The restaurant business is not known for transformation. Take a look around cities like London and you can see restaurants that have operated more or less in the same way for decades. Rules in Covent Garden was founded in 1798 and takes pride in ensuring that they continue to resemble the place that Charles Dickens would often frequent.
But the restaurant business is tough. The customer experience can be the difference between a customer being a satisfied regular or the author of a one-star review on Tripadvisor. The changing technologies associated with dining, such as reviews and Instagram photos of dishes, have ushered in an era of change, but are any restaurants seizing these opportunities and making a real change?
Some certainly are. As this KPMG document describes, the Japanese-inspired chain Wagamama has been exploring how apps can make service better. Their own research found that the most common complaint from diners is the time that it takes to pay for a meal so they developed an app called Qkr! This allows diners to eat, then pay on their phone and immediately leave the restaurant. The app can even split the bill amongst several diners, therefore tackling a real problem in a clever way.
The KPMG research indicates that the area where restaurant chains are really paying a lot of attention now is personalisation. They want customers to feel that meals are prepared just for them and not just part of a food production line. Brands such as Toby Carvery and Nando’s are singled out for making a highly personalised experience on their websites, and in the restaurants, one of their main areas of focus.
It’s difficult to transform our ideas around restaurants. The customer orders a meal, eats it, and then pays. That’s how it has always been. But in approaching the pain points, such as impersonal service and time and effort required to pay, these restaurant chains are transforming the dining experience.