How Operators Will Use New Tech in the Near Future

This is how reservations may be made in the near future. Image: Rost-9D / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Fifty percent of all searches will be of the voice variety by next year. Consumers have bought into Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and other voice search services.

Put another way, people have added the perceived convenience of voice search to their daily routines.

Today’s consumer craves the convenience advancements in technology can offer them. Research conducted by SevenRooms can help operators predict what near-future tech they should expect to integrate into their businesses.

Before we dive into the numbers, a word of caution regarding jumping onto the “next big” tech development from the CEO of SevenRooms, Joel Montaniel: “It’s clear that diners want the conveniences that advanced technology offers, but need it to be implemented in a way that complements, rather than overwhelms, the dining experience.”

Be Selective

In other words, don’t add every bit of tech-based kit or integrate every tech-driven service that comes along. Operators need to do understand their guests, understand their brands, research new tech thoroughly, and ask a few important questions:

  • Will this enhance operations?
  • Will this enhance the guest experience?
  • Will this help or hinder my team?
  • Does this make sense for this concept?
  • What’s the cost for implementing this, including learning curve?

As regular Nightclub & Bar contributor Amanda Baltazar said in her article published yesterday, “Millennials are used to requesting exactly what they want to eat—and getting it.” Personalization has become the norm, not just for Millennials but bar and restaurant guests in every age group.

Check this out: Augmented Reality Will Soon be the Industry Standard. Are You Ready?

Tech makes that personalization possible. However, a recent report from SevenRooms explains that most consumers want tech enhancements to mostly be imperceptible. Operators are forced to find ways to implement tech-drive operational and experiential augmentations in ways that are noticeable to younger guests but not off-putting to those who are older.

The New Start of the Guest Experience

Guest expectations are evolving with every technological advancement to which they’re exposed. Some of these evolutions—voice search and augmented reality—affect operators before guests even arrive.

SevenRooms found that 10 percent of Americans would use a voice-powered assistant (Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa) to research a restaurant. Six percent would research a restaurant through use of an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot. Social media, however, dominates search: 26 percent of Americans would use it for restaurant research.

Both voice search and AI-driven chatbots are obvious evolutions of standard online searches. It makes sense that someone who has added voice search to their everyday life would use it to make a decision about a bar, restaurant, nightclub or other hospitality venue.

But what if we take it a step further? It’s possible that in the near future, guests will make judgment calls about a bar or restaurant’s atmosphere before every stepping into it physically. Seven percent of Americans, according to SevenRooms, would use a virtual or augmented reality device to “look” around a venue before booking a reservation.

Check this out: Future Technology: Collecting & Using Guest Data Effectively

Potential guests seeking out specific amenities or design elements could make a decision for or against a concept based on a virtual tour. Such a service has been standard in real estate for years. What if operators have the option to allow real-time VR/AR tours? How will that impact traffic? Such a development could create FOMO and drive people through the doors. Or, perceived low energy could keep people home.

Rise of the Robots?

Robots are another development that have already made their way into restaurants. Penny by Bear Robotics can deliver food and drink orders, and it can also provide bussing services. Makr Shakr manufactures robot arms that can make cocktails. BarSys makes drinks that guests order via their phones. Flippy is a robot arm that can flip burgers and make fries and other foods.

While SevenRooms cautions that many guests—the majority—prefer tech advancements to be implemented subtly, five percent of Americans would want the option of robot waiters. If such machines can prove competent and profitable, that percentage could grow.

Enhanced Guest Personalization

The most compelling finding may be how reservations will be made and confirmed in the future. According to SevenRooms, 11 percent of Americans indicated they would book or confirm reservations by thumbprint on their smartphones. That tech advancement would be speedy and convenient: open an app; select the desired bar, nightclub or restaurant; select a date and time; and book with a quick press of the thumb. The whole process could be tied to specific smartphone apps and take mere seconds.

At this point in this article, hypothetical guests have conducted voice-driven venue recon, possibly taken a quick look inside using VR or AR, and made a reservation with their thumb. The guest experience has started hours or days before they’ve physically walked through a bar or restaurant’s doors. How will tech play a role in the enhancing guest visits?

According to SevenRooms, just over half—51 percent—of Americans would like their server to remember them from previous visits. Allison Page, founder and chief product officer of SevenRooms, went through a brief history of guest data collection earlier this year:

  • Operators just remembered facts about their guests.
  • Operators wrote facts about guests down on paper.
  • Operators created spreadsheets and used other non-integrated systems to log guest data.
  • Integrated systems like SevenRooms are now used to collect hundreds of guest datapoints.

An integrated system that can deliver useful guest information during a visit is a huge operator advantage. But guests aren’t big fans of tech being in their face during a bar, restaurant or nightclub visit. That goes for managers looking down at tablets or other mobile devices rather than engaging with guests.

One solution to that is a wearable, smart optic system. Such a device would look like regular eyeglasses but could stream data only visible to the wearer. So, a manager could receive real-time restaurant data along with guest data just by looking around the dining room.

That’s just one tech advancement that can enhance an operation and the guest experience. Focusing again on the guest, a simple but powerful development linked to the convenience of thumbprint smartphone booking could increase repeat visits. One quarter of Americans want a way to request a particular server, one who knows what food, drink and table they prefer.

Check this out: Eatertainment is the New Nightclub: How Guests are Changing Nightlife

If today’s guest continues to have their every whim catered to, the idea of custom menus becomes viable. SevenRooms has learned that 20 percent of Americans would make a reservation—possibly via thumbprint—at a restaurant willing and able to create a personalized menu based on their preferences.

Know Your Guests

Data collected by SevenRooms indicates that those aged 18 to 34 years (Millennials) and those aged 55 and older (Baby Boomers) are vastly different when it comes to openness to new tech.

  • 12 percent of Millennials are more interested in using VR/AR to research a restaurant, compared to 3 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • 13 percent of Millennials want to use social media to make a reservation at a restaurant, compared to 4 percent Baby Boomers.
  • 19 percent of Millennials want card-less restaurant payment options, compared to 6 percent Baby Boomers.
  • 16 percent of Millennials are likely to be persuaded by smart tech capabilities to make a reservation at a specific restaurant, compared to 3 percent Baby Boomers.

Some of these smart advancements are already here, some are on their way. The key to navigating these developments is for operators to understand their demographics and make intelligent choices. When trying to attract the next generation of guests, it’s wise to avoid alienating those who are older with confusing techmology.


Diners of the Future: 2018 Restaurant Industry Report, SevenRooms, 2019

Download the full report for yourself here.

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