OPINION: Restaurants are missing a trick when it comes to knowing their business and customers better

It is pretty much universally accepted that in retail, technology is king. The introduction of systems which go way beyond traditional Epos – linking point of sale data through to automatically updated inventory records, creating procurement flags and identifying best-selling items, for example – have given technology-savvy retailers the edge, but is the hospitality industry lagging behind, asks John Trueman, CEO of Quadranet?

It is no secret that larger retailers monitor and analyse customer buying habits, mining terabytes of customer data to arrive at the most targeted advertising, special offers and upsell opportunities while customers are in store.

Do your grocery shop online, and you will likely be reminded of your ‘favourite’ items, the two-for-one deals you might be interested in, and what you may have forgotten before you checkout. Every transaction, habit and preference, every piece of data possible, all leveraged to provide the slickest shopping experience possible and, ultimately, increase revenue. 

Book a table at your favourite restaurant chain, however, and it is a very different story. How often does the waiter already know which ‘slightly more expensive than your usual’ bottle of wine you will probably like, let alone that you are gluten intolerant?

When it comes to point of sale, I think the hospitality sector is missing a trick, and it is time it caught up. Knowing when you need to order in more sirloin, or which bottle of wine is selling best, is no longer enough: restaurants need not only to be kept full, but to maximise spend per head and, perhaps above all, aim to provide their guests with the perfect dining experience, every time.

There are more advanced Epos systems available, some of which are integrated with the booking system at one end and the kitchen and inventory systems at the other, meaning restaurants can now manage front and back-of-house to improve guests’ experience and maximise revenue for the restaurant – and it’s vital that they do, in such uncertain times for the hospitality sector.

Pulling information from the reservations system through to the Epos system, such as advance notice of dietary requirements, allergies and intolerances, or even that the guest tried to book in at 7pm but only 8pm was available, is essential in providing a slick and welcoming experience to diners.

Some advanced Epos systems are integrated with the booking system at one end and the kitchen and inventory systems at the other

Waiters should then be equipped with the information they need to continue that experience, gently maximising spend per head: which dishes the customer might enjoy, why the slightly more expensive wine might better accompany their order, and suggestions on side orders and desserts.

GDPR hurdles notwithstanding, customers’ buying habits can be used, in hospitality just as in retail, to market appropriately to each individual customer, whether at point of sale or long before.

As retailers already know, embracing this sort of technology will serve to enhance the experience of the customer and increase spend per head at the establishment.

There is a balance to strike between simplicity and functionality, and a hotel restaurant is going to have different requirements to a fast food joint, so it is important that Epos solutions are bespoke – there is no one-size-fits-all solution in our industry.

What is clear, however, is that it is time for the hospitality industry to embrace the kind of technology that has transformed retail, or risk falling behind.

 John Trueman is CEO of renowned in-house hospitality guest management system, Quadranet.

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