Using Tech to Drive Loyalty With Customers and Crew
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Using Tech to Drive Loyalty With Customers and Crew

Brian Wallunas, Chief Technology Officer, Smokey Bones
Brian Wallunas, Chief Technology Officer, Smokey Bones

Brian Wallunas, Chief Technology Officer, Smokey Bones

Technology is part of everyday life in the home, work, where we shop, where we dine, and more. It’s ever-changing, and the options continue to grow, so keeping pace can be challenging. In response to the global pandemic and the restrictions placed on restaurants, many ramped up their use of technology to continue providing services, including casual dining brand Smokey Bones Bar & Grill. The company is also ramping up its tech to meet guests where they are as part of their anytime, anywhere strategy.

Brian Wallunas, a digital leader in the restaurant space and Chief Technology Officer for Smokey Bones, offers his insights on putting people first when it comes to tech to drive better results.

Which Way To Tech

Technology can serve as a key enabler for crew to provide elevated hospitality. When guests receive a quality experience this in turn drives return visits, builds loyalty and sales. The task is finding what works for your crew.

There is a myriad of tech options, but it’s critical to find the ones that work both for your team and also for your organization overall. When evaluating tech vendors, we’re not only reviewing their capabilities, but also their company vision and values. Finding companies that best align with ours allows us to be more thoughtful and strategic in our plans for growth and evolution.

Going Digital

Restaurants are leaning into technology in various ways. From digital waitlists to mobile POS to QR codes, restaurants have more tools to better engage with guests and run smoother operations.

Take for example table management solutions, which digitized traditional paper waitlist. The digital version not only allows crews to better manage their dining room but also provide more accurate wait times by tracking kitchen capacity. The digital waitlist also improves guest communication; leveraging SMS to notify them of their position on the waitlist, and this is just scratching the surface. Soon, we will be extending this platform to further personalize theon-premise dining occasion. Crew members will be able to pull up information about guests to drive engagement. What are their ordering habits? Are they loyalty club members? How often do they visit? By enabling crew to know their guests better, this helps build loyalty through connectivity.

  Technology can serve as a key enabler for crew to provide elevated hospitality

Going mobile allows the crew to engage more with guests and not feel tied to one station or have to continuously go back and forth to a terminal to lookup or punch in orders. This is most notable in the mobile POS, where transactions are conducted more quickly from ordering to closing out an order with payment, all while a server is tableside with guests.

Technology can be beneficial if it targets the right audience. For example, QR codes are sprouting up in various places from car charging stations to our cereal boxes. Restaurants are using them for customers to quickly pull up a menu and place orders. QR codes provide convenience but can also be cumbersome depending on the customer. Younger customers are perhaps more adept at using QR codes, but less tech savvy customers may be challenged. It’s important to be aware of these disparities and be prepared with options for guests to choose.

When you digitize processes, you can see improvements in those processes, which can lead to increased sales. Just as importantly, crew performance and morale can improve as these processes can result in smoother, more efficient operations.

Elevating Experiences

There are several ways to elevate the guest experience, but the key lies in the operators. Are they supported with the technology and tools they need to offer guests a great experience? Are these tools the right fit for the crew?

As companies explore ways to maintain and expand their labor force, the ability to give them choice is critical. We believe in an ‘AND’ vs. an ‘EITHER OR’ approach when deploying new technology. Providing our crew with options allows them to operate and focus on what they do best, hospitality.

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