You are here

5 Smart Ways Restaurants Can Leverage Technology to Beat the Chains

July 29, 2019

Content provided by Nift Business Network

Opening your own business is exhilarating… and it’s a ton of hard work. It’s your vision, your heart and soul, and your blood, sweat, and tears. But once you open your doors, it’s a whole new ball game: how do you get known, get customers in, and make your business a destination?

Chains and big businesses with huge marketing budgets and new technologies at their disposal make it even more difficult to get seen by your community. How do small businesses better use technology to level the playing field? We’ve consulted the 3,000+ businesses we work with, and gathered some industry best practices, and compiled their tips for finding the right technology to keep business thriving.


1. Use AI chatbots to handle some of the work
Chatbots are automated messaging systems that function as an extension of your customer service team. On your website, they pop up as little message boxes, ready to answer customer questions.

Nift_Blog Banner.png

Using a chatbot at your business means less work for you, and happier, more informed customers. How late are you open? Is there parking? By using chatbots to answer common questions like these, you can make sure your customers feel attended to, and have the answers they need.

Another way to use chatbots? Use them to help your customers make reservations. When you automate that process, you’ll be taking some of the pressure off your staff and making it simple for customers to come in.

2. Find your niche on social media
Since 69% of millennials photograph their food before eating, and a whopping 30% avoid restaurants with a weak social media presence, social media is becoming necessary for successful restaurants. Let them do some of the work for you. Ask them to post and add your handles and tags to your printed menu to make it easy for your patrons to tag you.

“At Paris Creperie,” says manager Shane Hyman, “we have a really unique, sort of ‘Bob’s Burgers,’ sense of humor, and we use social media to leverage that. We have crepes of the month, and we retire the old ones. We always do a little shout out to them on our Instagram.”


3. Use WiFi to bring in more customers (and make them come back!) 
You know what a pleasant surprise it is when you discover the restaurant or cafe you’ve just stepped into has free WiFi. And chances are, you have a mental map of places in your area with free WiFi. Put yourself on that map by offering free WiFi to your customers. Yes, it’s a nice perk, but it also helps you bring in new markets, and keep people coming back.


Offering WiFi allows folks typically working from home or remotely to continue their work while coming into your business. You’ll also become welcome relief for families with little kids, who just want to be able to plug their kids into devices for a quiet meal. Bonus points if you print the WiFi password on the kids menu.

By engaging in social marketing with your WiFi, you’re encouraging them, and your usual customers, to make repeat visits. Platforms like Zenreach allow you to customize your restaurant’s WiFi login page, allowing you to plug specials, or thank customers for coming in. Restaurants like Backmoor Bar & Kitchen and Basho Japanese Brasserie use Zenreach to boost engagement from their customers: “we do see more engagement from customers who appreciate it, and we can use it to then send them follow-up emails, and that makes them think to come back.”

4. Leverage customers who are on their phones
If your customers are using their phones and texting a lot, it might make sense to let them access your business in that way. Opt-in text messaging lets customers opt in to promotions that they might otherwise miss.

Not sure that’s right for you? At Paris Creperie, Hyman encourages his customers to text in with their feedback: “that way, we can actually see what customers are thinking real-time,” he says, “and if there’s an issue, we can fix it immediately.” As a thanks for their feedback, Hyman sends everyone who texts in a $30 Nift gift card, which they can use to discover another great local business. This doesn’t cost Hyman a cent, and “it’s a great way to give someone a good impression of us, and gives our really thoughtful customers an opportunity to try other local businesses.”

5. Forget Traditional Advertising
Zoe Bertrand, manager at Nift partner restaurant Le Desales, located in downtown Washington D.C. says, “since we're on a side street, and about two blocks down from the main road, we need a hook to get those folks through the door. And for us, that's Nift. Nift customers are local.” Using the real-time data Nift provides to each merchant, Bertrand can see who comes in and where they're coming from. She says,  “it's exciting to see how many people come in, and it feels good to know that people are excited about us, and choosing to come to our restaurant.”

“Large-scale, traditional advertising has never really been in my budget,” says Tammy De Martinez, owner of Second Street Cafe. And her story isn’t unique: many small businesses can’t afford to use traditional advertising methods to compete with big business. “We’re a small business, so we need something like Nift. It actually brings customers in.”

Leveraging technology at your restaurant allows you to better attract and keep customers, as well as alleviate some of the pressures of attending to all the details that come with running a business. Allowing customers to interact with and use the technology they already use makes it even easier for you, and adopting customer acquisition tools like Nift give you even more support as you continue to grow your business.