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Beacons Serve Up Restaurant Service

Restaurants and Beacons: Friend or Foe?

Today with the prevalence of social media, every single guest who walks into your restaurant should be considered a restaurant critic that will judge all aspects of their experience, from the food and service to the atmosphere of the restaurant. Worrying about the specialty menu or cocktail pairings can no longer be the main concern for restaurant owners. Instead, the entire dining experience should be carefully analyzed from the moment visitors walk in the door to the second they leave.


Reputation is important in any industry, but in the restaurant space, it’s king. Consumers who have a negative experience won’t just simply not return, but they’ll tell their friends about it on social media and are more likely to write a negative online review on websites like Yelp.

To ensure your restaurant is given the best chance at providing a positive experience, consider incorporating a technology that allows you to personally customize service offerings to every food connoisseur who enters – the beacon.

What is a beacon?

Beacons are small, portable devices that can be placed anywhere in a restaurant or nearby location. The technology relies on a smartphone’s Bluetooth connection to transmit information directly to a mobile app listening for the beacon’s signal. These devices are highly cost effective, with the average beacon costing $25, and are often purchased through mobile solutions providers that offer the technology platform to control the messages being delivered.

A customer will need to download an app, whether a universal or branded one, that will listen for the beacon’s signal. Once the beacon is initially connected and the customer opts-in to receive information, the beacon will automatically begin delivering messages to the smartphone when within range. Messages are delivered each time a connected smartphone passes by a beacon, regardless if the app is open or not. Beacons will essentially create a “tap on the shoulder” that allows you to send relevant information, such as store coupons, discounts or other promotional messages, to a device each time a customer is near your restaurant.

Six purposes to consider when deploying beacon technology:

Outside Attention Grabbers
With a plethora of dining options today, choosing a restaurant can be one of the most difficult and frustrating parts of going out to eat. Restaurant owners can implement beacons a few blocks away that can reach individuals driving by or walking down the street. Rather than handing out flyers or having sign flippers on street corners, beacons can deliver messages directly to the potential customer’s smartphone, increasing the chances of them choosing your restaurant over your competitors. Try programming the devices to emit different messages based on the time of day, such as pushing weekday lunch combos or weekend late-night specials.

Personal Call-Ahead System
Apps that allow customers to make reservations remotely are becoming popular in the restaurant industry and should be considered as well. To bypass the wait, beacons can offer a call-ahead service for guests by being placed in the parking lot to alert customers of current wait times prior to walking in the door. If it is peak rush hour and the wait times are longer than normal, the device could let them browse the menu ahead of time, or invite guests to the bar to enjoy a discounted drink while they wait. This will entice guests to enter the establishment and not deter them just because of the delay.

Concierge Seating Feature
Since we live in an instantaneous world, customers can become irritated if not promptly served once seated. If each table is beacon-equipped, as soon as guests are seated they could instantly receive useful information to make their dining experience more enjoyable. This information could include things such as drink and meal specials, directions to the bathroom and bar, or even a short blurb about their server. This feature would allow customers to potentially begin ordering drinks or appetizers without delay. By occupying the guests’ attention, beacons can afford servers more time to make their way to the table, without causing undue stress and frustration to either party.

Post-Meal Payment Ease
At the end of their meal, beacons can even allow guests to pay their bill right from their phones by directing them to a secure restaurant-branded microsite that collects their payment method. This allows customers to leave when they’re ready, and is ideal for those who prefer self-service options, tailoring even the end of the meal to those technology-centered individuals. As this is meant to aid wait staff rather than replace them, the server can also be responsible for commanding the beacon to deliver the message when they see the table is wrapping up.

Customer Support Service
While we hope no guest would ever have an experience so unfavorable that they feel the need to share their negative thoughts online, restaurants must be ready to handle those complaints and make improvements accordingly. To mitigate potential bad reviews, beacons can send reminders to diners once they pay or as they exit the location, to provide comments and feedback in real-time. This allows the restaurant to be transparent and take into consideration the criticism it may receive.

Behavioral Analytics
The more information a restaurant knows about its visitors, the better it can adjust menus and promotions to accommodate their guests’ needs and wants. When a customer originally opts in, the technology will begin collecting data every time they receive a message, fill out a feedback survey or use the table-side beacons. By learning how each guest prefers to engage with the restaurant via the technology, owners will have more insight into their visitors’ unique behavior, wants/needs and preferences, and can begin targeting accordingly.

While no one wants to be overloaded with information, beacons used strategically in moderation can have a real positive impact on guests. This year, consider using beacon technology to take your customer offerings to the next level and create unique and tailored experiences. This is sure to increase retention and satisfaction among even the harshest food critics.

*Article originally published in April, 2016.


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