We often think of going out to eat as an almost sacred
ritual, free from the distracting reach of our mobile
devices: an occasion about enjoying food and the company
of friends and family face-to-face. While these values
still hold, texting seems to be gaining more and more
of a role in dining out, especially for the restaurants
themselves. SMS is beginning to take root as a way to
facilitate the workings of restaurants in a myriad of
exciting new ways.
While SMS certainly won't replace a skilled waitstaff,
it can lend them a hand in lunch or dinner rushes at
a busy venue. Services like Text My Food allow guests
in restaurants that use it to make requests or order
food or drinks from the convenience of their cell phone,
without even having to flag down a server. This adds
a level of convenience and novelty to a guest's dining
experience, and may help servers offer faster, more
attentive service; improve guest satisfaction; and even
sell more items like drinks, desserts, and sides that
may be ordered on a whim.
Though services like Text My Food never cut out a server
or render their role insignificant, some servers worry
that diminishing the level of direct interaction in
favor of texting may depersonalize the dining experience.
However, Text My Food can increase the attentiveness
of service during busy hours, having an opposite effect.
Servers aren't wrong to worry about cutting out some
personal contact, though--some have been emboldened
by the medium to send prank texts or even harass their
servers. Some venues that are popular for drinking at
night have responded to this problem by shutting down
the service at an hour before many guests become rowdy,
and some are using the problem to a good end--to monitor
guests in order to know when to cut them off.
Servers aren't the only part of a restaurant's team
that could benefit from the implementation of SMS technology.
Apps like NoWait use texting to streamline hosting,
as well as to save both managers and customers alike
valuable time. NoWait is a scheduling and seating tool
designed to facilitate these two processes for hosts,
as well as to offer valuable information such as accurately
calculated wait times for customers waiting to be seated.
Not only can this improve the customer's experience,
but customers can also use NoWait, which relies on text
messaging to keep waiting customers connected, to virtually
"get in line," and indirectly frees up managers by cutting
down on problems and other work to be done at the front
of the house.
In more low-tech venues, text messaging can streamline
hosting during busy shifts in an even simpler way. No-frills
apps like Table's Ready, or even house use of SMS to
contact guests, can replace clunky pagers and their
aggressive, jarring vibrations when waits pile up. This
simple implementation of texting makes waiting easier
and more enjoyable, sparing guests awkward devices and
embracing a medium most are comfortable and familiar
with. It also offers guests more convenience and mobility,
allowing them to veer further from the establishment
to occupy themselves during long waits.
SMS subscription services also offer a multitude of
possibilities for restaurants and other dining establishments.
Texting subscribers with information like special promotions,
coupons, and changing information often not found on
restaurants' web pages, like daily specials and reservation
availability, is a powerful way to connect with guests,
keep them in the know, and advertise a restaurant's
best deals and opportunities. Guests could be invited
to opt-in to such texts through a reservation-making
service, their receipt, or a staff member.
Text messaging also offers a more immediate, comfortable,
and convenient way to seek guests' feedback than the
more traditional paper questionnaires or online surveys.
Allowing guests to offer feedback using text messaging,
or texting to access a survey, makes the process of
leaving feedback a little more convenient and more instant,
and may encourage guests to submit feedback when they
otherwise might not. Feedback collection that relies
on SMS is especially fast and convenient because a guest
doesn't even need data or wireless access to participate,
and may do so right in the restaurant in almost all
While you may still prefer to keep your phone tucked
out of sight during your meal, it's clear that texting
may indeed have its place in restaurants. The convenience,
speed, and versatility of texting make it a potentially
invaluable tool to restaurants as more and more SMS
developments are made keeping the restaurant industry
About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage,
Inc. a software company for communication software solutions.