For restaurants, 2020 was a year full of challenges. In 2021, we are looking ahead with an eye towards growth, and evolution. We sat down with 7shifts' very own Preston Junger to chat about opportunities for restaurants and how restaurant technology is evolving for the inaugural episode of our interview podcast. Here are just some of the highlights from the full episode, available on Spotify, Google Podcasts, YouTube, and wherever you enjoy podcasts.
Where the opportunity is for restaurants in 2021
Despite the blow that 2020 dealt our industry, there is immense opportunity that comes from it.
Preston Junger: “One thing that we've seen that's been really positive for the long run is the progression of adoption of technology to be able to better optimize and run your restaurant. And all businesses, but specifically restaurants. So I think that's the opportunity the technology has been there, and now the technology is getting better even still through the past year,” says Junger. He adds that restaurants that have been reluctant to build up their technology stack now have a wealth of new options and avenues to do so.
How technology makes for a more successful restaurant
Restaurants operate on historically razor-thin profit margins. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and technology is how we widen the margins and make for a more profitable, sustainable business model.
PJ: “You're just doing it for the labor of love, that's why you run a restaurant, and so if it can become a more viable business vehicle for people to actually make fair wages as owners and be able to live and live off of the thing they love by way of technology, I think that's the opportunity we see now more than ever moving forward."
Recommended Reading: Surprising Ways that Tech Can Help Evolve Your Restaurant
How 7shifts enables that success with its platform
PJ: “We always have been in terms of working with and plugging in with the best providers on either side of us, in terms of point of sale, payroll and online ordering, back of house. And making sure that we're maintaining that connection from a business, technology, and integration perspective. To be able to give that choice, that optionality, to the restaurant owners around”
What are the biggest challenges facing the industry right now?
PJ: “The restaurant industry is still holding on for hope of being able to open back up to 100% capacity in all markets. And that's a big question mark. We're seeing some good signs of life in terms of ... Even in the New York market, New York, New Jersey, moving towards 25%, 35% in the coming weeks, to open up indoor dining again. And we're seeing that in other markets. It’s still a big question mark. Consumer behavior has been changed forever around their inclination to go out and dine in and patronize those restaurants, that's something that we'll have to see how will that change shift back or meet somewhere in the middle between the way things used to be.
We've seen some really great adaptations of businesses too, and municipalities have opened up parklets, and outdoor dining is really great, with heat lamps and such. But that's been a band-aid approach, I think, and it's been viewed that way by most restaurant owners. The temporary solution to get back to business the way things were.”
Recommended Reading: How Restaurants Can Remain Competitive in 2021
How are restaurants are evolving and adapting to new consumer behavior?
PJ: “Ultimately in any sort of business, you have to follow where do your customers or prospective customers see you, or where are they trending towards in terms of how they spend their time and money. TIt's safe to say that I think indoor dining won't go back for quite some time to the way it was prior to the pandemic. So if that's the case, then how do you run a restaurant, and furthermore, how do you start a new restaurant? And I don't have the answers to these, but I think technology is a big asset to be able to leverage. You can't do it without thinking about your technology approach”
How the restaurant technology industry is changing
According to Junger, there’s a new openness to technology from restaurant owners that is enabling innovation and competition among tech providers.
PJ: “...that's a really good thing...it puts the onus on technology providers to really level up what they're providing so that they stand out in a positive way, compared to, in some respects, a very cluttered space if you talk about online ordering and delivery,”
Junger is confident that the tech providers who don’t provide stellar products will either be acquired or fold—and that’s good for restaurant owners. It removes the confusion and distraction of choice and gives them easier access to helpful tools.
"... technology in a way that restaurants have never been as open-minded as they are today, in the past. So that will be the positive sign of light moving forward. And I'm excited for that opportunity for us to be able to see the ... I don't want to call it a resurrection, but I think a new beginning in terms of a tech-powered restaurant world. Which we were trending towards, we've accelerated things quite a bit this past year,”
For the full conversation, be sure to tune in to the 7shifts Audio Series: Interview Edition. Available wherever you enjoy podcasts!