The restaurant industry is not known for being the most tech-forward or receptive. But over the past couple of years, restaurant chains and mom and pop shops alike have turned increasingly to technology to help in areas where restaurateurs are unable to handle the reduction in labour, and the need to maximise operational efficiencies, especially with the pandemic.
In a recent analysis into customer’s experience in the digital age, Deloitte concluded that 40% of customers prefer to order online. And that at quick-serve restaurants, when technology is used to place an order, the frequency of visits goes up 6%, and spend per visit improves by 26%.
This is a clear indicator that if the business is not keeping up with restaurant technology trends, it gradually becomes irrelevant while losing out on maximising its margins.
This brings us to two overarching questions: What restaurant tech is available? What do I need?
The current status of the restaurant industry is that it branches off into many different niches, each with its own specific tech needs. The main issue for many of these restaurant operators is comprehending and effectively adopting relevant restaurant technology. The most important factor of adopting tech into the restaurant business is that it needs to be flexible with the current workflow.
In Toast’s 2019 Restaurant Success report, 84% of businesses mentioned that POS software was critical to their business. An estimated half said the same for accounting software while 35% stated that invoice management software was critical to their business.
Niche tools are built to handle particular areas of restaurant operations, be it invoice management, cost tracking, menu engineering. They are designed to fit in, not to displace existing software; but rather to reinforce it and help value add to any existing tech stack.
The key to choosing the right tech stack that will support the business and boost bottom lines is to be clear and focused about the restaurant’s current needs and goals. While it is normal to be worried about additional costs to operations, restaurateurs should consider the value of investing in technology to save more in the long term.
Consider What You Want Your Tech Stack to Do
The sheer number of suppliers and restaurant technology products available in the market can be overwhelming. For many restaurants, the greatest challenge always figuring out which tech to begin with. Take into consideration what the main goal for having the tech stack is. This could include:
Food cost tracking and lowering costs
Reducing time spent on manual entry tasks
Freeing up time for the front of house staff
Obtain customer data and feedback in real-time
Reduce no shows for reservations
Maximise dine-in seating and increase profits
Invoice Management and Cost Tracking system
Various experts like Sterling Commerce, have found that the average cost of a paper invoice can range anywhere between $12 to $30. But automation “delivers an average of 29% reduction in invoice processing costs, which can translate to $30,000 per year for small-medium businesses that process up to 1,000 invoices per month.”
There’s no easy way to track a paper trail of invoices. But without keeping track of invoices and comparing them to the usage and sales data, restaurateurs won’t know what was sold and when. Nor will they be able to monitor food costs or easily calculate recipe costs. Invoice management and cost tracking systems like FoodRazor process invoices and organize them on their behalf, reducing time spent on manual data entry and errors. At the same time, integrates with other functions of the business like accounting software to ensure information is consistent throughout. FoodRazor also generates relevant and insightful reports that dive deeper into the data processed from these invoices to help businesses understand their spending better and know where to lower costs.
Point-of-Sale Systems (POS) system
Many POS system providers these days like Lightspeed, Revel, Square, and Toast are one-stop hubs for data integration, connecting with invoice management, inventory systems, recipe management systems, accounting software to provide greater visibility into the workings of the business.
Pro Tip: Many establishments consider their POS systems the core of their business, so it's pivotal to adopt software that integrates with most other systems, has user-friendly interfaces and hardware, and is easy to keep updated.
Picking the right accounting software is important because businesses want the data from their invoice management systems, POS system, accounts payable, and spend management to flow correctly into their chart of accounts. The last thing any business should be doing is rushing out formulas and calculations before the financial year closing trying to sort out mislabeled General Ledger line items. Accounting platforms like Xero and QuickBooks, make it easy to reconcile data, integrate well with other tech stacks, and are often considered a must-have in the world of automation.
Pro Tip: Cloud-based accounting software should be on top of the list because it can easily be integrated with other software in the restaurant tech stack.
Online Reservation Systems
Online reservation systems are no longer an option but a requirement especially with the new dine-in restrictions with the pandemic. Besides being a good way to control the crowd, being able to view and reserve tables online is a huge plus for patrons, and is a great tool for front-of-house staff to manage wait times and open tables during service. Restaurants will also be able to predict a rush and prepare kitchen staff by utilizing historical data. With the right reservation software, overbooking and double booking can be prevented since all of the reservations will be consolidated. Some of the biggest players in this space include OpenTable, SevenRooms, Chope, and Quandoo.
Pro Tip: Online Reservation Systems should include multiple functions such as memberships, discount codes, vouchers, automatic email, SMS reminders, and a lot more. These functions help restaurants up-sell, market, and delegate operations.
Take Away, Click & Collect and Mobile Order-Ahead Platforms
Instead of using platforms like GrabFood, FoodPanda, or Door Dash, some restaurants may choose to use their software to manage takeout, order-ahead, and click & collect orders. Customers appreciate the ability and convenience of ordering ahead and not having to wait in line.
Contactless Ordering Platforms
As reported by Restaurant Business, a recent study of ordering habits found that the rate at which guests have placed an order with a restaurant staff declined 33% between the start and end of January 2020. Moreover, the increase in rates for online ordering was a whopping 367%.
Digital contactless ordering allows for an immediate reduction in the volume of work and the risk of making mistakes. As orders are digitised, they can be passed along to the kitchen immediately. The solution is about eliminating errors made while taking orders, so the customer is more likely to get what was ordered. Overall there should be improved frictionless ordering that engages, converts, and retains customers through personalized offers, loyalty points, and rewards, all enabled by connected systems that integrate well with each other. Waitrr is one solution that provides such technology.
The right tech stack gives restaurants better data management, frees staff from tedious manual work, and improves overall business operational efficiency.
Not only does an effective stack offer restaurant staff and customers more convenience and a better experience, but the biggest bonus with an integrated tech stack is also the increased access to customer data. With the right tech solutions in place, restaurants can own data and use it to build loyalty, offer personalized offers and experiences, analyze trends, and improve every aspect of the customer journey. Ultimately giving businesses that edge over competitors, be it in terms of costs, customer service, food, etc.