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Secrets of today’s fastest-growing restaurants

What full-service restaurants are doing right and how you can learn from them

Woman paying using smart watch and Clover Flex

Catching diners’ attention and winning their loyalty is no simple feat for a full-service restaurant in today’s hypercompetitive environment. Consumers are inundated with choices, and quick-service restaurants have an edge when it comes to attracting diners who are too busy for a sit-down meal.

However, full-service restaurants still strike a chord with many diners. The American Customer Satisfaction Index reports that customers’ overall satisfaction with full-service restaurants jumped 3.8 percent this year to an ACSI score of 81 on a 100-point scale.1

The data shows diners appreciate the way restaurants are embracing change—both in terms of technology and what’s coming out of the kitchen. These changes are particularly satisfying to younger consumers, who expect streamlined, digital transactions and want fresher, healthier dining options.

But restaurants still have room to improve.

To understand how full-service restaurants can remain competitive and even expand in this challenging environment, consider what some of the fastest-growing full-service restaurants are doing.

From providing a variety of payment options to leveraging data and insights, here are a few lessons from those hitting the mark.

Let hospitality lead

Top-performing full-service restaurants place a premium on excellent service and making customers feel recognized. 

To master this aspect of business, restaurant operations must be efficient. That’s where cloud-based technology comes in. A streamlined point-of-sale system can help restaurants ensure customers are never waiting too long to place their order, get their food or check out. Servers can use tablets to pull up detailed information on wines without needing to find the sommelier or answer any allergy questions without having to rush back to the kitchen.

Restaurant management software can help business owners avoid tedious tasks such as handling stacks of receipts or poring over staff schedules. Instead, they’re free to dream up new menu items, attend to guests or work on a marketing campaign that brings new guests through the door.

For multi-location restaurants, a personal touch might include crafting menu items that tie directly into each community’s local ingredients or flavors. For restaurants of all sizes, apps that reward customer loyalty with points and discounts can also be an effective way to keep diners coming back.  

Focus on convenience

Quick-service restaurants present stiff competition to full-service dining establishments. Of the 20 fastest-growing private restaurant chains in the nation, all but three were quick-service restaurants.2 To remain relevant, full-service restaurants must confront the fact that many diners are in a hurry and don’t have time to linger over a meal.

Offering a variety of ordering and payment options and expediting transactions can give full-service restaurants a new way to win over customers who are short on time but still seek a satisfying overall dining experience. Allowing customers to order ahead and pay online, or accepting NFC payment methods like Apple Pay®, full-service restaurants can enhance speed and convenience.

Ordering and paying tableside is another way diners can enjoy a full-service experience quickly. Placing orders and completing transactions through a tablet eliminates the time diners spend waiting for their server to run paper orders back to the kitchen, waiting again for their card to be swiped and returned with a printed receipt. In fact, nearly 40 percent of small business consumers said they appreciate being able to pay tableside.3

Finally, using a restaurant POS solution that allows large parties to easily split a ticket across several different cards is another way to make the process more efficient for both customers and wait staff.  

Don’t forget about the food

Innovation isn’t important only to restaurant operations—it makes a difference in the kitchen, too. Fast-growing restaurants are successful when they pay close attention to what customers want and create menus that reflect those priorities.

For instance, customers are increasingly focused on high-quality and healthy food. Providing gluten-free items and options that work with other dietary restrictions can be a tremendous value to diners. In many markets, customers appreciate large portions that guarantee they’ll walk away with leftovers. Diners also want the ability to customize their orders to their own liking.

Technology can play a role here, too. A restaurant POS system that records data and insights can quickly reveal a restaurant’s top-selling items, which helps determine where a menu excels, where it could be improved and how to reduce waste.

Successful full-service restaurants all have a common thread—in addition to serving great food, they’re also delivering an experience customers want to have again. To do this, they’re leveraging technology that makes these difficult tasks easier to manage.

Restaurateurs who delve deeper into these ideas with their payment service providers may discover newer, easier ways of doing business to help pad the bottom line and delight diners.

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