By TODD RAMSEIER
From finicky customers to constantly evolving fads, restaurants must always adapt fast to succeed. Finding new ways to draw in customers, keeping them and your staff safe, and turning a profit have all faced new challenges in 2020, especially due to Covid-19. Finding something that’s more than just a trend might be the difference between success and failure for many restaurants.
This is where Augmented Reality comes in. What is Augmented Reality? Often referred to as AR, it’s a digital overlay on the real world. AR could involve something as simple as scanning a special image or QR code with your phone (a task most of us are familiar with) and seeing a digital image or text, or as complex as seeing strange creatures living in your world, much like Pokemon Go. And while it’s generally frowned upon to let critters roam free around your restaurant, the technology that makes it possible might be one of the tools you need to succeed. (Caution: AR does not, of course, attract critters, but may attract the youthful generation that loves playing the game, driving up your sales!)
How will Augmented Reality help your business? Let’s look at five common struggles for restaurants, especially in 2020, and how AR might be the answer you seek.
1. AR can help manage labor costs.
One of the joys of being a business owner is providing stable jobs for others, but offsetting that against the company’s revenue is always a careful balance. Due to Covid, a number of restaurants are going through financial trouble and the costs of hiring and training new wait staff for an often limited dining experience (outdoor only, etc.) can be burdensome. This is a significant piece of feedback we hear from owners time and time again.
If you implement Augmented Reality correctly, however, you can smooth out the front of house operations, freeing up labor costs almost immediately. How? Customers can check into the restaurant, view the menu, and pay from their phone, all using AR. That’s a lot of pressure off your hosts/hostesses. Want to take it a step further? You can even allow customers to order straight from their digital devices!
There’s no true replacement for well-trained front of house associates. However, you can take a lot of pressure off them, saving labor, and creating an amazing experience for everyone involved. This means more freedom to manage your labor costs efficiently.
2. AR can provide added safety.
It’s no secret that 2020 brought new challenges no one saw coming. The global pandemic has made being out in public a challenge and dining at restaurants moreso. But let’s look at some of the features above and how they can also help keep everyone safer.
Allowing customers to check-in digitally through an Augmented Reality experience triggered by their phone’s camera means less face-to-face interaction up front, and no little vibrating gizmos being handed from person to person. Your host/hostess can be the recommended 6 feet away, and everyone stays safer for it.
Once customers are seated, instead of using menus which have come in contact with various hands, displaying a digital, interactive AR menu directly from the customer’s phone protects everyone involved. From menu to payment, the amount of physical contact is lowered significantly. In fact, the only point of contact is with the silverware and dishes which are thoroughly sanitized during the dishwashing cycle.
3. AR can help you get to know your customers better.
As your customers order via a digital AR menu from their phones, you now have the opportunity to get to know them on a deeper level: is that 1/4 pound burger getting clicked on but not ordered? Maybe it’s time to adjust the price or add more information to it. Maybe your best-selling salad is constantly being ordered with ranch instead of vinaigrette – you get to know that too. Your beautiful AR menu becomes a great tool for analytics that can help drive your menu offerings. What’s more, you no longer need to reprint an entire paper menu to change prices or offerings; by having a digital menu, you’re just a few clicks from having everything up to date!
Being able to really adapt on the fly, to the niche of your customers, lets you deliver a better product every time. Your customers will feel like you’re reading their minds and be grateful for it.
4. AR is great for accessibility.
This is something we’ve noticed that isn’t talked about much, but is huge for a multitude of reasons. Augmented Reality technology, combined with the fast data capabilities of modern tech, is perfect for accessibility. For example, your AR menu can instantly display multiple languages, eliminating barriers for tourists or non-English speakers. AR also means better options for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as interactive menus can provide better and larger quantities of information compared to a paper menu. It’s even possible for customers to simply filter menu items by dietary restrictions or get a digital image of each and every dish you provide.
By creating an experience that more people can take part in, dining at your restaurant becomes so much more than just a virtual experience delivered through AR: you’re creating a practical solution that is more inclusive to all of your patrons.
5. Using AR in your restaurant can increase revenue.
Return on investment, a concept all business owners are familiar with. How does having Augmented Reality create positive ROI, outside of the ways listed above?
The main thing to consider is that you have your brand in your customer’s pocket. If they swipe up on their phone, there’s your logo. But what’s even more? They don’t have to be in your restaurant to spend money.
More and more business owners are learning that customers don’t disappear when they leave: breweries are launching beer clubs, and some are going delivery and catering, while others are making killer merchandise. There’s no limit to where you can reach when your brand is in everyone’s hand. In 2019 it was estimated that Americans check their phone 96 times per day. Where else can you get that amount of impressions?
Your customers could potentially be sitting comfortably at home and see what your food looks like. Or perhaps you could make it fun, and they can interact with a digital version of your mascot when scanning coupon mailers. AR adds depth to your presence digitally, making you stand out from the crowd.
Many food and beverage companies have already embraced Augmented Reality. Major chains like Starbucks and Burger King are creating ways to bring their product to life and every day the list of companies is growing longer. Not too long ago Dominos, for example, made it possible for customers to order a pizza using Snapchat’s AR capabilities.
Save money, make money and increase safety in the meantime? There’s one thing for certain: it’s hard to find services out there that can provide so many solutions with just one swipe and we’ve been working hard to make it happen. Here at Chewed Pixel Studios, we can custom-tailor an Augmented Reality experience to fit any restaurant, and we’d love to work with you to grow your business. After all, it’s what we do: solve problems with Augmented Reality to make you more money.
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