Restaurants transform to cater for tech-savvy diners

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Lorraine Nyawo, manager of Santis Pub and Grill in Sunninghill.
Lorraine Nyawo, manager of Santis Pub and Grill in Sunninghill.

South African restaurants are transforming to satisfy customers in the digital age.

Restaurant operators say technology impacts nearly every aspect of their business and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Data analytics company Nielsen, in its Quest for Convenience report, explores changing global consumer needs and highlights the rapidly growing demand for convenience in markets around the world. It says this is most evident in the restaurant industry.

“Technology is drastically changing the way restaurants communicate with customers and potential customers,” the report reads.

Restaurant operators say they are “undergoing a full transformation” to embrace technology.

One such restaurant is Santis Pub and Grill, in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.

“With an entirely new world of apps out there, customer expectations have undergone a full transformation. So without technology you wouldn't be able to have a strong grasp on your customers,” says manager Lorraine Nyawo.

“You would solely depend on walk-in customers and spreading specials through word of mouth. Things are changing fast, and we restaurants have to work hard to stay competitive and relevant to an extremely fickle customer base.

“Social media has allowed us to build our own individual brand and reach out to diners online like we have never been able to before. We use Facebook and Twitter social media platforms to reach new customers, generate buzz for our restaurant, and share unique content and in-the-moment specials by updating them daily.”

Nyawo notes that online reviews also help to grow the business.

“Online reviews have always been a rite of passage for our restaurant. Customers are able to talk about their experience online immediately, which can either spread priceless awareness and publicity, or leave the business open to potentially harmful reviews. So learning to deal with online reviews is important for any restaurant making a name for itself today.”

The Nielsen report supports this view, stating: “If your restaurant is not easily found on the Internet, it can have a big impact on the amount of new customers you can acquire.

“In light of this, it’s no surprise then that some of the biggest interest shown by South African consumers in their quest for convenience has occurred within the ready prepared and on-the-go meal solutions, home or office grocery delivery offerings, and tech-driven ‘on-demand’ services,” reads the report.

It adds that one-third (34%) of South African consumers are now using restaurant delivery (eg, Uber Eats and Mr Delivery) or meal kit services (eg, UCook and Daily Dish) up from 29% in 2017, and 19% in 2016.

The value of food bought online in SA, along with delivery fees, will reach $453 million in 2019, growing to $726 million by 2023, according to research group Statista.

Research by Insight Survey found that: busy consumers are increasingly opting for the convenience of online delivery services when buying fast food.

The move to purchasing food online is particularly good news for fast-food operators, which have felt the pain of the contracting economy. In December, overall sales for takeaway and fast-food outlets fell 5.1%, while those for restaurants and coffee shops dropped 1.1%.

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