For the past few years, online ordering via tableside tablets have enabled restaurant customers to re-order digitally, among other features, with mixed results. The tablet movement has gained some momentum in the industry since it was introduced in 2011, because it provided customers with a new customer experience. However, many industry leaders resisted the trend because tablets posed security risks, offered limited-payment options, and required complex installation and maintenance.
Many also quickly learned that tablets provided limited or no customer data and analytics. With continuing improvements in mobile technology, the limitations of tablets are becoming even more evident. This underscores how important it is for hospitality executives to embrace new technology capabilities available through mobile payment platforms that promise long-term benefits.
At the beginning of the tablet trend, many restaurants did not realize that tablets actually detract from the customer experience. To be fair to restaurant tablets, their adoption started shortly after the introduction of the first iPad in 2010, when excitement was high about this latest tech fad. From a marketing standpoint, many restaurants were eager to capitalize on this by offering customers an alternative way to browse menu items, place orders, and reorder, which they had never experienced to date. Tablet solutions also offered a limited selection of games for patrons to play, which appealed to family-themed restaurants and sports bars. In addition, tablets fostered modestly faster table turnarounds for people using them for check out, compared with traditional payment processes.
Recently, though, mobile payment apps specifically designed for the hospitality industry have begun to truly transform the guest experience in a meaningful way by enabling online ordering as well as splitting or paying checks from a smartphone using a wide variety of payment methods. And with the recent introduction of a re-ordering capability on mobile payment platforms, tableside tablets may soon become the Tyrannosaurus Rex of the hospitality industry.
This game-changing capability enables customers to easily select items from their running tab and re-order straight from their smartphones, sending orders directly to POS terminals, thus eliminating the need for tablets or special tableside hardware (and the associated costs). With a simple swipe on their smartphones, guests can order another round of drinks, an additional appetizer, or anything else on their existing check. Servers can focus on providing more personalized service to improve guest satisfaction.
Menu re-ordering is just one of many benefits that the use of mobile devices can provide to restaurants. First, using mobile payment apps can turn tables six minutes faster than tablets. Mobile devices also offer a superior gaming experience with which consumers are quite familiar, compared to tablets. Gamers who want to play in restaurants are much more likely to use their smartphones. Industry statistics show that about 70 percent of patrons use their smartphones to access apps or browse the web while dining. And since mobile payments utilize consumers’ smartphones, patrons can select from any conceivable game they want to play while dining.
But perhaps the most compelling reasons that tablets may soon go the way of the dinosaur relate to marketing and data. Obviously, tablets are only in front of guests while they are at the table – unless guests steal them. Conversely, mobile payments extend the restaurant’s brand into the hands of guests at all times, giving restaurants the opportunity to alert customers of special rewards and offers based on their dining habits via emails, texts, or push notifications. And the leading payment platforms assure that restaurants can identify these important dining habits from data it collects on customers -- favorite food items, average spend, when they dine – and turn them into actionable marketing programs.
The future of mobile ordering
The current advantages of mobile payment apps for restaurants seem clear, but how can hospitality executives tell whether this is just another trend or if these benefits will be long-term? For starters, sheer observation of restaurant customers tells us that more people have access to smartphones and that using apps has become second nature. And empirical data shows that smartphones have a continuously growing user base. According to Comscore.com, smartphone penetration has reached 77 percent in the U.S.
As smartphones become more ubiquitous and tablets become more obsolete, hospitality executives who don’t want their establishments to also become extinct should adopt mobile payments over tablets. Ultimately, this provides a greater level of convenience and enhanced customer experience to their guests.