Wireless Waiters Ensure Speedy Service
By Tom Ryan
According to an independent survey from Motorola,
53 percent of decision makers in the hospitality space believe wireless
ordering and reservations will provide the greatest technological impact
for their organization within the next five years.
The most obvious benefit is in time as the
survey showed that mobile applications saved hospitality employees an average
of 44.1 minutes per day.
At a presentation Tuesday at City Winery in
Manhattan, Andre Nataf, business development manager at Digital Dining,
a restaurant POS systems provider, said wireless devices address many of
the “natural inefficiencies of restaurants and hospitality concepts.” (Hospitality
also includes hotels, gaming and sports stadiums.)
The largest inefficiency involves taking an order or a credit
card and then needing to walk over to a terminal to input the order or
process the card.
“So many inefficiencies often happen after a server takes
your order initially,” said Mr. Nataf. “They may get stopped and have to
take another order, they may get paged to pick up food from the kitchen
– all these things in restaurants that happen no matter how good they are
as an operator. Having mobile is like having the terminal with them at
Mr. Nataf also said wireless devices present upsell opportunities
through more attentive service.
“The National Restaurant
Association has for years said the number one customer complaint is getting
the check when you want it and I think we’ve all been in situations where
we would have ordered another drink or appetizer if we could find a server,’
said Mr. Nataf.
Other benefits of wireless devices in the hospitality space,
according to the session, include an increase in inventory visibility since
the devices instantly show what’s in stock. Orders are also found to be
more accurate when keying them in at the table, especially since many restaurants
still rely on a waiters’ memory rather than a notepad to tally orders.
Employee retention also tends to improve, and Mark Self, Vice President of Industry Solutions, Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions,
said wireless can dramatically enhance a server’s performance.
“It used to be all about hiring the “great
individual employee” at a restaurant as opposed to supporting them to move
from good employee to a great employee like other industries,” said Mr.
Self. “But we’re finding if you put mobility in the hands of a number of
workers, particularly customer-facing workers, we’re seeing opportunities
to increase service levels.”
The top five key mobility benefits were increased
employee productivity/efficiency, increased customer/partner satisfaction,
increased business revenues/sales results, reduced labor costs via automated
processes, and increased order fulfillment accuracy.
The top five mobile challenges: cost of hardware;
security concerns/risk; cost of software, integration, service and support;
difficulties in employee training and support; difficulties integrating
mobile apps, existing infrastructure.
Asked about mobile applications for retailers,
Adrees Ali, a manager at Brooklyn Bowl, a recently-opened restaurant/club/bowling
alley, noted a situation when his staff was able to use a mobile device
to quickly corral a shirt from another floor for a customer who had a tray
of drinks spilled on him. Michael Dorf, owner of City
Winery, said at a general admission concert, his staff used mobile devices
to sell tickets to a long line that had gathered outside the establishment.
Mr. Nataf said his
firm has been contacted by a large supermarket
that found that they had “lost the service element” by using deli ordering
kiosks and were looking at mobility “as that hybrid between talking to
a machine and talking to just a person who is taking an order verbally.”
Frank Riso, Motorola’s
senior director of retail solutions, said the applications vary across
mediums but the results are similar.
“Bottom line, it’s customer service, inventory
management and worker productivity. That kind of cuts across all parts
of mobility,” said Mr. Riso.
Discussion Questions: Do you think mobile
technologies have the potential to likewise reduce the “natural inefficiencies” of
sales employees on retail selling floors? Which wireless applications
available so far make the most sense for retail?