Restaurants are more abundant than ever, and proprietors need to stay on top of the customer experience to remain competitive.
Today’s consumers have plenty of choices available, and if you’re not on the cutting edge, your customers can easily jump ship to other restaurants. Technology that gives consumers more control, such as kiosks and personal ordering systems, are having a significant impact on fast-casual business operations. The restaurant industry is becoming more high tech as the focus shifts to improving cleanliness, controlling food quality and maintaining overall higher standards. Here are ways you can make sure your restaurant keeps up.
Appeal to Younger Generations
Millennials and Gen Z-ers expect the businesses they frequent to be tech-forward. Restaurants can use new technology solutions to appeal to younger demographics, showing a display of modernity to keep these demographics engaged and interested. These younger generations are particularly important to court, as they dominant the current and future buyer’s market.
Find the Right Technology Solutions
Incorporating front and back end solutions into your restaurant can address many critical areas, such as customer engagement and managing operational inefficiencies. Think about how much time your kitchen manager spends on inventory or the amount of time front of house staff spends on inputting orders and running customer credit cards. Technology can streamline these processes and make it easier for your staff to focus on their primary duties instead of getting mired in obsolete systems.
Focus on Front and Back of House
Many eateries put all the money and attention on front of the house, forgetting that what goes on behind the curtain also affects the customer experience and the bottom line. If consumer-facing technology is updated without including the back end, a lack of internal technology can cause a ripple effect. A customer might be able to order through a kiosk, but the staff won’t get that order timely, and the payment processing could hold up the entire operation. Restaurant employees need the same rate of technology adoption as the consumers served. Managers in particular benefit from automated help with scheduling, inventory and other administrative and back office duties.
Maintain Full Visibility
If you own a chain or a franchise, you’ll need to maintain efficiency and smooth operations across multiple locations. New technology can bring in thousands of data points that provide better visibility throughout the brand, from sales to foot traffic. New restaurant tech can track multiple variables over all locations, including consumer trends, location-specific performance, and employee performance. When you have access to a wide range of merchandising and retail execution data, you can make better strategic decisions for the long-term growth of your business.
Another high-level benefit of incorporating technology into your restaurant operations is gaining more structure in areas with which many restaurants struggle, such as handling human resources. High turnover rates in the restaurant industry can lead to inconsistent customer experiences, but when you can empower your managers in training staff, handling administrative tasks and cultivating quality work environments, you can focus on staff retention instead of endless training cycles.
Assemble the Right Technology Mix
Hundreds of technology solutions are available, from automatic inventory ordering to refrigeration management. Technology is not always a “one size fits all” option, especially when handling multiple locations. Getting the right mix requires choosing the best options for your franchise and individual locations. You need to pick the best solutions to benefit all aspects of your business. Testing different types of technology options, switching between vendors and doing a thorough evaluation of each piece of software is a lengthy but necessary process.
Start with other restaurant business owners in your social network. They might not tell you their entire technology infrastructure breakdown, but they may be willing to share information on some of their favorite systems. Take the time to prioritize your front and back of house needs so you’re balancing technology investments equally between both halves of your operation. Evaluate solutions for ease of use, features and tech support to help maintain the systems (although some solutions, typically cloud-based options, have maintenance handled by the provider directly).
Another important selection factor is whether you need to bring in new equipment to support the technology solutions. Some technology leverages consumer technology, such as smartphones and tablets, while others require purchasing hardware. Finding technology that will integrate with existing software is often the easiest.
Don’t Get Left Behind
Your restaurant may function perfectly fine without taking advantage of the latest food tech, but you hinder your short and long term efforts with this approach. Failing to empower your staff with useful tools, providing a less efficient customer experience and requiring significant hands-on work for repetitive tasks such as inventory management can lead to long-term losses. You can fall behind restaurants that are taking advantage of technology solutions for front and back of house today. Your restaurant might run the same way it always has, but your customers may be comparing your restaurant to those that embrace new technology to create a better experience.
The food service industry is opening up to many tech solutions for solving problems, appealing to younger generations and improving operations. Balancing these technology investments between the customer-facing and employee-facing categories helps you grow a balanced business that’s well poised for positive growth over the long term.