Today’s restaurants use technology tools for all kinds of things: To provide a better customer experience, to lower their costs, to streamline their operations, and much more. Restaurant technology trends have only gained steam during the COVID-19 pandemic when restaurants that were forced to shut down their dining rooms turned to technology to help them stay afloat.
But even as restaurants reopen, the rapid digital transformation of the restaurant industry is likely to continue.
Just as consumers use technology in other areas of their lives—self-checkout lanes and tap-to-pay card readers, for example—they’ll expect to use technology more when they go out to eat.
That’s why it’s vital for restaurants to stay on top of technology trends. If you aren’t adapting to the digital age, you may be falling behind your competition.
Biggest Restaurant Technology Trends in 2021
The good news about restaurant technology trends is that they tend to follow closely with other, more general trends in the industry. None of these trends should be completely unfamiliar to modern restaurant owners and managers, but they show how restaurant workers are increasingly turning to technology tools to make their lives and jobs easier.
These are some of the biggest restaurant technology trends you need to know about in 2021.
Technology that Reduces Food Waste
More and more of today’s consumers are consciously choosing to support businesses that strive to have a positive environmental impact. With technology like predictive order management software, restaurants are now able to better anticipate guest demand for certain products and dishes and reduce waste.
This comes with the added benefit of helping restaurants reduce their operating costs—food waste is estimated to cost the hospitality industry $100 billion each year—without sacrificing anything in terms of the guest experience. It can also reduce user error and save time and effort previously spent maintaining tedious spreadsheets, since this kind of technology can help restaurants automate all their inventory management.
Technology that Improves Guests’ Experiences
This is a trend that’s seen across all retail industries: Guests want an experience that’s tailored and personalized to them, their tastes, and their interests. That’s historically been a challenge in the restaurant industry, but new technology tools are making it easier.
First there’s technology for loyalty programs, which can integrate with everything from your POS to guests’ smartphones, allowing them to check their status and use rewards from anywhere, at any time.
Then there’s technology that allows you to collect and utilize data about your guests; entice them to become regulars by offering them customized experiences that cater to their known preferences—for example, offering them their favorite place to sit, or greeting them by automatically offering a drink that they order often.
Technology that Allows Customers to Follow their Online Orders
During the pandemic, many guests have replaced visits to restaurants with delivery orders—often placed on third-party delivery apps like UberEats, Postmates, Caviar, and DoorDash.
A handy feature that those apps can offer guests is the ability to follow along with every step of the process as their order is prepared, picked up by a delivery driver, and dropped off at their home. Guests who have grown accustomed to being able to follow along and get real-time updates about their food orders don’t want to go back to how things were before.
That means that a growing trend in restaurant technology is the ability to take direct online orders, and provide updates to guests as those orders are fulfilled.
Technology for Splitting the Bill and Paying at the Table
Splitting the bill has long been a little bit of a pain point for restaurant guests. But with the right technology, it becomes a far more simple process—no calculator required.
Technology that’s really gaining in popularity allows guests to use either their own smartphones or a tablet at the table to view their bill in real time, place multiple orders during their visit, and assign items to different people at the table, so when it’s time to pay, the bill is already perfectly divided. This saves guests and restaurant staff time, and can result in higher guest spending, better table turn time, and more revenue for your restaurant.
Technology for Different Contactless Experiences
The pandemic has made “contactless delivery” into a phrase everyone knows and understands. But even before COVID, contactless restaurant experiences were on the rise, and not just for takeout and delivery orders.
Increasingly, guests want contactless dine-in. There are a number of different technologies that support this trend—self-order kiosks, pay-at-the-table technology, direct online ordering, and more. In fact, contactless payments at businesses around the world are expected to triple—from $2 trillion to $6 trillion—by 2024.
But one thing your restaurant will likely need no matter what kind of contactless dine-in experience it offers is a way to create and use QR codes. For viewing your menu, making a payment, joining an online waiting list—they have virtually unlimited applications in modern restaurants.
