It’s impossible to escape. Restaurant technology is one of the fastest growing industry trends. While you know that software streamlines processes from point of sale (POS) to inventory — it also gives you the ability to better visualize your data and gain actionable information.
The Experts Already See It
“Using business intelligence in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model is increasingly appreciated and some restaurant operators are adopting it for their data-intensive, time-sensitive operations.”
In the white paper cited above, the authors note that restaurant management software is making facts and figures that were once hidden or unseen instantly visible. Information and reports that used to take days to gather can now be compiled in real time — connecting the front of the house with the back of the house like never before.
“77% percent of restaurants with an integrated data platform reported that they beat their revenues goal over the past 12 months, compared to 47% for those without.”
The Benefits You Can See
Here are just a few examples of the areas in which restaurant technology can give you better visibility and ultimately, profitability.
A solid accounting/bookkeeping system is the backbone of your financial management system for:
* Accounts payable/receivable
It’s a tool that brings all the data you’re collecting together, transforming this information into statements and reports that answer vital questions like:
* Where your money is going.
* How much of your money is going in each of these paces.
* What your costs and margins actually are.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
While the best staff members have a natural talent for building customer relationships, when great employees are given even greater amounts of customer information, wonderful things can happen.
CRM can help you:
* Deliver an even more personalized experience by having details, like birthdays, anniversaries, menu favorites and seating preferences at your fingertips.
* Provide a consistent experience across multiple locations and/or venues.
* Give new staff members a leg up in getting to know regulars.
Draft Beer Management
If you serve alcohol, you know that draft beer is often one of the highest-margin items. When left unmonitored and subject to guestimates and hands-off processes, profits can literally be poured down the drain.
Enter monitoring technology that lets you:
* Identify intentional giveaways and unintentional overpours.
* Track delivery and tap dates to ensure freshness.
* Determine which brands are your best sellers.
* Ensure that you’re maintaining the proper pressure and temperature.
* Evaluate ideal price points.
* Prevent untapping the kegs too early.
Food Origins / Traceability
Whether it’s an emphasis on eating local or simply knowing the exact source of your ingredients, food tracking helps:
* Improve food safety.
* Verify locally sourced or non-GMO claims.
* Lower costs by improving communication and efficiency throughout the supply chain, from manufacturers and distributors to vendors and restaurants.
A huge factor in controlling costs, food waste is often underestimated. With the introduction of proactive technology, you’ll be able to identify waste in key areas like:
* Storage and spillage
* Food preparation
* Plate waste
Upgrading your inventory system from a clipboard to a tablet can help you prevent:
With the cost of goods sold (COGS) being one of your primary operating expenses, an easier, more transparent system will allow you to reduce food waste while offering your customers fresher food. A better inventory process will also help you identify problems and implement solutions much faster.
Kitchen Display Systems
Images of paper tickets lined up ready to be filled by the kitchen are almost iconic. Or, the were. Now with advances in technology, a simple kitchen display system can:
* Tell you how much time it takes staff to fulfill each ticket — letting you know which team members are the most efficient and who could use a little more training.
* Let you instantly integrate and route online orders to the kitchen — preventing lost orders and ensuring that the information is captured for reporting.
* Quickly and easily indicate which tickets need to be processed first.
* Notify the server when the meals are ready to deliver to guests.
* Reduce errors — resulting in less food waste and lower labor costs.
* Pull daily, weekly and monthly reports that show which processes take the most time and cost the most money.
If wireless credit card machines seemed revolutionary, paying by smart phone is also a game changer. In addition to avoiding the need to invest in costly infrastructure, you can:
* Integrate your loyalty program with your payment program — and say good bye to punch cards and alike.
* Accept credit cards more easily — especially if cost or location previously required you to be a cash-only operation.
* Use purchase data to determine trends and buying patterns. * Save time on closing out guest checks.
* Take advantage of lower credit card processing fees.
