Hot Tech Trends at the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo

Yes, there were tasty treats. But our team is all about that tech!

We were very excited to chat with everyone who stopped by our booth during the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo. It was held from August 19th – 21st at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown LA.

Let’s take a look at some of the hot trends people were discussing at the show.

Big Data & Data Analytics

In some of our previous blog posts, we’ve talked about how big data is changing how owners and operators look at data and the impact it can make on your business.

Having aggregated data helps you see overall trends in your business and the industry. Detailed guest tracking and CRM let you keep tabs on your most important regulars and their habits.

We showcased GuestChex our complete guest CRM at the show. This package includes FOCUSGift, FOCUSRewards, and FOCUSAnalytics to give you a complete overview of your guest’s spending trends.

Pay at the Table

As the industry struggles to figure out where technology fits in at dining room tables, it’s important to note this is a trend that is growing and saving lots of precious time for staff.

At the show, we displayed multiple types of pay at the table devices, from table kiosks to server tablets and simple digital check presenters. Our team talked about all the different ways you can conquer payments at the table.

Cloud-Based Managment

You need to be able to manage your business from wherever you may be, not just at your store locations.

We debuted MyFocus Backoffice the cloud-based management tool from FOCUS. Edit menus, time cards, employees and more from one web portal for all your locations.

3 Obvious Reasons to Focus on Customer Retention and Loyalty

Repeat customers are a good thing, obviously. That’s why many restaurants invest time and resources into cultivating customer retention and loyalty as a part of their larger business strategy. Methods vary from offering a loyalty card program where diners earn points or rewards to using social media to connect with fans and acknowledge brand champions. There are three main, and probably obvious, reasons why you should be incorporating this strategy too.

Obvious Reason #1 — Regulars are Your Best Brand Advocates

Customer retention and loyalty are worthwhile focus areas whether you are just getting ready to open your doors or if you’ve been cooking up good eats in your neighborhood for 50 years.

This is where a comprehensive loyalty program comes in. Customers are highly motivated to return to restaurants where they have a vested interest, that is, in addition to a delicious meal or your great atmosphere. Loyalty rewards, carefully  selected to be irresistible to your customers, can bring guests back and make their dining experiences more delightful. These happy patrons are the ones that are in the trenches, talking to their friends and family and becoming your biggest brand advocates. Their reach is exponential and their recommendations matter.

Obvious Reason #2 — Your Marketing will be More Effective

Another obvious reason to focus on customer retention and loyalty is because it will make your advertising, social media and promotional efforts infinitely more effective. The audience demographic information alone like, address, email, birth dates, and dining history alone is worth its weight in gold, allowing you to tailor messaging and promotions at the right time to the right people. A good loyalty program solution will offer integrated marketing services and give you the ability to push promotions directly to your most loyal customers through email, social media or text message.

Obvious Reason #3 — Loyalty Programs are Low Maintenance and Low CosteMarketer Loyalty Program

Exceptional customer service and consistently great food are the foundation for inspiring repeat visits to your establishment. However, a little recognition and reward, like a loyalty program, goes a long way in building customer retention and loyalty. That’s why loyalty programs are popping up everywhere…and why they are working.

eMarketer featured research from Lab42 that focused on Gen Z and millennial motivators. They found 73% of millennials factored in loyalty programs when it came to choosing where to spend their money.

Compared to traditional advertising venues like radio or television, loyalty programs are on the low end of the spectrum for cost and they are very low maintenance. Most integrate directly into your point of sale system and are essentially hands off once they are implemented and your staff is trained on how to handle the cards.

Don’t Miss the Loyalty Reward Program Boat

It should be obvious that you need to step up your game to stay competitive.  If  you are looking to revamp the customer retention and loyalty strategy at your quick or table service restaurant, bar or nightclub, then it is a good time to talk with us about our FOCUS loyalty program.

3 Restaurant Technologies that Make an Impact at Your Table Service or Quick Service Restaurant

3 Restaurant Technologies that Make an Impact at Your Table Service or Quick Service Restaurant

Restaurant technologies are all about streamlining processes, increasing sales and most importantly, improving the dining in—or out as it may be—experience at your table service or quick service restaurant. The three restaurant technologies that we see having the biggest impact on restaurant operations are mobile reporting, online ordering and integrated loyalty and rewards programs.

1. Mobile Reporting

Mobile reporting is a restaurant technology that is starting to come standard with many restaurant point of sale software options on the market.  Maybe the ability to access your restaurant’s reports and data doesn’t seem like a game changer but it definitely is.

