How technology is transforming the casual dining industry

Discover the innovations opening new doors for the casual dining industry.

There are many challenges facing the casual dining, or quick service restaurant (QSR) industry today. With inflated ground rents and rising overheads, businesses are feeling the squeeze, and some players are suffering. In the UK, for example, well-known high street chains like Prezzo and Jamie’s Italian have closed a significant number of restaurants.

On the flipside, new channels are emerging that are helping to generate more sales. Companies like Deliveroo and Just Eat have unlocked new consumer demand, and recent figures show that delivery orders account for up to 15% of a QSR's business. It’s growing too; with orders increasing by 16% in the past quarter alone. This success is, in large part, thanks to the simple order process; just a few swipes and your favorite meal arrives at your door.

Technology innovations to open new doors

Businesses that are digitizing the customer journey are beginning to reap the rewards. Starbucks lets you pre-order your coffee in-app, and several chains are now supporting pay-at-table. This removes a big customer pain-point. UK restaurant chain, Pizza Express, found that 67% of diners hate waiting for the bill. In fact, we hate waiting for the bill almost as much as we hate queuing to pay in store - something that cost the European retail industry €16.3 billion in lost sales in the past 12 months.

QSRs are well aware of the need to modernize. In the 2018 Adyen EU retail report, QSRs showed the strongest need for tighter collaboration between ecommerce and restaurant ops.  One-third of consumers stated a preference for digital channels when purchasing their meal. Many are asking themselves: How do we speed up payment? How do we make it easier? And crucially: How do we do this without disrupting our service with an entire system overhaul?

This is where technology companies like Adyen and Flyt come in.

Digital disruption - without the disruption

Flyt is a UK-based tech company that helps retail and hospitality businesses create digital customer journeys that are compatible with existing infrastructures. Adyen is able to close the loop on these new digital interactions by processing payments seamlessly.

Flyt have built a digital platform that connects innovative tech to the existing cash register system. This makes it possible to streamline operations across a variety of consumer touchpoints. For the growing delivery market, this type of integration means it’s possible to connect an online order to the restaurant cash register. This reduces manual effort to provide the best possible service. Where restaurants are managing their own delivery service, the combination of Flyt and Adyen means that consumers can now order their preferred dish from their sofas, and the payment is authorized and captured by Adyen.

Enter the Chatbot

Chatbots are beginning to find a foothold in casual dining, with chains like Pizza Express using them to make table bookings. What is new, however, is using a chatbot to pay the bill.

Pay at table with Facebook Messenger

Most pay-at-table experiences are app-powered, so the diner has to download the restaurant’s app in order to pay. But an exciting new service has emerged that lets diners pay using Facebook Messenger.

Presenter on stage

Flyt and Adyen have teamed up to create technology that enables a restaurant to implement a customized chatbot which can take payment in the Facebook Messenger app. The service combines Flyt’s technology and the Adyen marketplace payment solution MarketPay. A customer simply has to open Facebook Messenger, select the restaurant location and enter the table number. The order is recalled from the cash register and displayed in Messenger. The customer then approves and pays with their stored payment option via one-click. The payment is processed by Adyen, confirmation is sent to the cash register, and the bill closed. The entire process takes about 45 seconds.

Technology with the potential to reach 1.3 billion people

This technology makes pay-at-table easily accessible to a broader customer segment; Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion monthly active users worldwide. The Flyt/Adyen MarketPay partnership also makes it possible for smaller QSRs to support pay-at-table without having to build their own apps. They can sign up as a sub-merchant via Adyen’s automatic onboarding process, which includes thorough KYC checks, and can start accepting Facebook Messenger payments in a matter of hours.

“Adyen MarketPay was the perfect fit for this project. Its automatic onboarding removes a lot of hassle from the process, and its global reach means that this service can be rolled out across international sites quickly and easily.” Carey Benn, Chief Revenue Officer at Flyt.

The bot was piloted by innovative UK restaurant group Wahaca and saw phenomenal uptake, accounting for up to 14.5% of payments in the restaurant, with a peak conversion rate of 69%.

casual dining industry food

“We are delighted with the results of the Facebook Messenger pilot. It makes paying-at-table incredibly quick and easy and our customers loved it. Flyt and Adyen have combined forces to create an excellent solution that makes it easy to serve our customers more efficiently.” Mark Selby, co-founder of Wahaca.

"Not only is the Messenger experience helping businesses; it’s also helping the people that keep businesses running."

The Wahaca bot also made a debut at Facebook’s Developer conference, F8. Here it was showcased as one of Facebook’s favorite use cases of its bot technology.

Heath Black, Product Manager at Facebook Messenger, said: “It’s a great example. The wait staff are seeing tips 15% - 20% higher than they normally do. Not only is the Messenger experience helping businesses; it’s also helping the people that keep businesses running.”

What's next?

In the latest development, UK premium hamburger chain, Byron, has been the first UK operator to begin rolling out its Facebook Messenger payment chatbot. As Byron turns its attention to continuing operational excellence, this payment experience is one of the first visible changes being made as part of innovation in its restaurants.

Steve de Polo, managing director of Byron said: “We have previously provided our customers with the ability to pay and leave when they want via our own app. This latest innovation using Facebook Messenger further decreases the friction for giving our guests control in how they choose to pay. We’re proud to be the first to roll out this service, and are in the process of making it available across our restaurants.”

Close up of a hand holding a mobile phone

Key considerations for QSRs

There are a lot of exciting innovations emerging in the QSR industry to make the dining experience better than ever. Whether it’s the ability to order home-delivery with a tap of your finger, pre-order your favorite coffee each morning, or pay-at-table in seconds, technology will continue to push the boundaries of the customer experience. This, in turn, will influence customer expectations and so QSRs must adapt to meet their evolving needs.

With this new technology QSRs can introduce new customer journeys without impacting the day-to-day running of their restaurants.

Crucially, each new service must be tested and staff thoroughly trained. New technology often fails because restaurant staff don’t see the value or, worse, they see it negatively impacting their tips. Educating staff about the benefits of the new technology is paramount to its success.

Carey Benn from Flyt concludes, “We understand the complexity that comes with running a QSR across multiple channels, sites and even regions. We work closely with our clients to help them use our platform to meet their needs. And Adyen, with its agile technology, is the ideal partner, making payments easy and helping our clients delight their diners every step of the way.”

Read next: Benefits of single-platform payment solutions