On the surface, letting a restaurant manager use his or her smartphone to access sensitive information that resides on a company’s corporate network seems downright dangerous. But that’s the core idea of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) movement, and restaurants that learn how to leverage their employees’ personal computing power and connectivity can make big gains in customer satisfaction.

Why is BYOD taking hold at so many companies, restaurants included?

For almost 20 years it has been expensive to deploy Internet to restaurant locations. Usually it has involved things like ISDN over copper wires, cable modems, fiber optic connections (for the truly lucky) and private networks. Many restaurant chains make wi-fi available to customers, but not all have that luxury. Some of our company’s clients have limited Internet availability that is only accessible from their point-of-sale systems. Others have Internet available but bandwidth is restricted and heavily policed by IT security. Even when restaurants do have Internet available, most of them don’t want their store managers stuck behind a computer in the back room. They want them out front with customers and employees delivering exceptional experiences.

Their store managers don’t suffer this same fate. They have a Star Trek-esque device in their pocket or purse that gives them phenomenal cosmic data processing and communications power. We don’t have an exact read on how many store managers have smartphones, but it’s a safe bet that most of them do. IDC reports that 59 percent of all mobile phones shipped are smartphones with 33 percent sales growth occurring over the last year. Adding fuel to this fire is the continual drop in prices for smartphones. Prices averaged $443 in 2011 and $407 in 2013, and are expected to drop to $309 by 2017. On top of that, these devices pack more processing horsepower than desktop computers from only a few years ago.

The devices already possessed by many store managers are fast, powerful, mobile and connected to high-speed Internet. They can be used while directly helping customers and coaching employees. They represent a tremendous opportunity to improve customer experiences by leveraging information and analytics from readily available Voice of the Customer (VoC) technology. So why aren’t they leveraged more?

Use of personal smartphones and tablets by store managers is typically hindered by employer policies shaped by questions like:

● Who pays for the devices?

● How is bandwidth paid for?

● What data security concerns exist?

● Can personally identifiable data be compromised?

● What is the upgrade path for existing devices?

● Will the company pay for devices and plans?

To a busy owner, these questions are a nightmare.

Fortunately this trend is changing. And so are policies at successful companies around the globe. The solution is called the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement. And it can help restaurants leapfrog their competition, improve manager productivity and provide better customer experiences.