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Five Ways to Reverse Restaurant Fortunes During the Year of the Pig

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Written by Amy

Vodat International – Thought Leadership

 There’s no doubt that as the Chinese Year of the Pig approaches, the UK restaurant industry is experiencing lean times, with more than 10 restaurant closures every week during the past 12 months. That translates to a 2% contraction in restaurant numbers nationwide – a sobering statistic for an industry that has seen a decade of growth.

With that in mind, here are five ways that restauranteurs can harness the true power of their digital networks to boost on-premises connectivity, reduce costs and lure diners back to their premises.

Connect with the Wi-Fi tribe

Consumers across hospitality now expect excellent customer Wi-Fi wherever they choose to dine. The benefits for consumers of strong and secure Wi-Fi are clear – they are free to do all the online activities they love, without being held at the mercy of patchy mobile coverage and without eating into their valuable data allowance.

The return on investment for restaurants is just as compelling. The most straightforward argument for providing strong and secure Wi-Fi is that it increases customer on-premise dwell time – and the longer the customer stays under your roof, the greater the opportunity for you to sell to them.

Customer Wi-Fi also enables restauranteurs to gather valuable data, as long as they secure the relevant customer permission. For example, the initial Wi-Fi registration process can involve the customer submitting their name and email address. Every time they subsequently log in, the restauranteur can be notified that the customer is on their premises and potentially for how long and where in the building they go.

Add loyalty scheme information and purchase history and restaurants have a great opportunity to increase customer engagement through personalised marketing, including personalised offers and seasonal messaging. In fact, a recent Vodat survey revealed that 65% of restaurant customers like the idea of receiving personalised vouchers/deals direct to their mobile phone while they’re on site.

In addition, digitally-engaged customers are increasingly embracing the opportunity to post real-time social messages to their followers about hospitality experiences using their smart phones. This is often spontaneous and immediate. Without strong and secure Wi-Fi connectivity this opportunity to raise your brand visibility can be lost.

Make cyber security your priority

Margins may be tight, but it doesn’t pay to skimp on cyber security. Elsewhere in the hospitality sector we have seen headline-grabbing cyberattacks, such as the one targeting the Marriott hotel chain. Breaches like these can seriously damage customer loyalty and directly hit your bottom line. But it doesn’t have to be like this. Restaurants can set themselves apart from their competitors by making a virtue of their cyber security – not just for their customer Wi-Fi but across the board up to and including their Epos terminals.

Read the Vodat’s Security Guide for full details on how to stay ahead of the hackers.

Harness technology to speed up the customer journey

The human touch will always be a key part of the customer journey in the restaurant industry, especially if customers are looking for a premium customer experience. However, businesses should still listen to their customers’ demand for increased technology to speed up the buying journey.

A recent Vodat study revealed that 55% of restaurant customers would be happy to use touchscreen displays to access information before they buy, while 48% of customers would be happy to use digital self-service/ordering systems. A further 72% of customers would like to see restaurant staff equipped with mobile devices to make the ordering process faster and easier.

Add to this the advent of in-app payments at the table at restaurants such as Pizza Express and it’s clear that there is a real demand for tech capable of making the ordering and payment process faster, more convenient and information rich.

For more information about how you can harness tech tools to progress customer purchasing decisions, read our report The Rise of Digital Assistance.

Cut costs while still boosting customer experience

There are still opportunities in most restaurant operations to modernise digital networks in order to boost customer experience, while also cutting costs and unlocking value.

Aging, complex and expensive-to-maintain telephony systems, for example, are often a great starting point. Switching to VOIP technology is cheaper and simplifies the customer journey so that callers can be immediately directed to the right person to deal with their enquiry avoiding unnecessary frustration.

In general, it pays to remember that just because a system is well-established and works, doesn’t mean there isn’t a cheaper more effective solution available.

Look to expand overseas

With mounting costs and consumer and economic uncertainty squeezing disposable incomes in the UK it could pay to consider overseas expansion.

When striking out into new territories, restaurants should first consider the benefits of taking their network expertise with them rather than automatically looking to enlist the services of partners on the ground.

Why risk harming your brand reputation by offering poor connection speeds, or leaving the network open to security breaches? Restaurant firms opting for a trusted, flexible and supportive network partner can focus their attentions on the customer, safe in the knowledge that their business is running on the best infrastructure available.

Replicating an existing UK network overseas including the management and support, can bring an entire global estate within easy reach of its head office. Why risk your digital strategy at this crucial time in your growth?

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