More satisfied customers, increased efficiencies, a boost in revenue and profits — that’s what a capital investment in new restaurant technology, or an upgrade to your infrastructure, should produce. However, technology investments are often a moving target. Just when you’ve made your investment and trained your team, something better may come along, and suddenly you feel as if someone moved the goal post.
Don’t let that possible outcome prevent you from exploring the technologies that offer organizational improvement.
Any new technology can be a bit intimidating, considering the time often required for implementation, however, an unwillingness to adopt new innovations can hinder, or even hurt a restaurant operator. Whether you operate a single restaurant, multiple units, or a multinational franchise, newer technologies can help you make more money and meet your customers’ ever-changing demands. Shun tech innovations, and here are some areas where your business will suffer:
- Your restaurant’s culture — your team expects certain tools that enable them to do their best work; implementing those tools creates a better team dynamic from one restaurant unit to the next. The more difficult you make the work process, the more problems you’ll have in retaining great employees.
- Business efficiency — without technology solutions to help you preserve precious resources and automate things like inventories and communication, you’ll be scrambling to stay ahead.
- Security of your restaurant — with so many security threats today, you must implement technologies that protect your business, and your customers from fraud, or risk their patronage.
- Competitive advantages — your customers expect a certain level of sophistication for their loyalty; those restaurants that offer tech solutions that usher in greater customer convenience will outpace competitors.
- Customer communication — better communication creates a heightened public image and stronger customer loyalty.
No restaurant operator wants to make technology investment mistakes. To prevent such a financial blunder, you need to identify what matters most to your business. To achieve that goal, here are the five key questions that can help determine your current and future business needs.
Does your restaurant have multiple locations?
Your potential for profit as an operator is far more limited with one restaurant than with multiple units. The empire size of a McDonalds, Colonel Sanders’ KFC, Subway and Starbucks may have left you salivating at the financial potential with opening multi-units or franchises of your own restaurant brand. If that’s your goal, then consider your technology needs now. If you have more than one restaurant, or perhaps considering additional locations in the near future this initial consideration will be time well spent.
All of your restaurant challenges will scale in direct proportion to each unit you open. So, having tight operating parameters and controlled environments will help minimize your hassles and increase your multi-unit success. With a technology solution that provides guest management, kitchen automation, and a cloud-based enterprise portal, you’ll be able to manage your technology across units from one central location, pinpointing where the efficiencies are happening, and bottlenecks are hampering operations. Choosing a technology that grows with your operations will become more important to you than finding the latest shiny solution with bells and whistles you’ll rarely use.
Are you accepting to-go and delivery orders?
Some restaurants have resisted to-go and delivery orders, but today many other restaurants have embraced the growth of off-premise dining. Even if those orders must be handed off to third-party delivery services that often take a 10 to 25 percent cut of each sale, addressing this customer demand for yet another dining option is critical for long-term viability. The rise of GrubHub, UberEats, Caviar, and DoorDash options have pushed the food delivery market to its current $25 billion. However, investment firm William Blair & Company expects the market’s growth trajectory to push those figures even higher to $62 billion by 2022.
If you want to capture off-premise dining customers, then kitchen automation software should be top of your technology investment list. A kitchen automation tool, like ConnectSmart Kitchen from QSR Automations that offers a food tracker for item level and order level is imperative. Configuring the software to provide statuses like, being baked, ordered, prepared, and out for delivery, for all to-go and delivery orders is easily done.
Have a restaurant that falls into the Quick Serve or Fast Casual categories? Then software that gives your customers order ready screen access is the technology that will best suit your needs. When you have people standing around waiting for orders, you can use order ready screens to communicate real-time status of orders by way of names or order numbers, without the use of pagers.
Do you change your menu often?
Menus come in all shapes and sizes. You may have a double-sided laminated version, a menu solely available on a blackboard, or one of those multi-pound versions found at BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse or the Cheesecake Factory. To keep your menu in control, hopefully it falls way below the Guiness record-breaking Budapest, Hungary restaurant with 1810 different menu items.
Restaurants typically update their menus once or twice a year, however, some restaurants source locally grown produce and meats and require more frequent menu changes. If you amend your menu often, then having kitchen automation software that allows you to quickly change the data set within the software is important. Also, giving your chefs consistency with step-by-step recipe directions, along with high quality photos on how to plate it, will be key. A recipe viewer, like that found in QSR Automations’ TeamAssist may be one to consider.
Do you need your tech solutions to work together?
One-off solutions may look exciting, hold intrigue with all their shiny objects, but will also provide a limited lifespan. Without a way for the solution to communicate with other technologies in use at your restaurant, you’ll just be “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
With any new software addition, you must ensure that your front of house (FOH) can communicate with your back of house (BOH). Every team member needs to be on the same page and that can only be achieved with integrated technology. When you have a smart kitchen display system integrated with your point-of-sale system, your front of house can read the bandwidth in your restaurant. With that information, your FOH staff can provide off-premise customers with real-time quotes for order deliveries.
Likewise, when your in-house dining has the kitchen hopping with orders, a smart kitchen display system can inflate that delivery quote to account for the current workload. This intuitive kitchen information allows for the kitchen to course orders without disrupting in-store tickets, also known as “order throttling.” As kitchen orders die down, off-premise quotes can be updated to match the kitchen’s bandwidth.
Do you need technology assistance and support?
Let’s be honest. If we had wanted to sit in front of a computer all day and bang out code, we’d have the tech smarts to configure things on our own without outside help. However, most business owners have grander plans in mind, like building the next in-demand restaurant brand. Therefore, a great technology solution is only as good as its support.
As you match your technology needs to your business, consider that finding a technology provider with a readily available support team that you can plug into when you have a need holds the most value. Don’t spend hours trying to configure software when you can easily rely on a company with the technology support to meet your implementation and reconfiguration needs.
It’s a Match
Do you want your restaurant operations to surge in revenue or customer growth? How about both? Then it’s time to pull the lever and re-tool your software or embrace digital technology that allows you to thrive in today’s competitive marketplace. Being more efficient, productive, and profitable is what’s needed to reach that goal. In the end, a restaurant tech solution that is specifically matched to your operations can transform your business from slow stagnation to high performance within a short time frame and leverage the market in your favor.