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Text and Dine: How Texting Can Improve the Restaurant Industry

Text and Dine: How Texting Can Improve Restaurant Service
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 cases.

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 in mind.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net


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