How Can Technology Improve Your Restaurant Operations?

There is no business like a restaurant business; it’s also one of the most high-risk industries on the planet. A survey indicates that nearly 60% of restaurants go bankrupt during the first year of their existence. Those who stay in business are often challenged with growing customer expectations, high health and safety standards, financial risks, and increased competition.

Fluctuating costs of labor and supplies are yet another challenge. Fortunately, new and emerging restaurant technology is there to offer restaurant owners a helping hand. 

In this article we will find out how restaurant technology solutions help food industry players improve their operations and services. Read on to learn more!

The most common restaurant business problems

Running a restaurant business is no cakewalk – in fact, it’s a constant balancing act. There are just too many things you have to keep under control. More specifically, here’s the list of the most frequent problems that restaurant business owners face:

The menu

Assembling a menu that will have exactly the number of dishes your kitchen can afford to make while keeping it attractive and diverse can be a tricky task. Proper pricing is another challenge. Apart from the size and the price, you also have to make sure your menu has a recognizable theme so that the customers will know what your restaurant is about. 

Health and quality standards

Compliance with health standards is yet another challenge. Restaurant owners not only have to maintain proper sanitary conditions, but also buy high quality food from reliable suppliers. Excluding allergens or offering a vegan alternative to your popular dishes is also something your customers are likely to expect from a good restaurant.

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Restaurant management

A broad category, which includes balancing menu costs and profit margins, managing workloads and salaries, as well as inventory management and personnel training to ensure top-notch service; your restaurant management structure has to be transparent and resilient to maintain smoothly running operations, and to minimize losses and customer wait time.

Security

With POS systems being common these days, security breaches are, unfortunately, a frequent problem. Setting up a security system that will keep your customers credit card information safely locked-in is yet another challenge. Many businesses today are falling victim to digital criminals and are facing serious financial and reputational losses. 

Marketing

A memorable brand and a distinct restaurant theme are no longer enough – you have to interact with customers on social networks, measure and analyze their feedback and promptly resolve issues and complaints. Your visitors are also likely to expect you to have a loyalty program for their attraction and retention. Needless to say, a compelling website with a digital tour and a menu in both desktop and mobile versions is a must nowadays. 

Sustainability

Ensuring sustainability, minimizing waste and environmental damage will help your restaurant maintain a great reputation. Making your restaurant business sustainable is, unfortunately, quite a challenge. Restaurant owners need advanced data analytics solutions to see the hidden possibilities.

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Disruptive technology ideas for the restaurant industry

New gen tech is on its way to helping restaurant businesses handle an immense load of tasks and challenges. So how can technology improve restaurant operations? Below are some examples of restaurant software solutions and systems for streamlining operational efficiency for the restaurant industry. 

Smart kitchen technology 

No smart restaurant can run without modern, state of the art kitchen technology. Smart kitchen gadgets are now an inseparable part of any contemporary restaurant, which aims to meet the customer’s demand for fast service. IoT enabled refrigerators, for example, can notify chefs about product expiration dates and help streamline product ordering and delivery.

Smart gadgets, such as smoke and pollution indicators, also help ensure the safety of the kitchen environment. The use of IoT in restaurants account for timely equipment repairs and maintenance, since kitchen devices send out notifications about any emerging malfunctions. 

The example from our experience:

A digital transformation project that we did for a global leading provider of big data and market intelligence for the entire foodservice & restaurant industry

Customers had to wait too long to get their dish and had no idea how much more time they needed to wait for it. In order to prevent customers’ dissatisfaction we have developed kitchen monitoring and optimization systems that can predict how much time it will take to prepare a dish, based on past experience, and on the current load on the kitchen.

The customer can get a prediction for each dish how much time he should wait. Once he makes an order (using his smartphone) he can get a countdown of the estimated wait time. 

The system can predict if a specific dish is going to be late (for example – it should have been put into the oven 5 minutes ago, but this was not done yet). The system can alert the restaurant manager who can take mitigation actions. Even notifying the customer ahead of time about the delay is better than letting the customer wait.

Analysing the restaurant peak time, the system can recommend when more staff need to be employed, and whether more dish preparation stations should be put in place to accommodate the load without deteriorating customer service.

 

AI-based menus

The rise of AI has opened the door to advanced restaurant menu technology.  Restaurant menu software can now create personalized menus based on the customers’ preferences. Vegans and people with allergies and dietary restrictions will finally have their needs met as restaurants are beginning to adopt AI-based menu software. Traditionally, large food chains pioneered the adoption of new gen tech.

