Restaurants Quickly Developing an APPetite for Digital
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016
Technology is changing the restaurant business forever but Food and Drink PR is irreplaceable.
EVER since the boom of app usage following the release of Apple’s iPhone 3G in 2009, it would certainly appear that the trademark slogan: “There’s An App for That” used at the time, has never been truer seven years on.
Today, apps dominate our lives from the minute we wake up to the minute we sleep (or at least for me). They can assist in anything from navigation and parking to entertainment and exercise, not to mention the main use for most smartphone users: social media.
I’ve always been a fan of eating out and sampling different places and foods to develop a collection of recommendations for friends and family. Although it was once considered a novelty and a treat to dine out weekly, it has now become the norm among UK adults.
Barclaycard research has revealed that 26% of UK adults dine out once a week with figures rising to 36% amongst people between the ages of 18-34 years old.
Businesses such as Lightspeed and QikServe offer up an online service to which restaurants can upload their menus and eliminate the human interaction feature with the hope of “putting a waiter in everyone’s pocket”, the tagline of the latter.
Restaurant chain giant JD Wetherspoon have introduced a new ‘Order and Pay’ app around their pubs, including ‘The Booking Office’ at Waverley, Edinburgh’s newest addition.
All fine and well paying off your phone at the end of a meal, but ordering? What happens if you have a question about the menu, or you would like to know what some of the most popular dishes are, or of course the big one: what happens if technology fails?
Since when has dining become a race against the clock, to get in and get out as quick as possible? Surely the reason people choose not to opt for a microwaveable home meal and take to a restaurant is because they want to enjoy the experience and more importantly, because they have time on their hands to do so.
Establishments like, Wagamama and Prezzo have tried and tested ordering apps as early as 2014 but with no real progress taking place, it might be harder than expected to get people on board this bandwagon.
And I think I know why.
Most businesses, especially in the hospitality sector, for which service quality is heavily reliant, prize themselves on providing high calibre, unique service that allows them to stand out from others. Restaurants have reached the stage where they are required to adapt to changing technologies and try to incorporate it into their daily use. Despite the effort to adjust, smart restaurants’ thriving success is down to the elements of service that cannot be automated, the personal touches of a dining experience.
Everyone has a message they try to deliver and the story restaurants need to tell to the public is filled with ideas of excellent service, vast experience and expertise. Although apps can save time and money, this is the tale people want to hear about.
PR is very much a personable line of work too and one in which the principles discussed so far, apply in equal measure. Digging out and packaging stories and building a database of contacts are not tasks you can carry out on a computer but jobs performed by a capable team of professionals.
If and when I choose to eat out, the key element of a successful experience is the service and that I’ve been adequately (will stress that, I’m not asking for The Ritz) looked after as a customer. Friendliness goes a long way but obviously not far enough as 37% of diners prefer quick service over value and menu choice.
Sometimes it’s best to leave areas of life untouched by technology. I still think the most effective way of communicating in any form of business, or general life for that matter, is to do so without the restrictions of a five inch screen.
There are many of reasons why human interaction beats machines but here are just a few:
- Expertise and experience
Apps can withhold huge amounts of information but cannot adapt accordingly to situations and can’t offer up any extra information that could make the difference in communication between an organisation and a client. A knowledgeable employee can, and do it all with a smile.
- Body Language and Rapport
The impact of body language is sometimes underestimated in communications and a positive physical manner can instantly put someone at ease and pave the way for an effective relationship, leading to better results for everyone.
- Personal Touch
A phone call or face to face meeting with someone is still the most effective way to deliver a message. It brings an interpersonal factor to proceedings and allows you to become familiar with someone uncovering their likes and dislikes, mannerisms and what kind of stuff they do for fun. All things that aren’t available online.
- It’s More Fun!
Let’s face it, nobody wants to look at a screen all day and have conversations with themselves. Meeting new people and learning through their perspective and work is a valuable lesson in development and communication and it achieves better results.
What technology can bring to the table holds no limits and its progression will only continue. As much as digital platforms and apps can make work and communication slightly easier on occasion, they are still not a worthy substitute for the role performed by experts in their field and what service they can provide.
Written by Arran Ponton for Holyrood PR.
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