The restaurant menu has come a long way since the 17th century. Back then, patrons would sit at a long table at an inn (or a tavern) and enjoy a multi-course menu of the innkeeper’s choosing. This was perhaps the earliest instance of optionless, table d’hote-style menus, but it didn’t last long. By the 19th century, the à la carte menu (which gives patrons the option to order individually priced items) was rising in popularity. Nothing much changed over the next 200 years.

Eventually, the restaurant industry got its date with digitisation. Signage went from neon to LED, smartphones became the new way to pay and UberEATS took food deliveries to a patron-centric new level. Now, digital menus are redefining the way in which patrons view their dining. Let’s look at what’s changed.

Digital must top your to-do list

Restaurants can no longer just use great food as a major selling point. To stand out, they must align their customer experience with a digital strategy. The ability to deliver consistently engaging, memorable experiences is of more value today. As a restaurant owner, you must drive engagement at every touchpoint – online or offline. For restaurants to evolve and adapt comfortably for the future, they must understand the next-generation customer – and fast – because they are already here.

The millennial is always right

Millennials wield impressive economic power, and this is only growing. They are on a mission to change the world, one industry at a time. In the restaurant sector, the next-generation patron expects a digital experience when eating out. A study of 2 000 customers found that 40% send a message or make a call in a restaurant, 37% take a photo of their food and 41% check social media.

Millennials are sensation-driven and eating is an experience for them. They live in a world of mix- and-match ingredients, sides and sauces. So customising your menu is key. In other words, offer patrons the opportunity to build their own dishes. Restaurants like RocoMamas already offer this, but they take it a step further by allowing patrons to order on digital menus.

When digital menus are integrated into the dining experience, they can improve customer engagement. Changes to a digital menu can be made quickly, which makes it convenient for time-sensitive offers. Next-generation patrons are hyper-connected, have more food choices and less time. So you need to put your message where they can see it and prompt them to make a choice immediately.

Smooth out the buying process

Panera Bread was anything but a digital trailblazer, but that changed when the bakery-café served up an improved digital customer experience. It discovered that its in-store experience became unpleasant because customers would have to wait in long queues to order food. Panera Bread now offers four distinctive ways to order:

  • Order from my table: Customers in the café can order online and have their food brought to their table.
  • Rapid pick-up: Customers can order and pay online and have their food ready for them when they walk into the café.
  • Deliver: Have the food delivered straight to customers.
  • Express: The café keeps a record of previous orders to make it easier to order the same thing again.

The key is to offer convenience and choice. Remove friction points so customers don’t have to take unnecessary steps to make selections. Think about how you can reduce the number of steps in the buying process.

Engage, promote and upsell

Digital content displayed on tablets before a patron makes an order creates the perfect environment to promote certain dishes. Unlike print materials, digital content can be more eye-catching and engaging. When PoS software is linked to a digital menu, it can suggest complementary items to go with what the patrons order. With a tablet-based system, users are prompted every time they want to add an item. This could include adding cheese to a burger or adding a side salad. The possibilities are only limited to what you put into the system ahead of time.
Having a poor digital presence in your restaurant is like having a bland Bolognese sauce in an Italian restaurant. It leaves a bad taste in the mouths of your patrons. Serve the new generation in style. Read our e-book on how to cater for them with our mobile PoS at your side.

Author: Rudi Badenhorst