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AWS Blog: The Shift Toward Experiential Dining is Here

people at dinner

GoTab CEO’s guest blog post, Hospitality Operators Shift Toward Experiential Dining With GoTab, was featured on the AWS for Industries Blog. With topics from the deeply technical to the user experience, the blog gives startup business and technical leaders the opportunity to showcase the numerous ways Amazon Web Services is helping to advance their business goals.

Hospitality Operators Shift Towards Experiential Dining with GoTab

If the global pandemic has proven anything, it is that the hospitality industry has to embrace technology to move forward, especially during challenging times. As many restaurant, bar, brewery, winery, and entertainment venue operators found out 2 years ago, operations can be severely disrupted by external factors in an instant, endangering the viability of the business and the livelihood of many. Historically, the hospitality industry has been resistant to change and slow to adopt technology, operating under the assumption that technology takes away from the guest experience. When faced with having to pivot – whether that meant switching to takeout/delivery/curbside pickup/grocery market, implementing contactless ordering and payment for guests, or running operations with limited staff – many opted for best-of-breed food technology solutions such as GoTab. Some did it reluctantly, others fully embraced the enhanced capabilities a cloud-based restaurant commerce platform like GoTab provided. What is certain today is that technology is here to stay and the future lies in a new, hybrid service model where hospitality staff use technology to enhance the guest experience.

Experiential and Transactional Interactions

I believe hospitality entails two types of guest interactions: Experiential and Transactional. Experiential interactions are your food, drink, ambiance, and the fun parts of service such as smiles, presentations, recommendations. The not-so-fun parts of your service are the Transactional experiences. Historically, we have tried to make the Transactional interactions seem Experiential and therefore fun, but they just aren’t. The best example of a Transactional Interaction is paying the bill. We can put it in a nice leather folio and put a handwritten note on it. But in the end, as a diner, I’d rather just not think about it. It’s not fun. It’s like paying my electric bill – can’t you just automatically withdraw it? Oh wait, we do that now for our electric bills, our taxes, and most every other sort of mundane transactional interaction we have every day. So why is the restaurant industry still so reluctant to embrace technology and let systems handle transactional operations?

If you go back in history to pre-OpenTable days, restaurants thought that guests wouldn’t like to book their reservations through a computer because the personal touch of making a reservation by phone was better – safe to say that was completely wrong. Guests like convenience, and busy signals aren’t convenient. Nor is talking to somebody over the phone really all that pleasurable for that matter.

Great Servers are Essential … When You Can Find Them

Which brings us to the experiences that are both Experiential and Transactional. Let me say it loud and clear: servers are an essential, non-negotiable part of the hospitality experience. But as I often say, servers are essential when you can find them. The past few weeks have proven that this global pandemic can deplete a restaurant’s entire staff in less than 24 hours. The labor market remains extremely tight, and experts continue to predict that hospitality careers will eventually dwindle. At GoTab, we believe that a great first impression by a restaurant staffer will always create the best experience. But if it doesn’t happen, don’t destroy the good by pursuing the great. For instance, it’s great when a server knows the menu and has the time and dedication to bring it to life with a wonderful in-person presentation. But when that is not the case, it can quickly hinder the guest experience, sometimes (most times) to a point of no-return.

Great Servers are Essential… But They Can’t Be Everywhere

My wife owns Caboose Tavern in Virginia, and while she’d love to have the human touch always available, she’s found that servers can’t be everywhere at once, especially right now. If guests are greeted properly and warmly when they arrive, there’s a high chance they will enjoy the rest of their on-site experience. Sometimes, guests just want another beer without having to interrupt their conversation or having to flag the staff. Or better yet, they’re happy to pay via their mobile device and walk out and not have to wait for the check. Or best of all, not even bother with checks.

Embracing Technology to Eliminate Pain Points & Enhance the Guest Experience

Since our inception, GoTab has worked on a solution to enhance restaurant operations with technology, and effectively prove that hospitality and technology can work hand-in-hand to deliver a superlative guest experience. As a truly cloud-based POS run entirely on AWS, GoTab has a unique advantage over other systems. Some operators have been scarred by past connectivity/scaling issues. A cloud-based platform has now become an imperative because any interaction with a digital device on- or off-premise has to go through the Internet. This means that, if off-premise or even on-premise digital ordering and payment are essential to your business (and they should be), then being “offline” means your business is really not running at all. It is much cheaper to just set up a cellular backup.

GoTab is also the only system on the market allowing guests to seamlessly move back and forth between servers and self-ordering. No other system allows you to just walk out without paying because it knows you. When the waitstaff is bogged down by transactional tasks, or just spending longer than expected chatting with a regular, then some other guest is suffering. Manual transactional tasks also increase the room for error and, therefore, customer frustration. By automating the easy, transactional tasks with technology, servers can focus on the most important aspect: making sure customers leave restaurants happy and wanting to return. When technology is seamlessly integrated into the service experience, the premise that technology takes away from the guest experience is no longer valid.

With GoTab, operators can eliminate the most common guest pain points. They can operate with limited staff who are fully dedicated to delivering a superlative guest experience. They can scale their business, pay higher wages to their staff, and provide a more financially stable work environment to their team. They can mix old and new service models to meet guests where they want to be – offering contactless ordering to tech-savvy guests and a more traditional ordering experience via a server for those who opt for a device-free experience.

Collection of devices with GoTab software on screen.

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