Your team works hard for you, which means you want to work just as hard to make sure their paychecks are correct. With payroll software you can also:
* Ensure that you’re withholding the proper amounts of income tax and other deductions, like unemployment insurance.
* Properly record tips and meet minimum wage requirements.
* Keep accurate records while providing direct deposit and electronic paystubs.
* Easily manage adding or deleting employees.
* Produce accurate reports of hours, wages and payroll taxes, which can be used to forecast when more or less staff is needed.
Yes, it really is everywhere. In terms of visibility, social media is a two-way street. It’s a way for you to tell your customers what’s happening in your restaurant and for you to find out what’s most important to them.
Restaurants have been taking advantage of social media by:
* Gaining feedback and insight.
* Monitoring their reputation and reviews.
* Promoting new menu items.
* Offering specials and discounts.
* Using employees as brand ambassadors.
* Talking directly with new and existing customers.
* Creating a virtual community.
* Sharing special events and announcements.
* Listing job openings.
Anyone who’s tried to maintain a manual system for scheduling shifts and hourly workers knows all too well how time-intensive this can be. But, now with cloud-based scheduling solutions, you can:
* Easily establish regular, routine schedules.
* Identify conflicts and availability in real time.
* Inform employees when hours are available.
* Better regulate overtime hours.
* Add features like group notifications.
* Integrate with payroll solutions.
Sometimes it’s not just the big picture data that can be hard to articulate. The good news is that there are tools which can ensure that routine tasks stay routine by:
* Formalizing consistent checklists.
* Identifying which tasks are overdue or incomplete.
* Preventing errors.
In order to get a clear picture of your key metrics, industry experts recommend that you evaluate your sales, menu item and labor reports on a daily basis.
These three variables are the main factors in your prime costs, which you should calculate and review weekly.
As you examine these numbers, look for trends that can help you identify strengths and weaknesses, in order to make accurate long- and short-term projections. The more you know, the better your decisions and the health of your business.
By seeing more, you can do more. When you know what’s wrong, you can fix it. And if you know what’s working, you can do it even better.
Preventing Information Overload
As you implement new systems, information overload can be an unintended side-effect. One of the best pieces of advice is to focus on the big things first.
* Look at high-dollar, high-impact items and concerns.
* Start with a few key decision makers looking at the data.
* Be consistent.
* Set reasonable, attainable goals.
* Consider mitigating factors, like rising food prices or spikes in a certain item.
Where to Look for Restaurant Software
While restaurant owners and operators know they need solutions and technology companies, cloud-based applications are focused on delivering solutions. In the infographic below there are 99 startups targeting a range of restaurant management issues.
But how do you know which one is right for you? There are industry guides and software review sites like Capterra, G2 Crowd and GetApp. You can also do a basic Google search on a key topic or area, check industry blogs, visit the app stores and talk with industry peers.
Expert tip: A lot of software and application providers offer free demos and trials. Taking advantage of these services and speaking with the customer service teams can go a long way in making your decision.
Turning the Tables — What Customers Want to See
According to research from the National Restaurant Association, customers are rapidly embracing technology at restaurants. In fact:
* 1 in 4 customers factors technology (free WiFi, electronic ordering, etc.) into their choice of restaurant.
* Nearly half say if the technology is too hard to use, it takes away from the experience. (In other words, keep it simple.)
* Younger customers, 34 and under, crave technology.
* 63% of diners are willing to use tableside payment options.
* 34% of customers use social media to make their dining decisions.
* 25% of smartphone and tablet users check nutritional information.
A Taste of the Future
What comes after managing your back office on a mobile device? Here’s a glimpse of what’s to come.
Do you see drone delivery anytime soon? What’s your take on restaurant technology and your biggest successes or challenges? Tell us what you’ve seen or would like to see.
Content guru and marketing co-conspirator at Wagepoint, Michelle is a professional writer with agency and corporate experience who is now diving into payroll with full scuba gear in tow. When away from the keyboard she spends time hiding chocolate from her children and attempting to escape for a morning run (to work off the chocolate).