By: Sam Darwish, CEO of Fireracker

Although most of us are familiar with the types of devices we plug into our cars and add to our homes, there stands a gaping opportunity for restaurants to implement plug-and-play (PnP) technologies. Looking forward, PnP technologies can benefit restaurants by incorporating digital metrics, improving customer interaction and easily integrating within operations, which results in overall savings and efficiencies.

Benefit #1: Digital Metrics

As technology becomes more advanced, so do the features that track metrics and collect data. This information is useful for restaurants in many ways, but ultimately leads to better decision making. Data paints a picture of consumer and industry tendencies with factual information and hard numbers, giving restaurants insight into recurring trends or areas of improvement.

There are new and improved PnP devices available to track certain aspects of a restaurant, such as tablets, apps and industrial IoT devices.

Tablets are familiar technology, so installing software to use them as Point of Sale (POS) terminals, table-top infotainment or ordering systems makes them ideal for PnP applications. At the same time, tablets can monitor metrics, such as frequency of items ordered, customer surveys, average ticket times and table turnover rates. All of these metrics can aid in determining inefficiencies or improvements, and are accessible from a single device or remote cloud data storage system.

Apps are simple PnP technologies that restaurants can use as customer pagers, ordering portals and for loyalty programs. Typical electronic restaurant pagers can be expensive and tend to get lost or stolen, whereas PnP apps can be directly downloaded to customers’ devices with an unlimited notification range that also measures wait time and foot traffic metrics. Customers can use apps to order at the table or for takeout, as well as participate in mobile reward programs. This allows restaurants to record metrics, like in-dining to takeout ratios, item popularity, rate of reward points accumulated and frequently used discounts in order to fine-tune processes and menus.

Industrial IoT devices are the newest of the PnP technologies because their benefits are only now being realized and budgets for advanced hardware are being considered. These technologies include ovens, deep fryers, refrigerators, and heating/cooling equipment with sensors and network connectivity. These PnP features on standard restaurant equipment allow staff to monitor temperature, power consumption, and peak performance trends that can be tracked and analyzed to save time and money.

Benefit #2: Customer Interaction

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Connected customers have certain digital expectations wherever they go, which range from free Wi-Fi to online menus at restaurants. PnP technologies can assist with meeting these digital expectations and benefit restaurants by improving overall customer interaction and satisfaction.

Aside from tracking and analyzing metrics, tablets can also be used to directly interact with customers. Many restaurant chains are beginning to adopt these as table-top infotainment devices. These tablets allow guests to engage with news for conversation topics, play games, watch movie trailers for late night plans, and even take service and quality surveys. Additionally, these devices can draw in families with children who are interested in playing games at the table. This allows for the party to remain at the restaurant longer since the children are entertained, which can increase ticket prices. On the other hand, tablets can also be configured so guests can order and pay at the same terminal to expedite the process if they are in a rush, which can also benefit the restaurant as tables are turned over quicker.

Tablet technology is also reinventing the wait in restaurants. By offering tablets to patrons while they wait, it gives them a reason to stay while they browse the menu and even place orders before being seated. This provides a window for guests to find options they weren’t aware of and add to their ticket total.

Digital signage is another growing tool in the restaurant industry. These displays offer many benefits for restaurants and their customers, but primarily with entertainment and advertising. Numerous restaurants use PnP digital signage to enhance branding by showing tailored content or by having rotating ads next to a TV broadcast. These signs also provide the opportunity to showcase new menu items or upcoming in-store events and promotions to encourage guests to return. Several restaurant chains even use digital signage for unique concepts, like hosting trivia games and highlighting calorie counts to engage with guests.

Benefit #3: Easy Integration

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By definition, PnP technologies are devices that only need to be plugged in to begin playing and performing. Due to the simple nature of PnP technology integration, it provides restaurants ample flexibility with time and resources.

Training staff with new technology and systems can be time consuming and take a while to perfect, which could influence guests if mistakes occur or service is not ideal. PnP technology cuts down on employee education and training because it is designed to be easily implemented and integrated with established systems and devices. For instance, installing a PnP POS system would only require staff to familiarize themselves with the button layout as they are already familiar with the menu and a payment process already in place at the restaurant.

The same benefits can also be applied to the installation process of PnP technology. These devices do not require ripping up the foundation or rewiring the walls for proper performance. If the software cannot be uploaded to a mobile device and integrated into the restaurant, then installation may require a device to be plugged in or an appliance be removed and replaced. This eliminates closing the restaurant during business hours or having an IT team come in to rewire and reprogram all of the network systems.

The Future of PnP in Restaurants

PnP technology has grown past its infancy, and is now in an adolescent stage as society continues to plug new technologies into established environments. In terms of restaurants, PnP is still a new and growing concept that offers many opportunities to capture meaningful and actionable metrics, improve customers’ experience and engagement, and implement without major investments. These opportunities result in restaurants saving time and money, refining customer relations and loyalty, and improving inefficiencies to allow for future growth.

 

About Sam Darwish

Sam Darwish is the CEO and co-founder of Fireracker. Based in Frisco, Texas, Fireracker provides small- to medium-sized businesses with comprehensive technology solutions not normally available at the smaller scale. The company offers affordable hardware with no minimum requirements, as well as immediate remote and on-site support for SMBs throughout the U.S. Fireracker also offers consultation services for SMBs to educate them on technology-related issues, and serves as a resource for recommending solutions that will enhance the business. For more information, visit www.fireracker.com.