Being able to access food and beverage sales numbers, table turnover times, and average ticket times from a mobile app gives managers freedom and more importantly, real-time visibility. This is especially vital for managers or owners that need to bounce between locations or can’t be onsite all the time.

2. Online Ordering

An online ordering portal opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for quick service and table service establishments and is one of the main restaurant technologies to consider adopting if you haven’t already. Millennials and now even Gen Z, who incidentally spent $78 billion on dining out in 2016 according to a report by Technomic, are driving the trend for restaurants to offer more delivery and take out options that can be ordered ahead of time from their laptop or phone. They want to eat whenever and wherever they want.

The upside for you is that orders submitted online can totally bypass a server and go directly to your point of sale system and into production. Third-party ordering apps like ToGo  are making this kind of integration possible.

3. Integrated Loyalty and Rewards Program

Restaurant technologies that support loyalty and rewards programs integrate with your point of sale system fairly simply. You can participate in standalone programs that essentially plug into your current POS software or your point of sale service provider may offer a program you can enroll in.

Either way, implementing and maintaining a rewards program is easier than it’s ever been, and they usually offer added marketing components like list segmentation and demographic reports, email and social marketing aspects—and some even loop gift cards into the same system so you have one central location from which to generate and manage all your cards.

Some of the many benefits of investing in a loyalty or rewards program for your restaurant are:

  • Creating repeat customers
  • Offering targeted promotions and coupons
  • Using data analytics to refine your marketing strategy

If you are at the point where your table service or quick service restaurant is ready to invest in new restaurant technologies like mobile reporting, online ordering or a rewards program, make an appointment to talk with a Focus POS California expert to discuss exactly how easy it is to implement a time-saving and revenue-generating restaurant technology.  

Tackle Restaurant Labor Costs Like a Boss

As an owner or operator in the food service industry it is a constant struggle to control restaurant labor costs and maintain a growing revenue stream. Traditional methods of labor management are not as effective in this age of instant consumer gratification.

What’s a restaurateur to do? Consider asking yourself these questions to see if your establishment could benefit from adopting newer, more efficient means of increasing profits and keeping your customers and employees happy.

  • Are my labor scheduling and communication practices effective?
  • Are we “behind the times” in utilizing the latest technology for the business?
  • How else can I increase profits and keep restaurant labor costs down?

Optimize Labor Efficiency

Time cards, paper scheduling, and staff memorandums are all antiquated practices.  They can lead to manual mistakes, over or understaffing, and employee miscommunication.  Restaurant operators should start making shift management a priority.

Finding a way to make it easier for employees to have a say in their schedules is a great way to keep them happier and more engaged in their work.  Looking into automated systems that help streamline communication between managers and staff these methods is a step in the right direction!

There are software systems that can integrate with technology that your employees use every day.  With smartphones, they can access work schedules, emails and important company announcements that help keep the lines of communication open and consistent!

Utilize Modern Technology

Today’s technology is more affordable and readily available to businesses to help curb restaurant labor costs. Here are some examples to consider:

  • Online Ordering Services: Allowing guests to order online or from their smartphone is like having an extra employee without the additional labor costs.
  • Self-Ordering Kiosks: Guests can order food and then sit down—no lines and enhanced order accuracy!
  • Tabletop E-Waiters and Checkout: Tablet POS credit card checkout reduces table turn times, allows guests to pay when they’re ready and frees up tables for the next guest.
  • Online Coupons: Get the right offer to customers at the right time — 58% of diners already use them— guest reward features encourage patrons to visit time and time again.
  • Digital Customer Communication: Get in front of your customers by leveraging rewards programs that offer text message, or app notifications.

Using modern technology can help ease the stress of staff, allowing them to focus on the job of creating a satisfying customer experience.  Customers also benefit by not waiting in long lines, having their food order arrive exactly how they wanted.

Make Use of Collected Customer Data

Using the above-mentioned technology also has a huge advantage in reducing restaurant labor costs.  It collects important consumer data about your customers.  Knowing who they are, what they order and when they order is vital information! It can help you optimize your staffing needs, food stock, and menu options to increase sales.

You can beat rising labor costs and be the boss of rising profits by implementing these techniques in your restaurant.

Contact Focus POS California about exciting new innovations in Guest Rewards.

