Every few years, you’ll switch up your cell phone, your laptop, and maybe even your car or your TV, right?
If you make these changes to the technology in your personal life, why wouldn’t you make them in your restaurant?
Back in 2015, nearly three out of four restaurateurs reported their intention to upgrade their restaurant technology in 2016. If you weren’t one of those restaurants, you’re officially behind the curve.
The truth is, there’s so much restaurant technology out there, provided by a multitude of companies who assure that they “have the solution” to all of your problems. This can be a lot for some restaurant owners to take in, especially since not every platform is right for every restaurant.
However, whether you know it or not, technology is impacting your business - whether it be the presence you have on social media, review sites, online ordering pages, or the lack of presence you have on those sites.
While I'm not suggesting you jump on every restaurant technology trend coming your way in 2017, I do recommend you start to research which solutions are making a real impact in the industry, which provider of that solution is the best fit for your restaurant, how to convince your restaurant's leadership team to adopt this technology, and how to roll it out to your business.
Step 1: Recognizing the Problem
Problems and opportunities in your restaurant have a funny way of presenting themselves.
Maybe you see three of your servers in line for the same POS terminal, frustrating your guests and staff and holding up your table turn times. Maybe one of your customers comes up to you with their phone in their hand pointing out a scathing review on Yelp that you didn't see. Maybe after several years of a steadily busy Friday night takeout business, your sales slowly start to drop.
Perhaps you're spending too much time on employee scheduling because you have to have to juggle countless time off requests and special considerations, and you might even hear the hostess call three or four parties' names on Saturday night before finally seating one.
Yes, all of these are problems in your restaurant, but they all stem from a bigger issue that - if addressed - could solve the problem.
- If your servers are in line for the POS, ask them what the holdup is, and they may say that the machine is acting up again. Clearly, there's a problem with your POS.
- Maybe that bad Yelp review was from a few months ago, and because you never responded to it, you lost that customer forever (and a few other potential customers who read that review.
- Looking back, you might realize your sales on Fridays declined because your phone lines were always tied up, so instead of waiting on hold, customers went elsewhere.
- You realize you're using a dated employee scheduling system that's taking up way too much time and money.
- Since people easily get tired of waiting, that's why they jump ship on their reservations.
There's always a flaw in the system - no restaurant is perfect. However, taking steps to recognize the problems in your business allows you to figure out the best solution.
Step 2: Choosing the Solution
Restaurant technology is an investment in several ways. Obviously, it is a financial investment for new hardware and software. But don't forget about the investment of time and resources spent researching the best solution, learning its benefits, and training users on how it operates.
However, when you choose the right solution, the investment pays for itself. Let's go back to those examples.
- POS system acting up? Maybe it's time for a new one.
- Missed a Yelp review? Register for Yelp and other review sites to keep track of customer feedback.
- Phone lines easily tied up? Start using an online ordering system to capture orders in a more convenient way.
- Scheduling employees on a whiteboard in the back? Get an employee scheduling system.
- Reservations causing a hassle? Get a reservation app or go through a site like OpenTable.
Rich Long, Director of IT at the rapidly-growing fast casual restaurant chain Pieology, puts it best. Long understands the weight associated with choosing a restaurant technology solution, specifically a point of sale system. Long says “the POS system is the heart of the restaurant technology world. Without a good POS system, everything becomes difficult, time-consuming or just doesn’t exist. A good POS system can help you and a bad POS system can crush you.” By that logic, hastily selecting the first solution that “seems like it could work” may be the system that crushes you instead of helps you.
Here comes the most essential part - choosing the right solution. Don't just choose the first result that shows up on Google, spend some time researching options and come up with the best solution for your restaurant. Otherwise, you'll get stuck with a system that's unfit for your business and create more problems than you can solve.