6 technologies about to change limited-service restaurants

March 31, 2014 | by Noah Glass

Chances are good that you haven't yet heard the newest buzzwords in technology, such as geo-fencing, NFC, Bluetooth Smart or location-aware check-ins. You probably use applications powered by these technologies regularly, however. Ever ordered a car from Uber? You used geo-fencing. Foursquare? Yep, it runs from location-aware check-ins. Even the Apple Store app relies on Bluetooth Smart to engage customers while in the store by providing information about a gadget – while the customer is gazing right at it.

Think these technologies are far beyond your burger chain or fast casual restaurant? Think again. This next wave in mobile technology is about to change the limited-service industry forever.

Whether your brand is already off and running with mobile ordering, or you're still figuring out how to make it work, technologies such as NFC, QR codes, Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi, geo-fencing and in-app check-ins are here to stay. And they have the potential to transform both the brand and its operations.

Combined, these technologies and techniques make up a class called "mobile presence technologies," which can communicate a customer's proximity to a restaurant location.

The available technologies and techniques fall into two buckets: Automatic or user-prompted.

With technologies such as Bluetooth Smart, Wi-Fi and geo-fencing, a restaurant's branded mobile app can trigger an order automatically when the customer crosses a predefined perimeter or physically arrives on-site. Sound a little too sci-fi? It's not. Just as map and navigation systems can tell customers how to get to your location, the technology can be used to geo-fence, establishing a technological perimeter around your location. If a customer has placed an order using your restaurant's branded app, the user's device can trigger an order when the user crosses the geo-fence. Depending on cook times, this is the perfect way to deliver freshly prepared food to a customer – solidifying another visit – or avoid waste. If the customer never crosses the perimeter, the restaurant never prepares the food.

User-prompted techniques achieve the same goal by requiring the customer to check in or scan a QR code using their mobile device when arriving at the restaurant. Instead of an app's automatically alerting the kitchen when a customer places a mobile order, the user does it at just the right moment: as they arrive at your restaurant, or when they are a few minutes away.

In the past, many restaurant brands have left mobile apps to their marketing or IT departments, but now it's time to rethink that strategy. A mobile app does increase brand awareness and loyalty, but these new tools are also a boon for operations. Through the use of mobile presence technology, restaurants can perfect the operational timing needed to maintain perfect food and beverage quality. The technologies improve order accuracy by removing error-inducing steps from today's person-to-machine-to-person-to-machine ordering process, all while further speeding service time and increasing customer happiness.

It's our business to research the newest technologies, and our company has created a free primer, entitled "The Arrival of Mobile Presence Technology," written just for QSR executives. In the white paper, our team of experts outlines the top mobile presence technologies, explains the uses and benefits in the context of QSR operations, and reviews the pros and cons of each.

To download the white paper, go to http://www2.olo.com/l/15162/2014-03-05/6cpby

Topics: Online / Mobile / Social

Noah Glass / Noah Glass is the Founder & CEO of Olo. Since 2005, Olo has helped restaurant brands increase revenue per square foot by delivering faster, more accurate, and more personal service through digital ordering. Today, over 12.5 million consumers use the Olo platform to order ahead and Skip the Line® at the restaurants they love.
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