These tips help take the headache out of implementing a new system.

Technology is evolving, and it’s taking restaurants with it. Driven by consumer demand and expectations, restaurants are adapting to today’s culture by implementing tools that allow them to remain competitive, like online waitlists, scheduling, loyalty programs, and other adaptions for operational efficiencies. Ensuring a smooth transition is crucial when your restaurant begins to roll out new technology, so have a plan in place when you begin the process.

Step 1: Identify Your Solution

Not every piece of new technology is right for every restaurant. While this may seem obvious, any technology solution you choose should correctly address the pain points your restaurant is experiencing, from incorrect wait times to out-of-control food waste.

Once you’ve identified the type of technology that will help your success, you need to find the best company for the job. The business that provides your solution should have your best interest in mind, and part of that means having an implementation plan, access to training, great references, and experience providing the solution they’re providing. If they don’t, you may be in for a long and frustrating implementation.

Step 2: Develop the Criteria for Success

Success for your restaurant can come from many places, like increasing customer loyalty, reducing staffing inconsistencies, or maximizing table turns, but ultimately they all take the form of your return on investment. Before you begin your project, outline what success looks like for your company and make sure it lines up with what the technology representative has in mind. Developing these criteria helps your team measure progress, focus on the solution, and make later adjustments.

On this same note, identify any risks that come with the project and calculate those against the benefits of a successful rollout. Identifying those potential risks will help you be more successful if there are any delays or hiccups during the process.

Step 3: Identify Key Stakeholders

Stakeholders are those you need to deliver results to. These stakeholders could be managers, hourly employees, your bank, or the executive suite—they’re simply the people who will be most affected by and most crucial to a technology rollout.

Once you identify these key representatives, you must communicate the effects and changes of the rollout clearly so they can be prepared and communicate to their teams. Encourage open communication about the changes and define roles.

Step 4: Map Out a Timeline

You know the peak hours and time frames of your restaurant, so as you map out a timeline for implementation, keep this in mind. If you have a milestone you’re attempting to hit—for example, Mother’s Day—then your timeline should give you plenty of time for testing and implementation before that date. As you develop deadlines, make sure they won’t interfere with any big days you have planned for your business.

Step 5: Communicate the Vision with Excitement

You have a project, criteria for success, and a timeline for the project. Now, you have to communicate. From the initial announcement, you need to make four things clear:

· What tools will change

· What processes will be updated

· How the adoption of this technology will help employees perform better

· The timeline your employees and stakeholders can expect

Make sure you weave the “why” into each communication about this transition. Employees should be your greatest ambassadors for the technology, but to do that, you need to help them get excited by leading by example. When it comes to implementation later on, you’ll find that there are fewer emotional road blocks because you have clearly communicated excitement and positivity.

Step 6: Train and Implement

Implementing the technology can be the biggest headache when rolling out the technology, but you can make it easier by making sure you delegate properly and plan for training and feedback.

First, choose an implementation team. This team will develop the plan, create feedback loops, and advocate for the implementation. The team should be made up of the following:

· An executive/corporate sponsor- This person from the C-suite will help with both internal support and buy-in. They should be adept at overcoming any issues that have to do with resources, budgets, or high-level sponsorship.

· Organizational administrator- This is the person who plans and organizes the implementation through all levels of the restaurant. They will set the direction and make sure both management and staff are working toward the same goals.

· Implementation support- These people will set up and configure any hardware or software and know about the ins and outs of the solution. Going forward, they will be the go-to person for quick fixes with the product.

If you have multiple sites, you should also identify your training team. Designate specific employees as trainers, who will help onboard the rest of employees and be a go-to person for any issues or fixes. Provide ongoing training so that employees can achieve the full potential of the software you’ve been rolling out.

As you implement, create a feedback loop to identify areas of improvement you would like to see in the technology. This is especially important for more customizable and scalable solutions.

Step 7: Analyze and Adjust

Go back to step 2. What were your criteria for success? Are you achieving them? If you don’t analyze your data, you won’t know whether you’re running optimally or if there are areas that aren’t meeting your goals yet. Today’s technology helps you effortlessly collect data—but the next step is to analyze that information and make adjustments based on those analyses. Skipping this step means you may be missing out on more opportunity for success.

Technology rollouts must take into account both how the solution will be used and the people who are using the solution. As Red Robin made the shift into using a technologically advanced guest management platform in over 450 of their restaurants, the measurable improvement only came about because of a successful implementation plan. When your organization rolls out new technology, success is only achieved with a plan in mind—and, there will always be new technology and solutions, so the plan framework should start now. 

Expert Takes, Feature, Technology