The proliferation of beacons in hospitality has been one of the hot topics of 2015.
Airports continue to roll out extensive trials and hotels are testing beacons to check-in frequent travelers and to know if a guest is still present in a room to prevent housekeeping snafus. Facebook has even launched a nationwide initiative to place thousands of beacons in brick-and-mortar businesses across the US.
So what does this mean for those physical businesses, especially restaurants? Do these technologies appeal to those in the trenches of hospitality each day?
There’s no clear answer, but restaurateurs should be relieved to know that beacons finally make technology a bit friendlier to daily operations.
As beacons pop up in various venues, a framework of connected listening devices emerges to deliver digital personalization. This means that restaurants can work in concert with their guests to provide an enhanced experience requiring less effort with more impact.
That’s exciting to restaurant owners weary of how each new technology must be integrated into training and operational workflows.
Let’s not forget that personalization is more than a buzzword: it is one of the key tenets of hospitality — especially for restaurants where each interaction is both prized and fraught with peril. The Facebook example above means that restaurants can opt-in to provide more tailored information to guide the guest to the best parts of the restaurant’s Facebook presence that might help inform the guest’s experience.
Beyond Facebook, some startups are aggressively deploying beacons in a bid to create appealing technologies for business owners. Wisely, a startup based in Ann Arbor, deploys beacons in partner restaurants as the backbone of customer loyalty technology.
Targeting restaurants, Wisely is aimed squarely at using beacons to build more engaging experiences. When a guest walks in, their phone activates the restaurant's machinery, informing the staff how often the guest has dined with them before.
Basically, the beacons offer a way to seamlessly track guest visits for an enhanced loyalty program that brings new marketing opportunities to restaurateurs. The guest no longer has to carry a card or even open an app — the beacon immediately recognizes guests and the loyalty visit is tracked without friction.
Restaurants can then offer targeted promotions available only to Wisely users. These offers could range from flash deals to private classes to a customized tasting menu. The fact that these offers are direct-to-consumer both cuts out the middleman and ensures privacy that won’t erode perceived value.
Other valuable features for restaurateurs include real-time private feedback tied to a verified guest visit, a status system to reward loyal guests with tiered perks similar to airline frequent flyer programs, and comprehensive analytics to measure what works.
Wisely is live in about 75 Michigan restaurants. But the concept behind the platform is likely to be adopted widely.
For services like Wisely, there is a clear value proposition on both sides of the equation: restaurant guests can be recognized for their loyalty with little effort on both the part of the guest and the restaurant.
Restaurateurs can also be swiftly notified of repeat visitors. While this feature certainly reduces the romance of traditional hospitality, it reflects the harsh intensity of running a restaurant that makes this automated repeat guest announcement a welcome feature.
Wisely claims it service increases visit frequency by 9% and spend per visit by 14%.
Regardless of how restaurateurs feel about technology’s relentless march into the four walls of a restaurant, money talks. As technology proves that it can boost revenues while managing costs, restaurateurs will get over their objections. And then the race is on to deliver peak results with limited interruption — no easy feat but that’s the promise of beacons in hospitality.
NB: Nick Vivion was a reporter (and later also global events lead) for Tnooz between August 2012 and July 2015. He was the launch co-founder of Booty's, a global street food restaurant in New Orleans and he's now AVP Operations, North America at Zomato. His views are his own.