Predictions for the UK restaurant trade are fairly upbeat as the country heads even further into Brexit turmoil.
Foodservice visits could rise by a huge 93m in 2019 according to one source, as consumers continue to choose to spend their cash on food.
They have a little more disposable income, too, with UK employment higher than ever before, and with wages rising at the highest rate in a decade while interest rates remain low.
So which 7 trends will shape dining in 2019 – and how will restaurant EPOS technology feed into them?
- Join me for brunch?
All the signs are that UK diners are eating out less in the evening, and choosing less formal dining when they do. However, that’s doesn’t mean they’ve stopped eating out.
It’s predicted that there will be steady growth in going out for breakfast and brunch, already a popular trend throughout 2018. Lunch will remain a big market this year and is estimated to rise by about 2%.
For these busy guests in a hurry, speed of service will be crucial.
Outlets that benefit from restaurant EPOS will be able to offer quick ordering by tablet. Payments can also be taken at tableside, making the customer experience satisfyingly swift.
- Robot welcome
Mobile technology, combined with millennial diners and restaurant POS, is making a great difference in the how restaurants deliver personal interaction with their guests.
Younger diners often prefer messaging to emails or phone calls, so restaurants wanting to grab their business in 2019 will definitely be exploring chatbots.
The technology is already with us – for instance, Open Table integrates with Facebook Messenger. It means people who are chatting about dinner on Messenger can be booked into your establishment by a bot.
- Hey, Alexa – get me more business
Alexa, the Google Home Hub and Facebook’s smart speaker have driven up voice searches hugely – ComScore believes that by 2020, they’ll make up 50% of all searches.
For restaurants, this could be massive. Imagine a situation where your customer hears your ad on Spotify at dinnertime and places an order or reserves a table immediately. Restaurant EPOS is available 24/7 to handle the incoming business, of course – even when you are closed.
The technology will also open up a new field of business in 2019 for restaurants who can to offer home delivery for the first time.
- Allergy mitigation
No-one wants this trend, but with food allergies on the rise, around 10 people may die in the UK this year because of a bad reaction to an ingredient.
For busy chefs designing tasty dishes, restaurant EPOS is a huge help.
A technology partnership between Aloha restaurant management technology and the Kitchen CUT F&B management platform assists in areas ranging from cost control to ingredient selection and warnings on allergens.
- Casually brilliant
For several years, casual dining has been an increasing trend in hospitality, with many customers now opting to spend only 45 minutes over their food.
For both the fast and casual sectors, restaurant EPOS provides an incredible toolbox, integrating with self-service kiosks and also with kitchen automation.
It means customers can order, pay, eat and go – and the next customers can be served just as swiftly.
- The shrinking labour pool
This is another trend restaurateurs hate having to think about – but labour is definitely in short supply.
Analysts KPMG estimate that around 75% of serving staff in the UK are of EU origin, and Brexit is making many of them think about leaving.
Inevitably, the shortage of skills and labour availability is pushing up wages – it’s an uncomfortable combination if you run a restaurant.
Restaurant EPOS helps by capturing data so restaurateurs can match staffing levels to rollercoaster of trade. It means good customer service is always maintained but costs are kept well under control.
Comprehensive reports prepared by the system confirm what the busiest times are, while the technology also uses the data to provide useful forecasts.
- Ethical eating
We’re already seeing Veganuary trending, and many UK restaurants are tweaking their menus in the coming year to cater for this strong movement.
But whether you are vegan or not, ethical food production is a genuine agenda item for both diners and chefs in 2019.
Diners want to be sure that restaurants have food waste under control – and chefs don’t need to be told that stock control is directly linked to a robust bottom line.
Restaurant EPOS reports can promote excellent stock control, identifying the best-selling dishes so stock is correctly ordered, and enabling chefs to control their dishes right down to ingredient level.
So – let’s crack 2019!
We know it’s going to be even more of a rollercoaster ride than usual for the UK restaurant industry. But we also know that those who take advantage of technology to streamline operations will be in the best position to survive the ride.
The benefits of useful software were demonstrated recently when two of our restaurant EPOS clients, Dishoom and Honest Burger, won Best Restaurant Operator titles for their two categories in the Restaurant Magazine awards.
So if you’ve already broken your new year resolutions, it’s time to make a new one – if you don’t have a restaurant management system already, vow to consider one. It will go on benefiting you long after Dry January is forgotten…