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Digital Dining Is Changing the Restaurant Experience As We Know It

New digital dining conveniences such as online ordering can help restaurants drive revenue and keep customers happy.

A restaurant worker uses a smartphone.
Now that restaurants are back open, digitizing the in-person experience will be key to driving revenue, improving customer satisfaction, and building loyalty [Hernandez & Sorokina / Stocksy]

The digital revolution has left no stone — or bread basket — unturned. Your restaurant dining experience no longer begins when a server hands you a menu. Physical menus have been replaced with QR codes, ordering has been swallowed by digital channels, and payments have gone contactless.

Last year, more than 110,000 eating and drinking establishments in the U.S. closed for business — and those that managed to stay afloat during the pandemic often did so by digital means. Now that restaurants are back open, digitizing the in-person experience will be key to driving revenue, improving customer satisfaction, and building loyalty like never before. Here’s how restaurants can adapt operations, menus, teams, and marketing to win Share of Stomach.

Customers demand convenience as digital dining expands  

Even before the pandemic, the food purchasing journey was rapidly changing. Convenience took the front seat with the rise of meal kits, click and collect, grocery delivery, scan as you go, and self-checkout. In the past year, 51% of consumers have downloaded at least one app to purchase food and essentials, and 79% of people now have a restaurant app. 

Restaurants that survived and thrived during the pandemic were those that digitized mobile ordering and curbside pickup. Now that their doors are back open for in-person dining, the winners will (once again) be those that leverage digital channels to offer the same convenient, contactless options inside their four walls.  

70% of diners in restaurants prefer to order digitally than in person.

Even when diners are on-site, 70% of them prefer to order digitally rather than in person. To stay ahead, restaurants must quickly implement scalable technology to reflect menu variability, pricing, and promos across multiple locations. In the ongoing race for diners’ dollars, winning restaurants will embrace digital channels not only for the sake of convenience — but for the holy grail of guest experience.

In-dining experiences, reimagined

Over the past 18 months, QR code downloads have soared 750% — and experts say their use in restaurants is likely permanent. Why? With the right technology in place, this quick scan enables a 360-degree view of customers and a single source of truth. It’s a link that can potentially connect all of your systems — including marketing, service, and point-of-sale (POS) — to every dine-in customer. 

Enter the reimagined restaurant experience: A diner scans the QR code menu on the table, leading to an online ordering system. As they browse, AI-powered recommendations and pairings lead to increased average order value. Connected online order placement notifies the server and updates POS, kitchen display, and other restaurant systems in an instant. Your guest, servers, and technology stay in sync until the patron pays on their own device and the check is closed. 

After the check is paid? Restaurants now have access to first-party customer data — making it possible to retarget patrons based on order and browsing history, and create personalized loyalty programs. Gone are the days when restaurants depended on sign-ups or online check-ins to build out email marketing lists for targeted campaigns.

Grow revenue and streamline operations with digital channels

End-to-end digital dining not only gives customers more control over their experience — it empowers restaurants to grow revenue while streamlining operations. 

The time that servers once spent taking orders, delivering them to the kitchen, disbursing a physical check, collecting payment, and entering all of the details into a POS system can now be spent serving more tables — faster. 

Service, speed, and order accuracy play as much of a role in customer satisfaction for restaurants as food quality. Streamlining operations by digitizing everything from order placement to checkout has the potential to speed up service and increase revenue and customer loyalty. 

The right ingredients for digital dining success

Digital restaurant solutions from Salesforce Commerce Cloud make it easier and faster to go live — and they’re seamlessly connected to your diner through the power of Customer 360. With Commerce Cloud, you can increase order sizes, enhance personalization with artificial intelligence, create and manage pages with drag-and-drop tools, and integrate into your existing technology stack. Thanks to our partnership with Mad Mobile, these solutions are pre-integrated with NCR Aloha, Micros Simphony, and other popular POS restaurant systems, as well as Visionet for managed services.

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