In terms of the user experience, features separate a modern cloud-based system from older traditional landlines. While you’ll find that most service providers in this category offer the same or very comparable communications features, they tend to be spread and priced differently across plans. That’s why it’s important to understand which features matter the most to your restaurant before you make a purchase decision.
It’s nearly impossible to make objective decisions without trustworthy data. If your restaurant takes lots of reservations and to-go orders over the phone, you need a crystal-clear understanding of your call volume to staff appropriately and ensure that your customers get the support they need without giving up due to long hold times.
Most cloud-based phone systems provide basic call analytics and real-time metrics that let managers know if calls are being answered promptly, but more advanced options are also available. These include AI-powered recaps with call summaries, action times and conversation highlights. These features can be especially helpful when you’re working through new contracts with suppliers or negotiating a lease for a second location, for example.
Multilevel Auto-Attendant and IVR
Auto-attendants and interactive voice response (IVR) menus are often used interchangeably, but they differ in the way a customer interacts with your phone menu. Both can be considered virtual receptionists, prompting callers to select options by listening to menu choices or by saying what they need.
An auto-attendant presents menu options to each caller, who selects what they want by pressing a number on a keypad, whereas IVR uses the caller’s voice comments. In either scenario, these menus are the consumer-facing portion of your restaurant phone system that can provide callers with answers to common questions, like your address or hours of operation. The system can also route callers to your host to take a reservation, place a take-out order or answer questions about your menu.
All cloud-based phone service providers include these types of phone system menus at each plan level. However, some providers’ virtual assistants are simpler to manage and adjust, thanks to drag-and-drop call flow builders and templates that make it easy for anyone to build a productive call flow that saves staff time and improves the customer experience.
The call-flip feature lets you seamlessly move conversations between devices without interrupting your call. Unlike a call transfer, a flip is intended to be picked up by the person who initiated the transfer. You can take a call from one of your suppliers on your back-office phone and flip the call to your mobile device so you can survey the walk-in or hunt down your head chef to confirm the week’s food orders.
Call flip is included as an entry-level feature with most business phone services. It lets you take and move calls between IP desk phones, mobile phones, computers, web browsers, tablets and many other internet-connected devices with a microphone and speaker or headphone jack.
Most restaurant owners are constantly running around town from supplier to supplier to get everything they need to keep the kitchen and the rest of the operation flowing smoothly. With a cloud-based phone system, it’s easy to make sure you’re available whenever someone needs you to request a last-minute change, schedule an important fumigation appointment or know if a supplier has run out of a key ingredient.
All cloud-based phone systems include Android and iOS apps that often mirror the user experience from the web browser or desktop application while letting you differentiate between personal and business calls. With a full-featured phone system at your fingertips, you’ll be able to take, make and flip calls between devices or make fast changes to your calling-menu options due to unforeseen circumstances.
Overhead paging is a cost-effective tool that lets diners know when their table is ready in many large restaurant settings. While some service providers refer to this feature as an intercom or group paging, many providers in this category, including Ooma, offer this service option with all plans.
In most cases, you’ll be able to integrate an existing overhead paging system with your new phone system by using a separately sold adapter, meaning you won’t need to install new paging hardware just because you switch phone service providers. Once you’ve connected through an adapter, you’ll be able to use your communications dashboard to make announcements about seating availability to the front of house and any outside waiting room, or communicate to the entire kitchen staff, depending on the locations of your intercom speakers.
Any phones intended to make overhead announcements will need a programmable button configured to a multicast paging function.
One of the biggest reasons to move to a cloud-based phone system is the ability to integrate all of your communications across phone, chat and video with the rest of your technology, including your point-of-sale system and some of the best CRM software. All cloud-based phone systems include numerous integration and custom API options, but some platforms, like Nextiva, offer far more integrations than you’ll find with others, like Zoom.
While food trucks and restaurants with a single location may not see the value in software integrations, large restaurant groups should pay close attention to these tools when shopping for a new phone system. Many platforms, including Dialpad, offer integrations with Salesforce, letting restaurant supply companies automate call matching between the two systems with APIs and webhooks from Dialpad to grab account information faster.
Cloud-based phone systems and their features rely on your internet connection to transmit data, with most providers advertising more than 99.9 percent uptime across their networks.