can use APIs

We think there are 4 APIs restaurants can take advantage of.

1. Social media

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook play a huge role in the restaurant industry, and they all offer very useful APIs. Whether you want to give guests the ability to tweet the reservation they’ve just made or ‘like’ your Facebook business page without ever leaving your website, an API will do the hard work for you.

2. Customer service

Chat bots are expected to be the future of customer service, but restauranteurs would do well to investigate their suitability now.

A chat bot is essentially a piece of software that is capable of having natural conversations with real human beings. Facebook have started integrating them into their Messages app and are now allowing businesses to use them in order to deliver a customer service experience that is instantly familiar for modern consumers.

By clicking a link on the restaurant’s website, the customer can instigate a conversation with a chat bot in an app they use daily (Messenger) and ask it questions. “What time do you close?”, “Do you have a vegan menu?” and “Are there any tables free tonight?” are examples of questions chat bots are more than capable of answering.

And, you guessed it – this is all possible thanks to APIs.

3. Loyalty

Loyalty programs are great ways to tempt people back to your restaurant and create a network of diners who gradually become advocates of your brand.

There are a significant number of loyalty systems on the market that offer brilliant APIs for delivering loyalty program benefits to customers via smartphone apps and bluetooth beacons. Expect to hear more about this nascent technology soon.

4. Payments

Spotted people paying for their groceries by tapping their smartphone on a Chip and Pin machine? If the answer is “yes”, you’ve seen a payment API in action.

Payment integrations are perhaps the most widely adopted APIs in the restaurant trade, and for good reason; such interfaces ensure that people can settle their bills quickly via whatever means they prefer, keeping queues to a minimum and avoiding any embarrassing instances of “I’m afraid we don’t accept that method of payment here, sir.”

If you operate in the UK and have a modern Chip and Pin setup – good news: you should be ready for the new wave of contactless payment systems arriving on smartphones and watches.

Wrapping up

Exciting, isn’t it? The possibilities restaurateurs now have to run a seamless, highly-efficient operation thanks to the use of APIs and connected software are as wide as they are inventive.

Have we missed anything? If you have put APIs to good use in your restaurant, share your experiences in the comments section below.

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