Restaurants and the hospitality industry are a cornerstone in American culture and the economy. National statistics for restaurants show that there are over one million restaurants in the U.S., while industry trends and statistics show that restaurant annual sales are projected at $863 billion per annum, roughly 4% of the country’s gross domestic product.
Industry trends and statistics also show that restaurant owners are looking for technology to meet the demands of a changing market as well as to improve the function of their business. 73% of diners say that restaurant technology improves their guest experience, and 95% of restaurateurs agree that restaurant technology improves their business efficiency. Consider the following high-tech advancements for restaurants.
There are a few innovative options for point-of-sale technology that can offer new opportunities to redefine the customer experience. A study that examined customer attitudes about tabletop technology showed that 70% of customers reported positive experiences through the use of the device, and that 79% mentioned that the device improved their experience with convenience, ease of use, and credit card security. 80% of the customers who used technology noted that they would return to the restaurant due to the positive effects of technology integration. Types of point-of-sale and tabletop technology may include:
- Touchscreen point of sale terminals: These terminals typically have guest-facing screens or can pivot and turn from the employee who is inputting the order, to face the customer who can complete their payment and tip. These types of systems can improve order accuracy and decrease the time it takes for payments to be made
- Handheld point of sale systems: Handheld point of sale systems provide service staff with the opportunity to take orders and receive payment directly at the table. This type of system can improve order accuracy, as the serving staff inputs the order directly table-side, and can also reduce wait time for cashing out at the end of the meal.
- Order and pay at the table, and contactless payments: Some tech integrations allow guests to order and make a payment at the table from the convenience and safety of their own device. These technologies are valuable not only for accuracy and speed, but also provide a safe and touchless experience.
- Self-order kiosks: Self-order kiosks offer easy-to-use interfaces that allow customers more control in navigating the menu and customizing and placing their order. Self-order kiosks can expedite the ordering process and increase check size by utilizing upsell prompts that increase efficiency, speed, and customer satisfaction.
Online Ordering Systems
Trends in consumer behaviors for ordering online directly through the restaurant rather than a third-party delivery service show that consumers have a strong preference to order directly from a restaurant’s website or app. Restaurants that want to take advantage of this consumer preference will need to invest in sophisticated web and app design with dedicated IT and digital management to ensure that their online presence is easy to navigate and is flawlessly integrated with other processes and operations of the business.
Digital Reservation Management
Alongside the creation and installation of online ordering systems and apps, restaurants can also create digital reservation systems. This type of system is typically outsourced as a business process, many of which seamlessly integrate into a restaurant’s website and app. This type of digital transformation can use data collected from your customers to gain insight into trends and demographics including:
- How often your guests make reservations and return to your business.
- The typical party size of reservations.
- Who your customers bring to your restaurant.
- Where your customers come from — in or out of town.
- Do your guests primarily make reservations for special events or just to dine.
These systems also often offer an option for customers to leave commentary, providing direct insight from the fingertips of the customer of their likes and dislikes about your food, establishment, and customer service.
Kitchen Display Screens
Kitchen display screens replace the need for printed, hand-written tickets, or verbal orders. Kitchen display screens can be installed in highly visible areas on the line in the kitchen where all members of the back-of-house team can easily read the information. This process can streamline communications between the front-of-house and service staff and the cooks as they prepare food items. Kitchen display screens can improve the function of a restaurant by:
- Becoming more eco-friendly and reducing paper waste.
- Increasing order accuracy.
- Increase efficiency for communication and food delivery.
- Creating more timely processes for order and ticket times.
Much of the software used may also include features that track the efficiency of shifts and staff. Additionally, the software can also track what is being ordered, how often, and when rush periods commonly occur.
Smart Sensors and Temperature Monitoring
One of the arguably most important responsibilities of a restaurant is to manage food safety and ensure that health and safety regulations for food and equipment are met. Restaurants can utilize technology — both wired and wireless — to manage, control, and log temperatures with digital temperature sensors. The application of digital temperature sensors can:
- Improve food safety by continuous monitoring of temperatures in walk-ins and freezers to ensure that temperatures maintain at a certain level. If temperatures do fluctuate the monitor can send an alert to the staff letting them know they need to address the situation.
- Reduce product loss from the ability to respond immediately to temperature loss or fluctuations.
- Reduce costs through human error. Accidents happen, doors get left open or busy employees forget to check the temps for walk-ins and reach-ins.
- Sensors are easy to install and configurable. Many temperature monitoring devices offer preventative maintenance alerts and offer unique configurations that restaurant owners and kitchen managers can set to their needs.
Inventory management is a crucial aspect of any business, especially for restaurants, where much of the inventory is perishable. Restaurant food waste in the U.S. is estimated at 22 to 33 billion pounds per year, 4%-10% of food waste from restaurants occurs before it even reaches the customer. Effective inventory management is a blend of everyday activity that functions towards a long-term goal.
Using digitized inventory management systems can help to:
- Lower food waste.
- Reduce unnecessary spending.
- Control food cost margins.
- Reduce theft.
- Prevent over-ordering.
- Track expected usage of food.
Digitized inventory can be integrated and automated with point-of-sale software and kitchen display screen to keep all restaurant tech synchronized and efficient.
Restaurateurs may also use an automated purchasing tool that is directly linked with
their digital inventory management system. The combination of these digital tools evaluates the stock and inventory of your business and alerts management to low levels. Some software and programs can also use intelligent purchasing recommendations based on vendor lead times, forecasted sales quantities, and regular par levels to indicate when and how orders should be made. Some software can also be automated to reorder when inventory has reached a certain threshold.
Hiring an MSP
69% of restaurants use multiple technologies but may want an all-in-one system. The transition of restaurants adopting technology similar to those of the smart factory model — updated with automation and relying on technology to improve practices and customer experience — is a highly valuable model that restaurants can use when considering an all-in-one system. However, putting all of your practices and processes into one system does create vulnerabilities that need to be tended to. This may include protecting your data, IT difficulties, power outages, and other unforeseen events that can take a toll on critical systems and infrastructure. One way to mitigate these technical difficulties is to utilize a dedicated managed service provider who may perform the following duties:
- Manage IT infrastructure.
- Manage software inventories.
- Provide cybersecurity hardening to IT systems.
- Offer IT support to staff.
- Manage user access and accounts.
- Provide fully managed hardware outsourcing.
An MSP can allow restaurants to leverage cutting-edge technology effectively without having to constantly deal with downtime or technical issues, freeing up time to focus on providing a superior diner experience.
How to Find the Right Tech for Your Restaurant
Utilizing and integrating tech into your restaurant’s processes and operations can be an excellent option to modernize, create efficiency, and meet the demands and needs of your market and customers. When deciding on what tech is right for your restaurant you may want to consider the following questions.
- What are your goals, and how will the tech help you to fulfill them?
- What are your price points and priorities?
- How will you handle tech needs and support?
- What operations can benefit the most from tech optimization?
- What do you already know, or need to know about your customers?
- Will this tech support your business and marketing to help it grow?
- How will this tech support a positive customer experience?
Because every restaurant is unique and has its own unique needs, it is essential to consider the aspects of your business where tech could help or hinder the process. It is important to consider all aspects of operation, so when you are ready to update your technology, you can use it to its full advantage.