If the past few years have taught us anything, it's that restaurant technology is no longer a nice-to-have. It's a necessity for building a modern and future-proof restaurant. The first technologies that restaurants often invest in are the cloud-based point of sale (POS) systems and payroll processing. After that, the most popular back-office technologies were accounting software (52%, up from 31% in 2018) and payroll software (50%, up from 28% in 2018), according to a study from Toast.
The restaurant tech industry is a growing one, with software and services designed to streamline almost every aspect of your business. Delivery, scheduling, inventory management, reservations, and guest management have seen technological advancements over the past few years, and it's just the beginning. Here are some lesser-known ways to add to your technology stack and evolve your restaurant for the future.
Not only are pen-and-paper or spreadsheet schedules costly when it comes to your time—they are useless when it comes to data. That's where restaurant scheduling software comes in handy. Restaurant scheduling software allows you to easily make schedules and track your employees' time and attendance for easier payroll. Scheduling software like 7shifts can also pull data from your POS to track labor against sales and get a more accurate picture of your labor cost—saving your restaurant money and time.
7shifts Restaurant Scheduling Software
2. Online and Mobile Ordering Systems
Online ordering and delivery are one of the fastest growing aspects of the restaurant industry, up 124% in 2020. Customers are demanding online and mobile ordering, and modern restaurant tech makes it more accessible for every restaurateur. In the past, you may have had to build your own systems from scratch (giving big chains the advantage). Now there are a number of turnkey solutions for restaurants to offer mobile ordering and delivery, with both first- and third-party options. Here are a few examples of each:
3. Point of Sale (POS) Terminals
The Point of Sale (POS) terminal is the epicenter of your restaurant. With the days of analog handwritten checks steadily fading away, it's easy to look at your POS and wonder how anyone ever got by without one. Your POS system reduces ordering errors, increases front-of-house and back-of-house efficiency, and helps you control inventory. Modern POS systems also have handheld devices that eliminate the need for servers to go back and forth to a central location.
The power of an integrated POS
The modern POS is impressive on its own, but it really shines when integrated with other restaurant technology. Push sales data into your scheduling software to make sure you're scheduling the right amount of staff. Use order information with inventory management software for smarter purchasing. And take time clocking data from your POS and send it right to your payroll provider for easier processing. All of this (and more!) is possible with a great POS. Here are a few to consider
Examples of restaurant POS systems:
The best way to keep your restaurant running smoothly is by making checklists for all of those little things. From cleaning flat tops to refilling sanitizers, day-to-day can't get lost in the shuffle. Paper checklists work for one-offs. But they have to be printed off every day. And the laminate and dry-erase method just get messy. That's where task management software comes in. It's a great way to streamline your tasks, with separate checklists for roles and shifts. It allows you to track performance over time. Not sure if something got done earlier in the week? Task management software can maintain historical data of tasks completed.
7tasks: Task Management Software for Restaurants
Today, thousands of restaurant pros use 7tasks to keep their restaurant safe. For example, a Sanitization checklist may include:
- Sanitize food prep surfaces ✅
- Doors and light switches ✅
- POS and phones ✅
5. Restaurant Inventory Management Software
Restaurant inventory management software is a tool that helps digitally track and manage your kitchen inventory. Think about it: no more stacks and folders full of invoices, no clipboards and checkmarks, no guessing when it comes to food costs. That's where a cloud-based inventory management system comes in. There's a wide range of options available that take the entire process online. Restaurant inventory management software digitizes your invoice and purchases, allowing you to better compare costs and make more informed purchasing decisions. Many services also allow you to add your recipes in and calculate actual food costs.
Advantages of Restaurant Inventory Management Software
The restaurant industry is notorious for operating on razor-thin profit margins. Inventory management software is one great resource to help cut down on food waste, food cost and ensure that everything in your back-of-house is streamlined for transparency and profitability.
Examples of Restaurant Inventory Management Software
6. Restaurant Audience Management
Restaurant audience management software is a tool that helps track guest preferences and contact information. In his book Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, restaurateur Danny Meyer outlined his low-tech-process of keeping up with his customers' preferences and things about them to remember and personalize their experiences. It involved hand-written ledgers and note cards. But that was the 90s. According to a study from Toast, 29% of restaurateurs still use manual comment cards, and another 31% ask for feedback on their printed receipts. Just 25% use a rating scale in digital receipts.
Advantages of a Restaurant Audience Management Tool
With modern technology platforms, there's no need for physical cards or receipts. Guest feedback can be much easier to obtain and process—making for less time collecting and organizing, and more time using data to improve your guest experience. Audience management software keeps track of your repeat customers and their orders, dietary preferences, favourite drinks, and more, and keeps it all in one centralized place. If one guest is a big fan of martinis, having the data to let anyone on staff know can make for a special experience.
Audience management software can also aggregate data from all sources like Yelp!, Google Local, TripAdvisor, and delivery. This will help outline a complete picture of your guests' feedback all in one place, allowing you more time to address their concerns or double-down on what makes them happy.
Delivery can also benefit from an audience management system. Think QR-code based feedback on takeout bags, or text-message follow-up. These can go a long way in making sure your customers' voices are heard and their experience better every time.
