- BJ’s Restaurants is testing dine-in pre-ordering technology with Allset, which enables consumers to reserve a table, order meals and pay the check before getting to the restaurant. The restaurant is looking at whether or not it will increase traffic, FSR Magazine reports.
- The service is currently available at seven locations in the Los Angeles and Austin, Texas, markets.
- Allset also is available at Buffalo Wild Wings, Bareburger, Pokéworks, Freshii, The Bean, Noon Mediterranean and by Chloe.
As consumers become busier and crave more convenience, casual dining chains find themselves at a significant disadvantage. The wait for a table and the sit-down service simply take too long. Consequently, the casual dining segment has been losing market share to speedier fast casual and quick service concepts for about 10 years.
A full-service meal typically ranges from 45 to 80 minutes, while the average wait for a table is about a half hour. This is a significant chunk of time for consumers who are increasingly expecting on-demand services. However, an on-demand economy doesn't necessarily mean consumers want to stop visiting restaurants. Experiences are still very much on trend and so is dining out.
Indeed, by incorporating this time-saving technology, BJ’s is attempting to find the middle ground for busy consumers who still want to go out to eat. The technology gives the company a new way to create an experience that is more in line with today’s guests' needs, BJ’s CEO Greg Trojan told FSR Magazine.
By focusing on a quicker, more efficient dine-in experience, the company is taking a different approach than most brands chasing takeout and delivery diners. Digital ordering is quickly becoming the norm across the industry — accounting for nearly 2 billion foodservice visits in 2017 according to The NPD Group — so diners are quickly becoming conditioned to the technology. By adding order-ahead options for its dine-in business, BJ’s can better inject itself into mobile customers' consideration set.
It's not the only casual dining chain testing such a platform. Dine Brands — parent company of IHOP and Applebee’s — started experimenting with this type of technology last summer. CEO Stephen Joyce told the New York Post that this approach was like converting casual dining to fast food.
The order-ahead capability should allow servers to spend less time retrieving food and checks, which frees up more of their time for actual customer service. This combination of speed and service could provide a big win for casual chains looking to gain back favor.