Technology for Automated Restaurant Marketing
And finally, a rising trend in restaurant technology is in automated marketing. This technology tool is exactly what is exactly what it sounds like—marketing technology that carries out marketing efforts automatically.
What’s great about marketing technology is that it’s getting so sophisticated, you can run automated campaigns with the right software. That means very little technical knowledge is needed to run marketing campaigns that help spread the word about your restaurant.
5 Essential Technology Tools Restaurants Need Right Now
To keep up with restaurant technology trends, restaurants need the right tools. In 2021, restaurants need these five tools to thrive in an increasingly digital industry.
A Mobile Optimized Website
By this point, most small businesses, including restaurants, are online in some capacity. But many aren’t—and in the digital age, just having a website is no longer enough.
What modern restaurants need are mobile-optimized websites, which means their pages are responsive and will automatically resize to be readable—and visually appealing—on whatever device guests use to view them. This is increasingly important as more and more internet search traffic comes from mobile devices, rather than desktop computers.
More than that, though, your website needs to be search engine optimized, meaning it looks great on mobile, loads quickly, and utilizes the right keywords and search terms that guests are looking for. These factors tell Google that your website should be prioritized in its search results, which means more potential guests will find your website.
A Dynamic, Interactive Online Menu
There’s a lot of information you need to have on your restaurant’s website: Location information, contact information, and operating hours, just to name a few.
But the next most important thing is your menu, since that’s what many people will be looking for when they land on your site after a Google search for nearby restaurants. If the page they land on is a PDF menu that’s too small to read, they may just give up and go looking for a better experience on another restaurant’s website.
That’s why it’s so important to offer guests a dynamic online menu that looks great on any device—even a smartphone with a small screen. Even better if that menu gives them opportunities to interact with your dishes, like by leaving reviews for the things they’ve tried.
Automated Remarketing Tools
We’ve already touched on the importance of automated remarketing—a restaurant that uses digital tools is missing a major opportunity if it isn’t using guest data and automation to better market itself and stay top-of-mind.
Automated remarketing is a key necessity for restaurant owner who, let’s face it, don’t have time to set up complex marketing campaigns, track and measure their progress, and iterate to see a strong ROI for our efforts. Even if we did have the time, most restaurant managers and owners aren’t marketing experts, so the learning curve can be steep.That’s why restaurants need tools that can simplify and automate their marketing efforts.
Direct Online Ordering and Delivery
Guests love third-party delivery apps, but the unfortunate truth is that their commissions and fees can eat way into a restaurant’s bottom line; but since we don’t see online ordering and delivery declining in popularity any time soon, it’s important for restaurants to embrace technology that allows guests to make direct online orders straight from the restaurant website.
But many restaurants don’t have the staff (or don’t want the overhead) to deliver orders themselves. So an even better tool is one that allows for direct online ordering, and integrates with a local delivery service to provide an end-to-end service.
Contactless Delivery, Pickup, and Dine-In
And finally, even as the pandemic comes to an end, health-conscious diners will still be looking for contactless experiences. In addition to contactless delivery and takeout options (like curbside food pickup), restaurants need the right tools to provide contactless dine-in for guests returning to restaurants.
Popmenu: All 5 of These Tool In 1 Platform
So, for those who have been keeping count, restaurants need at least five essential tools to keep up with technology trends:
- A mobile optimized website
- An interactive, dynamic online menu
- Automated remarketing
- Direct online ordering
- Contactless tools for delivery, takeout, and dine-in
Or, they can get just one tool: Popmenu.
Popmenu offers all of those tools (and more!) in a single platform. What’s even better is that it’s easy to use and costs one flat monthly fee that never goes up.
But there’s another benefit to using Popmenu: We stay on top of restaurant technology trends and are constantly thinking ahead to what tools we can offer that will help our restaurant partners win in the digital age—like our new features for contactless dine-in that are launching this spring.
We’re the only platform of our kind that’s made just for restaurants, and we created it by listening to real restaurant owners and managers about what they need.
Ready to see how Popmenu can take your restaurant to the cutting edge of technology trends? Schedule a demo today.