Where to start building the omnichannel restaurant


Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Omnichannel has come a long way. At first, it was a mysterious concept that every company aspired to but none really used. Today it is a daily model of operations for multiple organisations around the world.

The key challenge lies in the fact that being omnichannel is not solely another trend that business desires to promote among customers. People are already omnichannel today. According to Google research, 98% of Americans switch on the device every day. In addition, Zendesk indicates that 64% of customers insist on getting real-time assistance regardless of the channel used.

Considering all of the above, it is not surprising, that 87% of customers think that brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless experience. But what is relatively intuitive in retail or banking can be tricky in the restaurant world. Is it possible to eat something online?

Apparently - it doesn’t matter. So how does one build an omnichannel restaurant?

What is omnichannel?

The core of the omnichannel philosophy is derived from the natural development of technological and sequential adding to the next channels to the mix. In the good old days there was only the offline channel. Later on, a customer could order a meal via telephone. And later still, after the digital revolution and before all brands got used to having a website, the mobile channel appeared.

It is natural and relatively easy to separate channels and have a team dedicated to each one. But separate channels are ineffective - clients need to repeat information or get different offers. Some companies (most commonly telecommunications) used to encourage internal competition between sales channels in customer acquisitions. In the end, the consumer became confused by the need to repeat the information simply to get different answers.

That was multichannel. In the omnichannel approach, the company builds and collects all data about a customer and interacts with him or her in a centralised repository - usually a CRM system. With this tool, an assistant can provide support regardless of the contact channel. More details can be found in the omnichannel restaurant diagram below.

restaurant omnichannel diagram
There are many ways a restaurant can benefit from applying the omnichannel paradigm. The most obvious one is supporting marketing efforts.

Omnichannel marketing for the restaurant

Omnichannel marketing is currently the most natural way of promoting business. Despite being a brick-and-mortar type of business, every restaurant benefits from being online and on social media. An average diner considers up to 4 restaurants at the start of their dining journey. One would be naive to think that this is done on the street.

According to Facebook data , 82% of Millennials look online to plan their next meal and 86% of this age group try a new restaurant after seeing food-related content online. Checking food-related social media content is only one of many restaurant trends to follow in 2020.

As a result, the omnichannel strategy of marketing for a restaurant consists of mixing all digital channels in a consistent and comprehensive way. The examples of such an approach include:

  • Social media- over 66% of frequent diners agree that seeing friends’ photos and videos of foods on Instagram help them decide on a fast-food restaurant.
  • Mobile - 18-24 year-olds check their mobile devices an average of 86 times a day. 70% of people also look online to plan their next meal, which they do facing their mobile.
  • Offline channel - pop-ups and storefronts are not yet dead in the age of living with and being surrounded by digital noise.
  • E-mail marketing - although considered a strong B2B tool, e-mail marketing is still a great way to reach a potential customer. Mobile users check their email 3 times more than people who do not use such devices. Additionally, 70% of people read their emails on a mobile app. Thus, one can easily consider this channel as the new (and cheaper) mobile message channel.
  • Loyalty programs -65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers. Also, 75% of customers say they favour companies that offer rewards for being loyal. Consequently, running a loyalty program is more than simply letting the user collect stamps and offering a free coffee. A good example of a beneficial, modern and mobile loyalty program comes from Starbucks.

And last but not least - keeping everything connected with the offline world. All these facts clearly show why omnichannel is important. When it comes to the restaurant industry, this point proves to be at least troublesome. But, again, modern technologies solve the problem.

Challenges in building an omnichannel restaurant

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

The bottleneck of the restaurant business is the offline location. There is no problem to make an online order and eat a meal at home using a variety of available delivery services. However, this is not the whole point. Even fast-food restaurants are dependant on the experience and convenience they deliver.

Being thrown from the optimised and UX-designed online world into offline queues and the need to wait for food can be disappointing. Thus, fast-food restaurants are blending the online and offline worlds using digital signage kiosks. The kiosk delivers the user experience familiar to the online world, straight into an offline restaurant. More about this can be found in our "What is kiosk” blogpost.

Reducing queues - rarely seen online - is the key factor in improving the customer experience. Research shows that the uncertainty over the waiting time can ruin the whole affair, even if the food was delicious. Placing a digital kiosk that reduces queues and allows customers to order food in a more automated way is a top-of-mind example to bring the omnichannel service to restaurants.

In addition, the preorder functionalities seen in Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts provide a great way to bring the omnichannel shopping experience to the restaurant business. Especially if it is done via mobile ordering solutions and connected with loyalty programs.

The comprehensive digital ecosystem of a restaurant, that connects a mobile, POS, a digital kiosk, food aggregators (like Uber Eats) and any other channel can also provide great benefits for analytics and data gathering. By this, an owner can spot bottlenecks and manage resources in a smarter way or basically redesign the process. But owning and gathering data is crucial.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Summary

Restaurant and food preparation is an offline business. But as such, it is not future-proof, rather the direct opposite. To stay at the top, a restaurant needs to embrace all possible digital tools like a kiosk, a mobile app or a cloud-based ordering system and tailor them to suit its needs in a way unfamiliar to other businesses.

This is why finding a reliable tech partner is the key to success in a modern, challenging world.