Technology is moving so fast that it’s hard to not only keep up, but also keep informed. Here are four of the latest services that can help restaurant operators in different areas of their business:
We’re all hearing about the cloud, but what is it?
As with everything in the virtual world, it’s there but it’s not. The cloud is an ability to store and manage data.
But it may help to visualize a cloud, up in the sky, where you can place your information and reach up and retrieve it when you need it.
The advantages of having your information on the cloud are multiple:
- It’s not on your computer, saving you hard-drive space.
- It’s backed up.
- Any information can be accessed from anyone in your chain. So if your menu’s on the cloud and you’re in Minnesota, a manager in Florida can also access it.
- The same goes for your customers. If your menu is in the cloud and you make it accessible; anyone can see it. Be careful, however, of mixing private and public data. If you have private information, either don’t include it in the application that you are making public or simply put in some security to make users/customers login to application, says Chris Ruff, CEO of UIEvolution, a company that provides connected services.
- You can provide more information for customers. Not only is your menu, for example, available, but they are also abel to click on dishes and read all the ingredients, nutritional information, information on allergens, etc.
- You can provide a better experience for guests, by sharing customer information through affinity programs, building stronger loyalty programs, and creating specials that are more targeted.
- Internally, it means everything can be managed centrally so updates or changes need only be input once, rather than at each restaurant.
- It saves money. There are some initial startup costs to moving onto the cloud. You may have to change some processes internally, which can mean some training is required. There may also be some new software costs, and there can be ongoing costs.
What can you put in the cloud? Pretty much anything, and the space is infinite. Restaurants should start embracing it now, says Ruff.
“[Restaurants] have to see technology as part of their business going forward. It’s not all or nothing. They don’t have to say one day, ‘Hey, we’re all cloud now.’ You’re going to have to make these investments over the next one to five years.”
The cloud, he points out, for those of us who are confused about the difference between the cloud and the Internet, is that the cloud is the bigger picture—it’s what allows us to use the Internet and its services.
And this is true whether the restaurant is part of a chain or is an independent mom-and-pop, he says, because the simple truth is customers are starting to expect access to your menu, and your restaurant, whenever they want it.
“But I would argue that if restaurants don’t have these tools, their customers are going to leave them,” Ruff adds. “Having things online is going to be almost a requirement.