Telecommunication Technology for Restaurants
Innovative restaurants have adopted a variety of telecommunications technologies to better manage operations and add convenience for customers. Telecom devices give customers new ways to find menus and place reservations, as well as improve their experience when they're in the restaurant. Smartphones and Wi-Fi have increasingly become part of the hospitality landscape, alongside more established technologies such as fax machines and pagers.
Traditional telephone service has been an indispensable part of the restaurant business since the early 20th century; although dining establishments have incorporated sophisticated Internet-based services in recent years, take-out and delivery orders, as well as reservation bookings, still depend in large part on phone calls. As the price of fax machines fell in the 1980s and 1990s, many restaurants started using them to give customers a new way to order delivery and carry-out fare.
During busy periods, some restaurants give waiting patrons a pager to alert them when a table becomes available. Pagers may also alert customers to pick up an order they've placed a few minutes before. Restaurants also use pagers for staff needs, such as to notify a waiter that the kitchen has an order ready.
Many casual dining establishments and coffeehouses provide free Wi-Fi Internet access for their customers, allowing students and mobile professionals to have a quick meal or beverage while doing research, meet with clients, or simply catch up on emails and online news. This also allows telecommuters to get out of the house while keeping up with their workday, and children dining out with their parents to enjoy online games and entertainment.
Restaurant chains have turned to free smartphone apps as a marketing tool, offering patrons a convenient way to see menus, place orders or find the nearest store. According to Nation's Restaurant News, TGI Friday's has an app that allows patrons to pay their tabs online, making visits quicker and more convenient. Other apps, offered by third parties, give locations and ratings for particular dining interests. Examples include Zagat, which has an app for restaurants they've reviewed, and Beer Hero, which recommends microbrew establishments.
As of 2013, Near-Field communication is a technology which European and Asian markets have embraced, but which has not yet caught on widely in the United States. This is a very short-range radio signal in which a smart card or mobile device passes within inches of a receiver to make a brief transaction. Restaurant patrons with smartphones equipped with Near-Field technology can pay for small amounts even faster than by using debit cards. If the technology gains a foothold in the United States, fast-food outlets, coffeehouses and sandwich shops may soon be accepting it as a new form of payment.