Few people would argue that technology has had the greatest impact on the restaurant industry over the past 10 years. That’s because technology is a major part of everyone’s lives, food included. Technology helps put information at your fingertips quickly and facilitates fast transactions. As a result, instead of a restaurant visit being about the food and the experience, today it’s a picture and a post and just another evening out.

Lori BalterLori BalterFor all aspects of the restaurant industry to thrive in the future, though, we will need to get back to doing what we do best, and that’s engaging our customers in memorable experiences and providing top-notch hospitality. We need to encourage our customers to engage in an experience and live in the moment. And, as customers and business leaders, we should do the same.

Customer service must become something of the future and not of the past. Just like customers, today’s operators are much more educated and savvier about their businesses. While technology can help facilitate transactions, working collaboratively can help develop uniquely creative and innovative solutions.

Take, for example tabletops. Good tabletop installations feature good communication between the chefs and their suppliers. Chefs are experts in cooking but may not be the experts on what works best on the table. Chefs want great food that looks great. And, yes, they often want their plated food to be Instagrammable.

Reconciling that desire with budgets takes time and experience. Customers also look to us for expertise. Instead of coming here to simply complete a transaction, they come to us asking “What do you see in the market?” Savvy suppliers can work with operators to create an engaging tabletop that features a couple of nice pieces that will show well on Instagram without exceeding their budgets.

We operate from a neighborhood where people still come to visit. It’s not necessarily their first stop but we have the product on hand, and they can put a tabletop together. Specifiers can physically touch the product, which is something the internet does not offer. And that helps customers make informed decisions on the spot.

Working side by side with chefs in our showroom allows us to put together unique tabletop installations, the kind that would take forever to assemble while working on the internet.

Plus, working face to face with customers can help manage expectations. It’s no secret that the tabletop is often the last part of a restaurant that gets assembled. Operators will often walk through our door on Thursday hoping to have what they need to open on Friday. And companies like ours can deliver plateware, glassware, silverware and more to get their restaurants up and running.

The world has changed. And if you are not on top of your business and striving to remain relevant in the eyes of customers you will fall prey to the pressures of technology, consolidation and more. In order to survive in increasingly crowded and competitive marketplaces, successful businesses will be the ones that reflect the service they provide and the individual attention they offer. These factors are really important and are not things the internet does well.