Restaurant Tech Can't Fix Everything (But It's Pretty Dang Close)
Technology keeps evolving (rapidly!) and restaurants are no exception.
From your credit card reader and point of sale (POS) system to your guest reviews on Yelp and accounting software, you’re likely already surrounded by restaurant technology. It can feel both empowering and frustrating to deal with. We get it.
It’s easy to clutch your wallet with worry whenever “restaurant technology” gets mentioned. Such technology can seem complicated, expensive and unnecessary. At the same time, many restaurant tech solutions offer significant potential cost savings and increased efficiency for your already-time-strapped staff.
Moving into 2019, we’re already seeing traction for restaurant tech trends such as online ordering, tabletop tablets, mobile payments, and much more. It’s clear that restaurant technology isn’t going anywhere, so how does a restaurateur embrace it and grow their restaurant’s bottomline in the process?
Here are a few reasons why you should (embrace restaurant tech) and how to get it done effectively in 2019:
Why Implement Technology in Restaurants?
In 2019, restaurant technology is a virtual necessity for your restaurant.
We’re in the digital age. Today, the name of the restaurant game is delivering top-notch convenience and value to your guests. While the reasons to implement such tech will vary from restaurant to restaurant, it comes down to a few key drivers:
Responding to guest feedback (They want restaurant tech)
Increasing efficiency in your restaurant
While the costs in time and money should always be considered when looking at restaurant tech, all restaurants can find affordable technology that helps them increase profitability. The upside is that your guests will feel that you’re being responsive to their concerns and improving their experience in your restaurant.
If you can do that while making your team more efficient and reducing costs, you’re putting restaurant tech to good use. Let’s dive into the specifics around how you can get that done with emerging restaurant technology.
Trending Technologies That Will Enhance Your Restaurant Business
Every restaurant has unique needs when it comes to technology.
With lots of restaurant technology options out there, it can be challenging to decide which tech will take your restaurant to the next level. Generally speaking, modern restaurant technology falls into a few key categories:
Each category offers a potential for significant gains for your restaurant. Your task is to decide where to focus and how to roll out new technology with your guests and staff.
That’s no easy task.
To help guide you through the process of choosing the restaurant technology that’s right for your restaurant, here’s a breakdown of the current technology trends changing the restaurant scene:
If you’re looking to increase sales and decrease order errors, this one is a no-brainer.
Toast studied the issue and found that 81% of guests used a restaurant’s website to place an order at some point.
Especially if your restaurant is new to the area or just looking to get noticed by more guests, an online ordering site can do just that. Getting on mobile apps for delivery like GrubHub and UberEats are easy ways to get access to a large swath of customers who might not otherwise find out about your restaurant.
Online ordering also reduces the burden on your staff by not tying up phone lines during busy dinner rush hours and increasing the potential for incorrect orders taken over the phone. By providing a clear, digital menu for guests, you make it easier for your staff to focus on order fulfillment and keeping guests happy with strong food quality.
One thing to look out for here is the cost. Some sites will charge you 10-15% per order (commission-basis) which can really add up. Make sure that you have enough margins so that you’re still making money off of online orders.
An alternative would be setting up an internal online ordering system. That way, you’re only paying one flat fee on a predictable basis and you’re more in control of your bottom line.
It’s clear that in 2019, online ordering moves from being just a casual add-on to a must-have tool for increasing your revenue.
Online ordering options for your restaurant
New Payment Options
Cash is out, digital wallets are in.
Most guests no longer want the inconvenience of having to grab a bunch of cash before enjoying a meal with family and friends. More and more, they’re turning to credit and debit cards as well as options like Android Play and Apple Pay on their phones.
Expect this trend to grow as guests prefer carrying one thing (their phones) rather than also lugging around their wallets and some cash. Restaurants should be ready with the right payment methods on-hand.
Another payment trend on the horizon: facial recognition payment technology.
With this new payment technology, guests receive a quick facial scan and have their payment account or credit card charged for their purchase. Right now it’s being tested in quick service and fast food restaurants in China through Alipay. This new system has the potential to significantly streamline ordering and payment processing wait times while also improving customer service.
The future is now in your restaurant.
Payments options for your restaurant
Modern Point of Sale (POS) Systems
With a modern POS system, it comes down to efficiency, insights, and support. These are the three ways that your POS system can improve your restaurant’s bottom line.
When it comes to efficiency, you are integrating front-of-house with back-of-house while ensuring greater accuracy and therefore reducing costly mistakes. Guests are happier because their orders are correct and they’re charged the right price for each item. Many restaurants report higher sales when shifting to a modern POS system.
In terms of insights, most POS systems are cloud-based and offer reporting functions for sales, inventory, and labor so that you can make data-informed decisions about your guests, menu, and staff.
Thinking about support, newer POS systems regularly offer security updates and new features along with customer support to address issues that might be affecting your sales. If you find the right POS system, you’ll feel more like partners than just a vendor and a buyer.
