By Marisa Torrieri, Contributing Editor, AVISIAN Publications
RFID will help restaurants kick their service up a notch, restaurant industry technology experts said in May, during the National Restaurant Association’s annual convention at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago.
Industry watchers seem confident that demand for better customer service will drive the public’s acceptance of tags when they dine out. As consumers come to expect great customer service, “they’re going to allow us to use things like RFID tags” to obtain demographic and other information, said Bob Murphy, Chili’s restaurants vice president of systems and technology, during a panel on the restaurant of 2010.
In the convention floor’s “Technology Pavilion,” a number of vendors showcased wireless handhelds, which let waiters take and send orders to the kitchen via a handheld computer, a system that speed orders and increases table turnover and profits. While most of these vendors used wireless LAN technology to fuel this application, Keith Caiacob, CEO of nine-month-old WaiterPad POS Systems, said his company’s flagship device used RFID technology (which runs in the 916 or 586 MHz bands) because there are fewer dropouts than with wireless LAN technology.
Major casual dining and fine-dining chains, as well as independent restaurants are exploring RFID-tagged smartcards for frequent diners, or VIP customers.
These cards will help restaurant managers track loyal customers’ needs and preferences a little better – from their favorite seats to their last five orders. Such cards would allow alert restaurant managers immediately, the second a preferred customer entered a specific location.
“[With RFID], as a manager, I know the table they like to sit at, I know their food allergies,” Murphy said, adding that managers will still need to be careful about showing preferential treatment to card-holding, VIP customers. “A turnoff for people is a long waiting list, so preferential treatment has to be done very carefully.”
Expect to see more RFID technology used in everything from gift cards to liquor spouts that track liquor usage—helping restaurateurs offer better customer service and improve overall operations. For example, another vendor, BarVision, uses RFID technology to track liquor usage automatically in real-time, showcased its new tagged spout-and-Palm-handheld liquor inventory system. By connecting a thimble-sized tag to a liquor bottle’s spout, managers can keep tabs on overly generous bartenders.
Other panelists, including Dusty Williams, CIO for Outback Steakhouse, Inc., agreed that although a major rollout is still a little premature, such RFID applications are going to become more common over the next five years.
This article originally appeared in the May 2005 issue of RFIDOperations.