Restaurants are facing multiple compounding pressures as high inflation drives customers to dine out less and persisting staffing shortages hinder smooth operations.
Many operators are pulling back, cutting certain elements of service to minimize costs. Yet diners are looking for the opposite: heightened experiences that make dining out and spending their hard-earned money worth it, even with increased prices. To that end, forward-thinking operators are turning to advanced technologies that both enhance the restaurant experience by offering more tailored service and help reduce costs.
One such tool is facial recognition technology (FRT), which can be integrated into restaurant management and POS systems. By instantaneously and accurately identifying regular diners, it can offer a myriad of helpful ways for restaurants to enhance their customer experience without breaking the bank. As restaurants more fully embrace technology in their kitchens and dining rooms, facial recognition will boost efficiency for operators and create more personalized experiences for expectant guests.
Maintaining attentiveness amid labor issues
With new Yelp data revealing that customers mentioned short-staffing 229% more in reviews from Q1 2022 than in reviews one year prior, it’s understandable that more operators are turning toward tech tools to combat the effects of staff shortages. Particularly at quick-service and fast-casual restaurants, kiosks equipped with facial recognition can maintain the attention to detail that’s essential for excellent hospitality service, even when a restaurant is understaffed.
Instead of having to wait in a long line to interact with a cashier, a customer can now approach a kiosk and be instantly recognized as a loyal diner. The kiosk then instantly pulls up their loyalty program profile, complete with their past order combination history, allergy and rewards information, and payment details. From there, the diner can quickly select a favorite order combo and be able to pay from the card they already had on file, while automatically earning loyalty points.
The kiosks can also be especially helpful for allergies since they are able to identify a conflict with a dish even if the customer had not mentioned an allergy during the ordering interaction. With rising ingredient costs, using technology to catch these small details helps operators avoid costly order mistakes and ensures diners have a seamless and safe dining experience.
To properly integrate cutting edge biometric tools, it is also important for restaurants to communicate the benefits of programs like facial recognition and streamline the opt-in process so each customer has easy access and understands the restaurant’s limited use of their personal data. As a bonus, these kiosks also don’t have to be prohibitively expensive, since the top FRT solutions can integrate into almost any camera and easily be installed on an existing operating system.
Crafting deeper personalization
FRT can go beyond just streamlining the ordering interaction, to create even more tailored experiences for demanding diners. The key is connecting FRT to the restaurant’s customer relationship database through specialized integrations, which allows hosts and servers to access and act on diner preferences from the moment they walk in the door.
Hosts can use facial recognition to instantly identify a return customer, greet them by name and guide them to their favorite table. For those customers who want their restaurant dining experience to be more familiar, FRT could also help a waiter get to know who they are serving before they even approach the table. A waiter would be able to see a diner’s past order history to offer more tailored recommendations and acknowledge any allergies on file. As the meal ends, the waiter could even have a diner verify their payment information with their face.
At its most extended application, facial recognition could even make the restaurant experience feel more consistent across venues for loyalty program members. Once a customer opts-in to a restaurant group’s system, they could be recognized across any of their establishments, ensuring a tailored experience, unique dish recommendations, and the opportunity to earn loyalty points even if they have not dined at that specific location before. This kind of instantaneous personalized service technology is already being implemented at casinos, and smart restaurants are fast becoming a reality, with McDonald’s already testing voice-recognition at their drive thrus.
Leaning into technology
Consumers wary of spending money amid increased inflation harbor higher expectations for when they do choose to dine out. So, restaurants should invest in new technologies to not only maintain the highest level of attention to detail but also enhance each diner’s experience with instantaneous personalization.
With a little help from advanced technology like facial recognition, restaurants can weather the current maelstrom of economic and labor challenges to focus on creating a guest experience that will keep diners coming back.
Richard Carriere is the Senior Vice-President & General Manager of CyberLink, a world leader in facial recognition technology. He leads worldwide marketing, overseeing branding, strategy, communications, and web commerce. He also manages the Company’s US operations. Richard holds a master’s degree of Business Administration from the Amos Tuck School at Dartmouth College. He also graduated from the London Business School and the Université de Montréal.