Use tech to better your business
As new technologies are introduced to the public at an ever-increasing rate, restaurants aren’t left out of the fold.
Tech developers, many of which are Canadian-based, are digitizing tasks for management as well as front and back of house.
Everything from a restaurant’s marketing to staff training to evaluating strategies is now in the palm of an operator’s hand.
Make Wi-Fi work for you
For restaurants that provide their guests with free Wi-Fi, Turnstyle allows the establishment to use the connection as a marketing catalyst.
When a customer connects to the restaurant’s Internet, Turnstyle offers a customizable login page that collects the user’s email address as well as additional information.
“Rather than paying for your Wi-Fi expense every month, it can actually be an investment and an asset that will increase loyalty and generate revenue,” said Bennett Fitzgibbon, Turnstyle’s marketing director.
The Toronto-based program allows a restaurateur to customize the login page to their accessible Wi-Fi signal by adding up to three featured images to promote specials or upcoming events. Through the login page, the operator is also able to ask customers for their email address, or request they like, follow or check into their business on social media.
“We can’t force them to like or check into the venue, but we can encourage them,” Fitzgibbon said.
“We make it very simple for them to make one click and boost the social presence of [the restaurant’s] brand.”
By collecting email accounts, operators are able to create marketing campaigns to encourage repeat business.
“Millennials are very willing to give up an email address — which everyone craves these days — in exchange for access,” Fitzgibbon said.
Turnstyle’s email capability goes beyond a blanket blast of information, as operators are able to tailor their content based on customers’ actions.
“Rather than simply doing email blasts, we can use their mobile device as a beacon to trigger messages,” Fitzgibbon said.
“It gives the ability to send more contextual and relevant messages based on demographics.”
For example, the operator could set up a campaign to thank or welcome a customer when they return to the business by using their mobile device ID as it tries to connect to Wi-Fi.
At Subway, one of Turnstyle’s largest customers, the email campaign is used to email a coupon to customers who haven’t returned to a restaurant in the chain in more than 30 days.
“The redemption rate is at 12 per cent, compared to the traditional two or three per cent rate,” Fitzgibbon said.
When a customer uses Facebook or Twitter to sign into the Wi-Fi service, Turnstyle is able to pull demographic information like age and gender.
“The most valuable thing for our customers is being able to build their database of every single person who has connected to their Wi-Fi,” Fitzgibbon said.
As well, Turnstyle records every device ID that is Wi-Fi enabled, even if they do not attempt to access the Internet.
“Any device that is Wi-Fi enabled is constantly trying to find an access point to connect to,” Fitzgibbon said. “We can use that information to estimate the number of visitors in the venue, and we can pull other metrics as to whether we are detecting those visitors for the first time, or if we have seen them previously.”
About two years ago, Rob Edell had a horrible restaurant experience.
“I almost wrote my first Yelp review, but realized I didn’t want to bash this small business publicly,” Edell said. “It was a light bulb moment for me.”
Edell realized while public review platforms are plentiful, there was a lack of digital tools to provide private feedback to operators.
He decided to create Servy, a New York City-based restaurant app similar to secret shoppers.
“We essentially created a crowdsource solution to ensure operators get feedback and, more importantly, ensure staff are maintaining certain standards,” Edell said.
Servy recruits foodies to review any aspect of a partner restaurant, based on questions posed by the operator.
“They can ask any question. Is the server recommending coffee or dessert at the end of the meal? Are you begin greeted within a minute of entering the restaurant?” Edell said. “The restaurant can assess any aspect of their operation from food to service to atmosphere.”
Servy’s reviewers, who are compensated for their time, are able to select from a list of restaurants requesting evaluations provided by the app.
After the meal, they take a photo of their check to verify they ate at the establishment.
Their evaluation is sent to the restaurant via email and stored in a cloud-based dashboard.
While they review the restaurant, they also pay for their meal.
“One of the cool things we do is actually drive traffic to our partner restaurants. They’re spending money at those restaurants,’ Edell said.
He added the reviewers are usually experienced diners.
“Anyone interested in such a concept is probably already a self-qualified foodie,” Edell said.
“And the more you do this, the more you start to think of these different components of the experience.”