Gone are the days of institutional knowledge, or keeping guest preferences in the heads of your front-of-house staff.
Examples of Restaurant Audience Management Software
7. Social Media Management & Metrics
Social media for restaurants is no longer optional. The pandemic has rendered digital real estate as important as the four walls of your restaurant. It does take time, and unless you're a larger restaurant group, it may be unrealistic to have full-time team members oversee your social platforms. In a busy restaurant, it can get lost in the shuffle. That's where social media management platforms. Usually web-based, these services connect with all of your accounts—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more—and allow you to pre-schedule posts days, weeks, or even months out. Many also allow you to view and respond to comments from the comfort of your desk.
Recommended Reading: 7 Creative Marketing Ideas for Restaurants
Advantages of a strong social media management platform
You wouldn't prep new ingredients every time a new order comes in—so why treat social media the same? With a social media management system, you can plan out a week's worth of posts across platforms in just a few minutes. Many platforms also track your metrics—likes, comments, views, and more—so you can see what content your followers like the most and double down on it.
Examples of Social Media Management Software for Restaurants
8. Smart Devices in Your Restaurant
Smart devices and the Internet of Things is not just for the home. Restaurant technology has seen innovation in the form of smart devices for the commercial kitchen. If your lowboy refrigerator goes out while you're out, you can know about it. Smart ovens can help make your team more efficient behind the line, and boost your capacity for off-premise dining. And a live Kitchen Display System can cut down on the back-and-forth with tickets and keep your line efficient.
Advantages of smart devices
And those smart devices for the home? They have restaurant applications, too. Eric Parsons, Owner at Coffee Culture Café & Eatery in Cambridge, uses his smart speaker as an assistant: “I have the new Apple HomePod Mini in my office and just tell Siri every tiny reminder and appointment and she updates my Outlook. My life has definitely gotten more organized and easier,” he says. Color-adjustable lighting can change the look and feel of your restaurant's decor, and smart thermostats can help save on heating and cooling costs.
Examples of Smart Kitchen Equipment for Restaurants
9. Contactless Payment Options
While contactless cards, drop off delivery, app-based payments, and QR codes have been around, the pandemic has made them more popular than ever. For both safety and ease, there isn't a better option. Even after the pandemic, QR codes are here to stay. According to a study from Appetize, 45% of U.S. diners prefer to view menus, order, and pay for their meal using their phones rather than interacting with servers during the pandemic. 40% of those surveyed will want to continue once we are on the other side of COVID-19.
Advantages of contactless payment options
In addition to being popular among diners, going as contactless wherever possible can improve both safety and operation efficiency at your restaurant. With mobile ordering, there are no menus to pass out and back around, no germed-up credit cards to swipe, and no cash to handle. For fast-casual and quick-service restaurants—no more lines. All of this adds up to significantly fewer touches between your staff and guests and a much safer environment.
Examples of contactless payment technology
10. Kitchen Display Systems
Gone are the days the ticket rack. Kitchen display systems turn that old paper to a digital screen, a hub for your back-of-house where all orders come through for the kitchen staff to see. Most KDSs have features like course management, with custom rules for course timing, so kitchens can stay consistent. They may also help display recipes and cook times, reducing mental load for the kitchen staff.
Advantages of a Kitchen Display System
Kitchen display systems take your line into the 21st century, with an array of features that can make your kitchen run at optimal efficiency. That means better workflows that ease the burden on kitchen staff, lessening burnout. It eliminates multiple points of human error from the equation. And all of this behind-the-scenes work translates into a better guest experience—the whole reason we got into this business in the first place.
Examples of Kitchen Display Systems
Top Tips For Making Technology Work For Your Restaurant
There is an ever-expanding list of options for technology in your restaurant. With some requiring lengthy onboarding or high annual fees—not to mention the time to learn the software—how do you know if a platform is right for your business? Here are a few tips for making sure you find the right partner.
A perfectly in-sync back and front of the house is a restaurant owner's dream. That dream should also extend to your technology partners. Make sure all of your software can talk to one another and push and pull data to make your life easier. A well-connected tech stack is essential to making sure you reap the benefits that restaurant technology provides—or else it becomes a fancy way of doing things the old-fashioned way. Here are a few examples of how your tech may integrate:
- A scheduling tool that integrates with your point-of-sale for real-time labor cost tracking.
- An inventory management system that pulls sales data and makes automatic purchasing
An audience management tool that gives a regular their preferred table whenever they make a reservation.
These are just a few examples of the transformative power that restaurant technology can have on your business. When you're searching for the right partner, integrations are a key to maximizing effectiveness.
No matter how revolutionary or powerful you may believe new software or systems to be, If your team isn't into it, it won't be a success. When shopping for new or upgraded tech partners, keep your team informed. Meet with leadership or management to get their take. Opt for trial periods over longer-term contracts. Restaurant technology is only as powerful as your team makes it.
Other Restaurant Technology Resources
Closing Thoughts: Surprising Ways that Tech Can Help Evolve Your Restaurant
There is a wealth of opportunity for restaurants to adopt technology. In the past, you could get by without it. But now it's become a necessity to stay competitive in the restaurant industry. Look beyond the POS and payroll and for some innovative ways technology companies are helping restaurants evolve—you may be surprised at what is out there.
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