Three Digital Trends to Watch in 2015

You want to attract more customers to your restaurant or hotel chain. That’s often objective number one. We get it… and we can make that happen through a variety of strategic digital marketing and technology solutions tailored to your exact audience, in your location, at the right time and with the right message. But what about after you get that customer to your location – what happens then?

Technology is changing fast – we all know it. We see people using their phones to order food, book hotels and post reviews. While hospitality technology changes will feel very dramatic this year, here are three trends to watch in 2015 and our thoughts on how they will impact the larger landscape of hospitality experience.

1. Convenience & Speed – It’s clear that consumers today are looking for “easy” and “customized” offerings. From mobile ordering to endlessly customizable menus, we’re seeing consumers flock to concepts that provide a simple means for customized offerings.

chipotleblogphoto1Chipotle, for example, has done a great job at this. Customers can order online, customize to any level you like, and have your meal waiting for you when you arrive. In 2015, however, we’re starting to see technology augment this in interesting ways. Take TGI Friday’s tablet beta program for example. After testing wait staff using tablets for ordering and check-out in a six-city pilot, Fridays found that alcohol sales were up, speed was increased and even tips increased. Orders were received in the kitchen right away and thus customer delivery speed and table-turn was likely increased.

At the same time, wait staff was happy with an increased tip yield. Why? This option makes it faster to take orders, less room for errors (think sloppy hand-writing), and allows wait staff to focus more on the needs of diners without having to trek to the kitchen continuously to put in orders. And in the end, food is delivered faster and with less mistakes. And that’s a win all around.

So who else is jumping on board? Applebee’s and Chili’s to start. Will we see curb-side check in at hotels? How about integrated operations and real-time information for hotel and restaurant managers? Perhaps business intelligence isn’t just reserved for executives, but could be used to enhance immediate reaction and operations on-site.

2. Security – With over 10% of Americans falling victim to credit card fraud, this subject hits close to home for many of us. If you’ve eaten in restaurants in many Asian and European countries, you’ll notice they often process bills at the table. This reduces credit card fraud, increases speed and satisfaction for many consumers.

I mentioned convenience & speed as two points of focus for 2015 that are being advanced by tablet and mobile use, but security is another incredible benefit. In the beta test at TGI Fridays, servers were able to process credit card payments Tgif-nyctable-side, thus increasing speed and security. With NFC now built into nearly all current generation smart phones like the iPhone 6 and 6 plus, and most top-selling mobile phones, we should start to see consumers using their phones to pay, without even having to take the plastic out of their wallets. With Square, Apple Pay, Paypal and Venmo on the scene, as well as POS integrated payment solutions we should start seeing mobile and tablet payments taking hold more strongly in 2015.
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3. Data Acquisition & Customer Loyalty – We finally have the ability to customize our product offerings and customer experience. We’ll be processing payments on mobile phones and tablets and delivering faster than ever. But how do we know what to deliver? This is where data acquisition takes place. On New Year’s Eve I went to a modern restaurant in Phoenix that was having a special New Year’s Eve event. Outside of the main dining area was a portable photo booth. It was setup so that guests could take pictures with their friends and have the photos emailed to them. Once the email is sent with the photo, the consumer is happy. But what about the email. Now the operator has that. That’s interesting data acquisition.

I’ve also recently experienced, for the first time, the digital wait list, where I gave my name, and phone number and got a text when my table was ready. They were likely using a system similar to Leapset’s Guest Manager ( This is interesting for a few reasons. First, I didn’t need to carry around a flashing flying saucer, but rather can just use my phone. But, and probably more importantly, I gave my phone number to the restaurant. Now what if that was connected to the ordering system as well. When I order at my table, what if the server put in my name and associated my phone number with my name and took my order. Now you have my order history and a basic data account. Grow that out across thousands of customers and now we’re talking.

What kind of business analytics and loyalty marketing can we do then? We’d know visit frequency, order history, order volume, average delivery times, tip, dining times, guest party sizes, and innumerable other data points. All of which can be used to both market to me, but also enhance my experience when I’m next on site. It would be fantastic if one of my favorite restaurants sent me a customized offer, had a table in my favorite area ready, addressed me by name, knew my dietary restrictions, and much more. That’s the power of tomorrow’s service operation. Speed, security and customer loyalty and marketing though smart data acquisition and use.

If you want to see how your hotel or restaurant group can benefit from advances in digital technology and marketing, we’re here to help. It’s what we do, every day, all day, with many of the world’s leading brands.

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