In 2019, McDonalds forged a $300 million deal with a third-party AI developer to build a personalized menu service. Apart from dietary restrictions, the service will be taking into account previous orders and weather conditions – for example, it will automatically replace iced drinks with hot drinks in winter and vice versa.

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Menu engineering

The capabilities of restaurant menu software extend far beyond customer service: smart menu technology also enables managers to customize restaurant menus. By tracking which items on the menu are popular as opposed to rarely ordered items, managers can decide which of them to keep, which to discard, and which may need a price adjustment.  

The example from our experience:

Going back to our restaurant example: how often can a restaurant change its menu? Because the menu is printed, it makes it difficult to change the menu frequently. Once the menu is digital, it can be changed every day or every week.

For example: How many times did it happen to you that you went to a restaurant, ordered some dish and then a waiter told you it is not in stock? With digital menus such dishes may be temporarily taken out of the menu, avoiding the customer’s frustration.

Another example: A restaurant manager sees that 10 pieces of Salmon fish must be consumed today – otherwise they will have to be thrown away tomorrow. He can reduce the price to expedite its sales. Good for the restaurant and for the environment.

 

Digital inventory tracking

For a restaurant business highly dependent on a timely delivery of supplies, inventory management software is a great asset. Unsurprisingly, restaurant inventory software is the first technological advancement restaurant owners are likely to invest in. Such software helps keep track of the product shelf life and automatically order the necessary stock and materials. Modern inventory management software also often integrates with POS systems, which helps streamline inventory ordering and tracking.

Smart POS system

Apart from their direct purpose, modern POS systems perform a number of other functions: they track inventory, perform customer and sales data analysis, create bills and email them to customers, manage personnel and much more.  A restaurant’s point of sales software may also integrate with an accounting system and help owners keep their hand on the pulse of all restaurant operations.

Self-ordering system

Restaurant self-ordering systems need no introduction: as of today, online or mobile ordering has already become mainstream, allowing customers to not only pick the mode of delivery, but also avoid misinterpretations and mistakes while assembling the order. Large food-chains are also installing self-ordering kiosks, helping meet customer demand for a fast and hassle-free order placement. 

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Wearable technology

We have come to associate it mainly with the healthcare industry, but wearable technology in the restaurant industry is also finding increasing application. At Pesto’s, for example, every table is connected to a waiter’s wearable bracelet, so that waiters can be easily alerted if the customers need anything or if any problematic issues arise.

Customers also seem to welcome wearable technology ideas, although on the customers’ side, things are not so bright: about 59% of people would enjoy paying with their wearables in restaurants, while 41% would find it intrusive

Restaurant scheduling software

Task scheduling, payroll management, time tracking and shift assignment: with restaurant scheduling software these processes become a breeze. Ultimately, what restaurant owners get is a management platform for restaurant operations: an invaluable tool in today’s business environment and its heightened demand for business agility.

Restaurant analytics systems

Last, but not least, the restaurant business can benefit from advanced data analytics, helping management make informed decisions about every aspect of their restaurant’s operations – from menu engineering and marketing to revenue forecasting. 

The example from our experience:

Customer satisfaction is a crucial factor in any business, and definitely in the restaurant business, as a restaurant can be profitable only if it attracts repeating customers. Today it is difficult for restaurant managers to understand if customers were happy or not.

In our restaurant application: Right after the payment the application gives customers a short review, where they can rate their overall satisfaction and their grade for each dish.

The system accumulates the data, analyzes it and displays it to restaurant managers. They can see that, for example, a certain dish, that always used to be ranked high – is getting lower grades now, and they can take corrective actions  immediately.

 

Technology is surely affecting the restaurant industry; its full impact, however, is capable of reaching far beyond the boldest expectations. Adopting new disruptive technologies, though, can be challenging, as businesses need to replace outdated equipment, rethink legacy processes, and get rid of the legacy mindset to embrace changes.

Another challenge lies in bridging the talent gap, since the existing staff usually lacks technical proficiency for implementing groundbreaking restaurant management solutions. Under these circumstances, turning to a trusted third party solutions provider can be a viable alternative. 

Looking for ways to enhance your business with new and emerging restaurant technologies? Contact us now for free expert advice!

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