5 Ways to Harness the Power of Social Media to Create Customer Loyalty in Your Restaurant

Restaurant owners have a head start in the world of social media. Customers already expect you to have a presence and to engage with them there so you don’t have to fight as hard as other industries to gain followers. Creating loyal customers, though, takes some thought and a bit of tactical maneuvering. If done well, using social media can be an easy and low-cost way to gain customer loyalty.

1)  Social Only Offers

Probably the best way to gain and retain the loyalty of your patrons on social media outlets is to offer exclusive offers they can’t get anywhere else. Make it one of the perks of following you. These types of offers often get great share traction, too, as followers share deals with their own social network.

2)  Event Promotion

Making your social outlets a hub for announcing and advertising upcoming events like live music, drink specials, or charity nights is a great use of the medium. Consistently use your accounts, and you will create loyal customers who regularly check your pages and feeds for information about what’s happening at your restaurant.

3)  Contests and Giveaways

Peppering in a few surprise contests or giveaways keeps followers on their toes and checking back with you frequently. Don’t give away anything without asking for a share or a comment though — this will help organically boost your post.

4)  Invite Customer Engagement

It might seem scary to ask your followers to engage with you, but in the end, the reason most people are on social media in the first place is to interact. Ask for feedback on a new menu item, or encourage people to share selfies at your restaurant. Then, make sure you thank them and comment on their posts as well.

5)  Handle Complaints Like a Pro

Creating customer loyalty in a virtual space can sometimes be tricky. After you invite engagement and put yourself out there on social media you should be prepared to handle negative comments and complaints. Remember that everyone can see your responses so it’s vitally important to conduct this type of customer service in a highly professional and polite manner. Here are a few quick tips for handling unhappy campers:

  •    Always be polite and remain calm.
  •    Take the high road in any mud-slinging.
  •    Don’t make excuses, but instead offer resolutions.
  •    Apologize for bad customer experiences and any inconvenience.
  •    Invite them to private message you to resolve the issue.

Customer Loyalty is Earned

There are many things competing for your customer’s attention, especially on social media so you are going to have to earn your spot among the noise and make it through the priority filters. However, if you become a valuable social media resource and learn to harness its power, you will go a long way in creating customer loyalty for your establishment.

How to Upsell to Increase Your Check Averages

As a restaurant owner or manager you are in a constant state of strategizing, trying to move the numbers — like getting costs down and revenue up. One of the first places you can look for improvement is in your average check amount. Small bumps in this area can add up quickly in a week. Learning how to upsell to your patrons is a low-cost endeavor that highly profitable restaurants, regardless of size, have learned to do effectively to increase average checks.

Turn Servers into Salespeople
Your staff, the waiters, bar keeps, hostesses, and cashiers all need to be salespeople. As the manager you set the tone and your goal should be to make the sales-mindset an automatic response. We’re not talking the pushy, in your face salesperson. No one wants that during a dining experience, but you do want upselling to be an integral part of customer interactions.

When teaching your staff how to upsell, give them specific items to focus on for the shift, make sure they are ready to recommend favorite dishes and drinks, and have them plant seeds from the start like mentioning dessert selections while taking drink orders.

Use the Menu for Pairing Ideas
Adding pairing suggestions to your menu is a subtle but effective tactic. Think beyond the wine list. You can suggest a specific side salad or appetizer that pairs well with each entree. By adding callouts and creative messages on your menu, you can steer your customers towards additional purchases while they’re still deciding what to order.  

Quick Service and Fast Casual operations can also upsell to their guests. While employee based upsells have been the mainstay of the QS & FC space for years, technology such as guest facing digital signage and POS-integrated interactive displays provides visual suggestions to guests.

Don’t Forget Online Orders
When brainstorming ideas on how to upsell to your customers make sure you consider online orders. Use technology to your advantage and list complementary food items and add-ons throughout the order process, especially right before check out. You are just a click away from nudging that average check up a few clicks.

Highlight Promotions
Daily specials and promotions are great motivators for customers to justify a more expensive meal or an excuse to have a beverage from the bar that they would have normally passed on. Not to mention, specials and promotions give your staff a great way to open up conversation, either at the table or when taking a take out order.

Make Upselling a Part of Your Culture
How to upsell is not a big mystery, but it does take effort and a little forethought to make it part of your restaurant culture, whether fine dining or quick service. Training your employees to upsell, updating your menus to include suggestions, and offering specials are all cost effective ways to get your check averages up and ultimately increase your profits.