POS options for your restaurant
Tabletop tablets + self-service checkout
It all started with quick service restaurants.
Chains like Taco Bell rolled out self-service technologies such as ordering from tablets, mobile apps, and kiosks. Soon they experienced a 20% increase in sales as a result of the updated technology.
These self-service restaurant technologies have now been adapted in the full-service restaurant context, with many establishments using them to display digital menus and allow guests to place orders that go directly to the kitchen.
No more flagging down servers to place orders or grab checks during the lunch and dinner rush.
For restaurants, this means that tables are turning over faster and guests are more satisfied. As guests dig into menus and these systems become more sophisticated at suggesting add-ons and other options, average check sizes have the potential to increase as well.
A nice bonus for these devices is that they can come equipped with entertainment options for guests that add much more value to their dining experience. They also allow servers to give a more personal touch with guests by focusing less on order accuracy and payment processing.
Tabletop Tablets/Self-Service options for your restaurant
App-based and online guest loyalty programs
While customer loyalty programs aren’t a new thing, technology is putting a modern spin on them. More and more restaurants are building their own apps or integrating loyalty programs within their existing digital presence.
With 76% of guests preferring immediate benefits from a restaurant loyalty program (over accumulating points), it makes sense that restaurant invest in programs that deliver for their guests.
Online loyalty programs can give restaurants great insights into their guests by tracking guest behaviors in ways that can feed into your restaurant marketing strategy. An app-based loyalty program is also more convenient for guests so they don’t have to track everything on a paper card that is easy to lose.
Modern restaurant loyalty programs also track special dates for guests (such as birthdays and anniversaries) which personalizes the experience and encourages return visits to your restaurant.
Online guest loyalty programs for your restaurant
Advanced Restaurant Management Tools
The back of house and management are certainly not immune to these technological changes.
From email service providers and digital scheduling software to new onboarding tools that incorporate virtual reality (VR) and modern kitchen tech like bluetooth-enable temperature sensors, restaurant management is riding this technological wave as well.
Email service providers
When it comes to email, it’s still the most effective digital marketing tool out there and a great way to keep in touch with your guests. You can let them know about upcoming events, menu changes, new locations opening, and make it a part of your guest loyalty program.
Most email service providers make it easy to track how guests react to your email outreach which allows you to more deeply personalize your marketing efforts and improve as you go.
Email marketing programs for your restaurant
Digital scheduling software
Every restaurant owner knows first-hand that scheduling can be overwhelming and involves lots of moving parts. Taking into account last minute call outs and vacation schedules can be challenging.
Modern scheduling software enables managers to automate schedules once they know employee preferences and constraints. They also provide notifications for vacation requests so those don’t get lost in the shuffle. This type of software also allows employees to check their schedule online at home or on their mobile devices instead of calling in, or stopping by to check the posted schedule.
Some more advanced software can even help managers schedule substitutes when someone calls out or optimize the schedule to avoid over- or under-staffing based on staffing patterns and forecasted sales. Modern scheduling software can even monitor sales and staffing budgets to minimize the need for overtime and increase profitability.
Scheduling software for your restaurant
Virtual reality onboarding
We know that people are better able to retain information when they’re able to interact and engage with it meaningfully.
So why haven’t we shaken up employee onboarding yet?
Well, virtual reality is beginning to do just that in the restaurant scene. One restaurant in Philadelphia (Honeygrow) has already begun training new employees using VR headsets and even integrating VR into its interview process for manager candidates as it opens new locations.
Early results show that the tool has improved the consistency of training across Honeygrow’s locations while easing schedules for busy managers who would otherwise have to train new employees themselves. The chain was also to use its VR system for interviews rather than flying candidates to headquarters in Philadelphia. All of these uses have led to significant cost savings for Honeygrow with promising initial outcomes for their VR pilot.
Restaurants looking to get on the cutting edge should take notice of this emerging trend.
VR onboarding options for your restaurant
Modern kitchen tech
Kitchen staff have to work through a ton of food safety checklists.
As a result, many restaurants have begun using Bluetooth-enabled temperature sensors to ensure that food and equipment are being prepared and used correctly. With probes and sensors, kitchen staff can manually or automatically measure temperatures in a few seconds. Managers can even program specific limits for each item and can receive alerts if temperatures go beyond acceptable thresholds.
Many of these tools come with a reporting function that keeps logs of recorded temperatures which saves the kitchen team from having to do it. Bluetooth temperature sensors are a strong proactive approach to food safety that help restaurants avoid loss and protect guest safety.
Restaurant Tech Continues to Improve Service and Reduce Costs
While cost is always a factor when considering new technology in any workplace, many of these new restaurant technologies offer big opportunities for restaurants to increase guest happiness (and average check size), reduce the amount of time and frustration among their staff, and minimize time and spending in many parts of the restaurant.
The right mix of restaurant technology can move your restaurant forward and enhance your bottom line.
Good luck deciding how to upgrade your restaurant tech!