This is what restaurant owners need to know.

Back in the 90s, the restaurant experience was completely different from what it is today. From finding a restaurant to dining, everything took more time, more patience, and more effort.

To find a restaurant, you would have first had to rely on word of mouth, the Yellow Pages, or just stumble upon it by sheer luck. Then you’d have to call and speak to a real person to make a reservation, which could take a while because things moved at a slower pace back then.

Diners nowadays couldn’t fathom going back to those times, simply because we’ve all gotten too used to the convenience and efficiency of depending on technology.

Could you imagine having to call over and over again to make a reservation? Or just winging it to check a place out, without reading a single review or having a quick look through their Facebook or Instagram pages?

Technology has made it possible for us to make “safer” and more informed decisions on where our next meal is going to be and no one is going to givethat up—it’s too easy, too practical, and toogood.

While it is pretty much the best time to be a consumer, restaurants, on the other hand, have it pretty tough. They have to deliver a whole lot more these days than good food.

Quality food and service is kind of considered as a given in this day and age. With people making decisions based on online ratings on practically every act of consumption, businesses have to become very tech-savvy to succeed.

First of all, diners expect certain things from a decent venue, like an awesome website, regular and meaningful updates on social media platforms, and even tech-aided payment and delivery systems.

But don’t get bummed; technology isn’t the budget-sucking monster that is only about meeting diners’ needs. It makes life far easier for restaurant owners, too.

Here are a few types of technology that help make your restaurant better.

1. Point-of-Sale (POS) Technology

This is an area that is becoming very tech-dependant. POS technology, simply put, is a super-advanced cash register. There are POS systems and apps available already that allow your diners to use a tablet to order and pay, helping you cut labour costs, since you won’t be needing as many servers.

If you have an automatic ordering system, it may also be a really big help to the kitchen staff in preparing the dishes more efficiently. And an automated payment system means diners don’t have to sit around trying to get a waiter’s attention and go through the rigmarole of manually paying the bill.

There are plenty of POS systems through which servers are able to view available tables, change menu items, and split checks. POS technology also allows you to sync your system with product mix reports, guest counts, ingredient costs, labor costs, and much more to give you an understanding of what is actually happening in your restaurant.

With millennials becoming the largest cohort, making things easier, smoother, and quicker will certainly help you get good ratings by this very discerning, demanding, and rather-impatient generation.

2. Collection and Interpretation of Data

One essential key to success is gathering and interpreting consumer data. You need to have the right tools to capture consumer information, from the type of people that visit your restaurant, to what they order and their level of satisfaction when they leave.

A loyalty program is a great way to collect data on your diners’ basic stats, like their ages, income levels, how often they visit and when. This information will be the bread and butter when it comes to making your restaurant a real success—after all, you can’t sell anything without knowing who your customers are, what they want, and how much they can afford.

While diner stats are important, what you really need to know is which of your dishes are flying out of the kitchen and which are duds. You need menu intelligence (i.e. sales-data analysis) to make timely changes to your menu so that your business keeps moving in the right direction.

Having correct data on inventories is also critical. Many POS systems out there also provide inventory alerts so that your staff get a heads-up to order items that are running low.

3. Automation is the Future

Automation will play a bigger and bigger role in all industries going forward. As we head into an era of driverless cars and trucks, automation (or reliance on artificial intelligence) is going to play a massive part in many aspects of our daily lives.

AI isn’t just for science fiction now—fully automated restaurants are already out there. The American fast-food chain Eatsa is almost fully automated. Customers order their food on an iPad and wait for their food in front of a wall of glass cubbies, where their food will appear, much like a vending machine.

Eatsa kitchen staff members prepare food behind the glass wall, but diners won’t need to have any human contact. And the Eatsa computer system remembers you so that, on your next visit, it will display your previous orders.

Restaurants Need to Be Tech-Savvy to Succeed

The restaurant industry is pretty tough—a recent Cornell University study showed about a third of independent restaurants fail within the first year of operation. But that isn’t to say that it’s all doom and gloom for this industry.

To succeed and stay open, restaurants need to have the basics—which have not changed over the years—like a good location, strong leadership, and a solid plan.

The technological element plays a huge part as well these days. Even if you have the greatest location ever with awesome staff and a solid business plan, you simply can’t afford to ignore the importance of tech, which includes websites, social media, POS systems, and chatbots.

Websites and social media may act as marketing tools and will generally cost you a fair bit of time and money, depending on whether you use professionals or go with a do-it-yourself approach. But, with 2 billion people on Facebook and 500 million on Instagram, it’ll be worth the investment. Web and social media presence is essential and there’s no getting around it now.

There are so many ways tech can help reduce your costs, too. An awesome POS system can help make your business super efficient and slash staff costs, and the same applies to chatbots and other tech gizmos that are available to lend you a helping hand at a fraction of the cost of human employees.

So have a surf around and see what’s out there. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that there is so much tech out there to help restaurants get ahead without costing an arm and a leg. 

Expert Takes, Feature