Rewards for training
Spiffy is a Toronto-based mobile app for training restaurant employees.The app delivers short, digestible bursts of video-based training to an employee’s smartphone, followed by a quick quiz to ensure the information was absorbed.
Successfully completing the training is matched with a reward for their time and attention.
“It’s always micro-learning style, which is short bursts of information,” said Spiffy co-founder Chris Snoyer. “Research shows millennials best absorb and retain information when its delivered in short bursts of video-based content.”
For training, restaurant management is able to log in to the Spiffy system, build a quiz, upload their video content and then send the test to a specific set of employees.
“Staff no longer have to be in the restaurant to receive training,” Snoyer said.
“You can have them do the short bursts at home and still pay them for their time.”
Spiffy also allows alcohol brands to upload content to the training app.
There's also a free option, which provides a boost to staff's bar knowledge. By inviting their team to learn about the brands feature on their beverage menu, they get access to the internal training tool at a discount.
“Collective Arts wants to train servers on their product. The more they know, the more they sell,” Snoyer said.
“Collective Arts will then pay them a few bucks to learn about their product.”
A sommelier at every table
A new software application is allowing sommeliers to digitally accompany their front of house staff to each table they serve.The Vancouver-based Quini data company launched QUINI SOMM, a cloud-based software system that aims to improve wine sales, streamline and standardize testing and enhance customer engagement.
Roger Noujeim, Quini chief executive officer, said the software enables staff to recommend the right wine to customers.
“Everybody wants to sell more wine,” Noujeim said. “Unless the servers have the credibility and confidence to come up to the table and upsell rather than take orders, the vicious cycle continues.”
QUINI SOMM includes a virtual trainer that walks staff through tasting wines available at their restaurant. As staff taste the product, the app records notes on eye, nose, mouth finish and opinion.
The server’s notes are then stored in the mobile application.
“We made sure the tool takes that information along with the servers on their own cell phones or restaurant tablets,” Noujeim said.
“The opportunity to deliver better service, more precise recommendations and to assist the restaurant in saving time is critical.”
As well, the app includes tasting notes from the restaurant’s sommelier and other staff members. The sommelier’s notes, as well as suggested pairings, are ranked first within the app.
“When I am a server talking to a customer today, I can go from saying the typical things like, ‘This one is my favourite,’ to actually talking about what the sommelier thinks about the wine and what food it is recommended with,” Noujeim said.
“We are empowering the sommelier with tools that never existed before, to ensure their sales and service have state of the art technology.”
Alongside the ability to create wine lists recommended for various occasions, integrated analytics allow restaurant management to access their staff’s tasting data.
“This way I’m archiving at all times the tasting and ranking of the wine by staff and sommelier,” Noujeim said. “I’m able to track and have information about the team, the tasting and the wine at any point in time.”
The SOMM app uses the database of the company’s original QUINI, a wine tasting and rating app that published reviews of thousands of varieties of wine.
Customers are also able to see reviews and browse wines via the public-facing portion of the app. Reviews may also be integrated into a restaurant’s website.
“This takes care of the millennial’s need to check out what their peers think,” Noujeim said. “They want transparency.”
COMING TO CANADA: DipJar
Dipjar (dipjar.com) is a cash register-adjacent unit that allows customers to dip their credit or debit card into the device to provide staff with a tip.
Dipjar chief executive officer Ryder Kessler came up with the idea after he noticed a busy café was generating less tips for its baristas, as less customers were carrying hard currency.
“He had the idea to solve the problem that there are many people in the workforce in the service-based industry that rely on tips heavily to get by, but not a lot of people carry cash and coin any more,” said Dipjar director of marketing Ray Lin. “It really did start with thinking about how to evolve the tip jar.”
The device works on a cellular network, and the restaurant operator predetermines the set tip amount.
“We find having a set amount is better at encouraging people to give,” Lin said.
“When it’s in cafés and QSR settings it’s usually at a dollar or two.”
Cafés using Dipjar have reported boosting their employees’ wages by 50 cents to $1 per hour.
Dipjar is also being used by non-profit organizations to solicit donations.
“There is a lot of generosity to be captured for charitable causes as well,” Lin said.
While the company plans to enter the Canadian market, a timeline for its introduction is not yet set.