Technology for restaurants has come a long way. There has been exponential growth in tech companies exploding on the scene since COVID. Unfortunately, the operator has been slow to understand and embrace this new technology.
My goal for my column this week is to help operators understand this new technology. More importantly, I want to help you figure out how to build a tech stack that helps you crush it while still giving you more time to work ON your business instead of IN your business so that you can have time off with your loved ones. Remember “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” It also makes Jack divorced!
So, what is a tech stack you ask? In simple terms, a tech stack is a number of different technology software you use to run your operation. You may use one tech company for scheduling. You may use another tech company for your point of sale or reservations. Another for inventory or ordering. Maybe you use technology for marketing. The point is, every restaurant uses a certain amount of technology to operate. Failure to do so is the fastest way to close your doors.
Anyone remember a time when as a server, we wrote orders down on an order pad and gave the copy to the kitchen? Remember as a cook or expeditor trying to read that chicken scratch? Remember how long that process took to go from order taking to delivering the food? Not to mention you then had to ring it in on a cash register. And, who’s to say that order every got rung in? Cash tickets could easily have been pocketed. There was no checks and balances unless you physically added every guest checkup and compared it to the total ring on the register.
We have come a long way regarding the way we process checks, ordering, and payments because of POS systems like Aloha, Toast, Micros, and others. What about reservations? We used to answer the phone and have a book we would hand write the reservation in. This was also very time consuming and less productive requiring more hours of labor. Then companies like OpenTable, Resy, and other reservation systems eliminated that wasted time and money and allowed us to be more efficient. People were able to make reservations on-line. We were even able to create a data base to use for marketing purposes and to enhance the guest experience.
Today, there is technology software that allows you to write schedules, place orders, do inventory, create P&Ls, process payroll, track tips, change menus on the fly, track reviews, and so much more. But, this can be confusing. How do you know which tech software is right for you? While there is no stack that is right for everyone, there are some questions you should ask yourself. Each operation is unique and requires customizing what is right for your restaurant.
There are three basic questions you should ask yourself when selecting which technology you are going to use in your stack.
- Question No. 1: Does this technology make my operation more productive?
- Question No. 2: Does this technology make the guest experience better?
- Question No. 3: Can I afford this technology?
If the technology doesn’t save you time it is not worth the investment. There is a lot of talk about AI and robots these days. Technology MUST enhance the guest experiencer it isn’t going to help you. For instance, automating certain cooking operations like sous vide is a great automation. Having a robot take your order and bring your food does not give a guest experience where they feel loved and cared for by another human being. Lastly, the tech should be affordable. In fact, a lot of software actually saves you money or increases your revenue.
When it comes to building a tech stack, the same rules apply. Regarding better productivity, the different softwares have to integrate with one another. For instance, your scheduling software should integrate with your POS. Your reservation system should integrate with your POS system to assist with table turns. Your purchases, inventory, and P&L should all integrate. If not, you are actually doing the same thing more than once and that isn’t time or money saving. Don’t stack software that doesn’t integrate.
As I said in the beginning, no tech software is right for everyone. However, there are some tech companies I have used and highly recommend that integrate well with one another and have saved me time and money.
These companies cover the most basic needs that you should start with. I have added this list here to help you on your journey to better productivity, revenue building, cost cutting, and crushing it while creating better work life/balance for you and your team. There are many other areas you may add but start with these basic needs.
- Hiring/Scheduling/Communicating with your team: 7 Shifts
- POS System: Toast
- Reservation System: OpenTable
- Inventory/P&L System: Restaurant 365
- Customer Satisfaction and Marketing: Ovation
- Maximizing Revenue/Dynamic Pricing and quick menu updates: Juicer
- Tipping IRS Compliance and immediate tip payout: Kickfin
Editor’s note: This is the 17th article in a new column from restaurant expert Monte Silva. More on the series can be found here. The first story, on Why Underpaying Restaurant Employees is a Recipe for Disaster, is here. The second, on Why Marketing is Not Expensive, is here. The third, on people-centric leadership, is here. The fourth, on Why Working 70-Hour Weeks in Your Restaurant is Not the Answer, is here. The fifth, on How to Provide Hospitality in a High-Tech, Low-Touch World, is here. The sixth, on ‘The Convertible Culture’ in Restaurants, is here. The seventh, on Why the Old P&L Model Has Set Restaurants Up for Failure,’ is here. The eighth, on How to Scale Your Restaurant Business When There is Only One of You, is here. The ninth article, The Secret to Finding and Keeping Great Employees is Not Difficult, is here. The 10th, What Culture Do You Really Want at Your Restaurant?, is here. The 11th, on Your Restaurant Should Serve People, Not Product, is here. The 12th, on Don’t Let Shiny New Toys Distract Your Restaurant from What’s Most Important, is here. The the 13th, on Why Restaurant Value Shouldn’t Be Based on Price, is here. The 14th, on The Case for Hyper-Focused Menus, is here. The 15th, This is How Your Restaurant Will Survive Beyond 3 Years, is here. And the 16th, on The Difference Between a Restaurant Coach and Consultant, is here.