Engage Guests Through a Mobile App, or Lose Them to a Rival Who Will | Food Newsfeed
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Engage Guests Through a Mobile App, or Lose Them to a Rival Who Will

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Linking your app with other services to enhance guest experience allows you to touch tables when you are not there
By Johann Moonesinghe March 2017 Expert Insights

As the owner or manager of a restaurant, you can almost guarantee that the rare day you decide to give yourself off to hang out with you family and remind your kids what you look like, is the day that some of your ultra VIPs decide to come in unannounced. Cue scramble with your AGM to make sure they receive top notch service.

Restaurant apps are getting more and more sophisticated. They aren’t just about pushing specials and payment, they can be a full communication platform that connects you with guests before, during and after their visit.

Before

Uber is a restaurant’s best friend. Yes, it’ll deliver your food when the kitchen has excess capacity, but more importantly, it has almost eradicated the need for a designated driver, meaning every table can have a bottle of wine, not one glass and a coke. Uber has done a great job of penetrating people’s lives, but to stay at the top, it is now focusing on how it can enhance experience for its users. Restaurants can now integrate their app with Uber’s, so that when guests order an Uber to the restaurant, the restaurant owner/manager gets a notification that your VIP guest is coming and is 10 minutes away. This real-time data allows you to place the right member of staff at the door to greet them, just as they arrive.  Just the other day, I met a retired Senator at the front curb as he got out of his Uber and he loved it! If you really want to wow a VIP, you can also have their favorite drink or a hot amuse being crafted as the notification tells you that they are 3 minutes away, and hitting their table hot or with a perfectly intact ice cube as they take a seat themselves. If you do have someone VIP coming in, that notification can also act as a very helpful heads-up, giving you the time to line up the best server and ensure everything is where it should be at the host stand.

During

With the EquityEats app, guests can check-in to a restaurant they have bought a gift card to, which sends a notification to the owner of the restaurant listing the guest’s name and cell phone number. If the owner is not at the restaurant, they can digitally “touch” the table with a quick SMS. I own a restaurant and bar in DC and do this all the time. If someone important comes in for a quick drink on a busy night, a short back-and-forth thanking them for coming in, recommending a drink or finding out what’s going on with them is enough of an acknowledgement to make them feel special - how many other guests at the bar are getting texts from the owner?

After

If your team has a habit of putting on rose-tinted glasses when reporting on how a service went when you are not there, the ability to engage with a guest over text can be great. If things go horribly wrong then you’ll hear about it. In the current ultra-competitive climate, it’s not about the disasters though, it’s about the little things that chip away at a guest’s experience so that they leave thinking “that was good” as opposed to “that was fantastic.” With new restaurants opening all the time and guest numbers at FSRs predicted to drop 2% in 2017, you need a whole lot of “fantastics” to ensure you stay on top. A guest might not take the time to write a review or send an email for a little thing such as the food being coursed out in a weird way, but replying to a text is super quick and super easy. Even if you were there for the guest’s dinner, they might be more inclined to text you something they deemed too “trivial” to bring up in person, and you know that 9 times of out 10, the issue is something that can be fixed in a heartbeat with a quick pow-wow with your servers.

Between an explosion of quick service restaurants, delivered meals and ingredients-in-a-box, restaurant diners are bombarded with alternatives to coming in and dining with you. Much like the barber you’ve been going to since you were 7 years old, you want to cultivate a bond with your guests that goes beyond the service you provide and focuses on the relationship you have created, to ensure they come back again and again. Mobile apps, like EquityEats, allow you to build that relationship outside of the confines of the dining room, and enhance it inside.

Johann Moonesinghe is CEO of EquityEats, a restaurant financing company that buys large dollar gift cards from restaurants at a discount, and sells those gift cards to users in the restaurant's local community. Gift cards are redeemed through the EquityEats app, which focuses on guest-relationships as well as payment. EquityEats has helped restaurants with over $5,000,000 in capital since it’s launch in 2014.