What to know when trying to think ahead during challenging times.
The restaurant industry suffered the worst year in industry history, erasing years of progress, in 2020. The impact was widely felt across many parts of business, and restaurant technology was no exception. Some kinds of technology—online ordering, delivery, drive thru—saw huge gains as restaurants scrambled to augment their off-premises capabilities. Other types of technology took a backseat as restaurants went into survival mode.
Now restaurants are stuck in a limbo space where guests are returning, but many expenses are still higher than they were pre-pandemic. Rent has skyrocketed, labor is hard to find, and supply chain and transportation disruptions have increased the cost of food and other goods.
Despite these challenges, operators are looking to begin optimizing their tech stacks again. However, high costs in other areas mean budgets are still tight, and CIOs are looking to fill the gaps without overspending.
Some operators have decided to put off purchases for another year, believing myths about restaurant technology that it’s too expensive, not scalable, and hard to use. However, modern technology platforms are bucking these traditional trends making it possible to invest in tech even when profits are down.
Myth 1: Technology is only a cost center
This has historically been on a case-by-case basis. Some software, while necessary, didn’t have a direct tie in to revenue. However, it’s becoming increasingly common for your software vendors to bring in or save more money than they cost to implement or in subscription fees.
A strong, cloud-based point of sale system will give you maximum flexibility and configurability. Although those costs seem painful on the page, what you gain in online orders, optimized to-go menus, delivery integrations, and other perks more than make up for what they cost. Similarly, moving away from infrequent, manual inventory could be saving hundreds of dollars a month by helping you catch waste and theft.
Executives have been reluctant to sign off on new technology before, feeling like the ROI was not apparent. The new breed of restaurant technology solutions are changing that and you can show the data to back it up.
Myth 2: Technology is too difficult for everyone to learn
In the restaurant industry, you have to cater to a wide spectrum of people. Your technology needs to be usable by everyone from the IT administrator to a new cashier in their first week. So it’s understandable that operators are concerned about how user friendly their new technology purchase will be.
Having been burned by clunky systems of the past, you don’t want to invest in something that won’t realize its ROI if employees never learn it. Fortunately, more modern systems are also developing modern user interfaces.
If this is one of your primary concerns, feel free to ask for demos, walkthroughs, demo environments, or whatever else will make you feel confident that the system will be user friendly enough for your employees. Don’t hesitate to include representatives from roles or departments that will be most involved with the software to ensure you have a variety of perspectives.
Myth 3: Platforms won’t play well together
This may have once been true of traditional technology platforms, but it’s increasingly common for companies to have an open API that makes integration with the rest of your tech stack much easier. While you should do your due diligence in checking to ensure your chosen vendors will integrate, it’s no longer the looming concern that it was 20 years ago.
Now you can bring together point of sale, drive thru, back of house, loyalty, customer experience and more. Each has value on its own, but with integration, can give you a holistic view of customer and employee experience in a way that will allow you to optimize every part of your operations.
Myth 4: Technology doesn’t scale well
This is something more like a semi-myth. It’s certainly true that some vendors are better suited for independents, while others play in the larger multi-unit or enterprise space. But when it comes to scalability, what you no longer need to worry about is onerous deployments and update concerns.
Cloud-based technology is the future and makes scaling as you grow far simpler. Updates can be pushed automatically so you ensure every location is working off the most current technology.
Trying to invest in future improvement with restaurant technology is difficult when your profits are still recovering. But don’t stop yourself before you get started by believing in outdated myths that can discourage you from looking at what is available.
Greg Staley is the CEO of SynergySuite, a back-of-house restaurant management platform. Greg focuses on facilitating better visibility and increased profitability for restaurant chains through the use of intelligent, integrated back-of-house technology. For more information, please contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org.