Monday, October 27, 2014

Restaurateurs: When do Smartphones Have a Place at the Dinner Table?

Today, the way we pay our bills continues to evolve as mobile alternatives are increasingly gaining traction in the market and even at the dinner table.  As a marketing professional who works in the payments industry as well as a graduate student in Northwestern University's Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) program, I'd recommend two articles to help you learn more about what's developing in this space.

In The Washington Post, Hayley Tsukayama recently wrote about the popular website and mobile app OpenTable's roll out of mobile payments in the article, "Sick of waiting for your check? OpenTable's smartphone app will allow you to pay and leave."  Although it has traditionally been known as a place to easily make reservations, search for restaurants and even read reviews, OpenTable is now expanding its capabilities.  Tsukayama discusses how this new feature will improve the dining experience, as consumers will no longer have to wait for their check.  It also frees up servers' time, as this app alleviates the time consuming responsibility of correctly timing presenting the check to diners.  The service, which started in New York and San Francisco, is now rolling out in the DC area.  Popular restaurants like Top Chef superstar Bryan Voltaggio's Aggio and Family Meal are participating in the program.
The article "Restaurants poised to accept Apple Pay," in Nation's Restaurant NewsRon Ruggless discusses additional insight into the evolving payments options for restaurants.  This article emphasizes the quick adaption of Apple Pay at fast food restaurants like McDonald's and Panera.  It also discusses that Apple Pay is already on its way to integrate with OpenTable as an option for independent restauranteurs.  Like other mobile payment systems, Apple Pay is designed to improve the customer experience to expedite the payment process.  In this case, it can be beneficial to both casual and more upscale restaurants.

After reviewing these two articles and based on my professional experience, here are three recommendations to make sure your customers have a positive experience when they pay their check.

1. Talk to your customers.  This might be the most important recommendation.  These are the people that you care about the most and are crucial for your success.  Find out what they're looking 
for and their likes and dislikes when they go to pay their bill.

2. Check out your competitors.  It's always important to stay ahead of the competition.  If you attract a younger demographic, as you know, mobile is becoming increasingly important.  Get ahead of the curve now to see what type of systems you should consider.

3. Do your homework.  No, I am trying to bring up calculus nightmares, but rather encourage you to do research!  If you already use OpenTable for reservations, consider talking to them about their payments platform or see if there are other mobile offerings in the marketplace that might be of interest.  Your customer and competitor research will also help with this.

Although food and ambiance are always important, customers often care about more.  Make the end of the dining experience as impressive as the host's initial greeting.  Get started now and explore new mobile payment options in the marketplace.

Outside of her cubicle job in the payments industry, Lisa Silverman enjoys eating her way around Chicago's neighborhoods.  A Baltimore area native, she's currently pursing a master's degree in Integrated Marketing Communications through Northwestern University's Medill School.  Connect with Lisa @las0107.