What is in this article?:
- Exploring the future of restaurant service
- Catering to customization
Restaurant industry watchers say quick-service eateries will move increasingly toward digital service, while higher-end restaurants refocus on the human touch.
As technology becomes more deeply embedded in the restaurant industry, the chasm between restaurant service styles will grow. By 2020 service will fall into two categories: served-service and self-service.
Quick-service, fast-casual and lower-end casual-dining eateries will continue to push service duties away from people and onto technological platforms such as kiosks, tabletop devices and tablet computers, while the upper-end restaurants will foster an even more sophisticated and polished hospitality culture.
“Service fulfills a need; hospitality fulfills people,” said Jim Sullivan, chief executive of the consultancy Sullivision.com and a Nation’s Restaurant News columnist. “You can get service from a vending machine or an ATM, but not hospitality.”
In fact, Sullivan said studies indicate diners today put less value on hospitality than they once did. They describe good service as the “absence of complaints,” and put a premium on speed, accuracy and value.
“Of course, in 2020, like 2013, the value you put on receiving hospitality or service is inversely proportional to the amount of money you spend,” Sullivan said. “A $5 lunch from a quick-serve location today is more dependent on service — speed, value and accuracy — than whether or not the cashier was hospitable while handing you your food. A $50 meal comes with the expectation of hospitality: friendliness, caring, helpfulness, product knowledge and graciousness.”
Service staffs in all restaurant segments will face a greater demand for information from consumers — especially Millennials, said Chris Miller, executive vice president of research firm Sandelman & Associates.
“They have grown up with instant access through the Web and now in their pockets through smartphones,” Miller said. “I think the expectation is that people will be more able to answer questions about where the food came from or what the flavor profile is like.”