It’s no secret that, with the rise of the “gig economy,” the restaurant industry in particular has faced new staffing challenges. This has led restaurant operators to look to technology as a means of optimizing for a new restaurant landscape. Another factor leading to the implementation of restaurant technology is the need to keep up with consumer demand in terms of customization options, efficient customer service and the seamless delivery of a quality product—and what equips restaurateurs to own all three? Data.
Now more than ever it is imperative for restaurant operators to stay on top of developments in technology in order to streamline processes. Well-utilized restaurant technology allows operators to implement more efficient ordering, reduce food waste, manage multiple third-party delivery menus, speed up table turnover and more. Tools which benefit the modern-day restaurateur include POS systems which incorporate self-ordering kiosks and tableside ordering; mobile applications; and a quality back-of-house KDS, or Kitchen Display System, just to name a few.
To assist restaurant operators in making the proper selections for their technology needs, here are a few areas to focus on.
Problems tend to occur, and are more likely to go unnoticed, when a restaurant is at its busiest.
Since table turnover increases revenue, the efficiency with which a restaurant responds to guests’ needs is intrinsically tied to the bottom line. Within the QSR segment of the restaurant industry, consumer demand for convenience has driven system-wide change; in 2018, McDonald’s committed to investing $10 billion in its ordering kiosk-focused “Restaurant of the Future” initiative—and it’s hardly the only brand committed to modernizing.
Self-service technology such as kiosks, tableside ordering tablets and mobile apps put the customer in charge of their dining experience and are the clear path to securing a spot at the table amid major market saturation. This technology also provides guests with opportunities for add-ons at the point of purchase while minimizing the feel of an “upsell;" the guest is in control of their order every step of the way, so customization is both natural and desired. This is due in part to data which suggests customers who utilize self-service technology at restaurants tend to spend more, as ordering devices can be programmed to entice customers to opt for desserts or other menu items while seated at the table—and process payment.
Tableside technology and mobile apps provide the ability to facilitate payments so that customers can close out their bill when ready, as opposed to waiting for a staff member to bring the bill and process payments.
Leveraging a system which integrates data across channels—such as, for example, staffing software and inventory tracking programs—allows operators to see the current landscape while also planning ahead for the future. Even amidst today’s changing restaurant landscape, staffing and food costs eat at the bottom line, while service inefficiencies kill customer loyalty.
In terms of staffing, operators should consider the percentage of earnings devoted to labor costs when determining staffing and compensation. Relatedly, operators can determine the optimum number of staff members to have on-duty at any given time based on volume, weather trends, spikes in traffic or delivery demand or other real-time factors. Software which tracks real-time staffing can alert managers in such situations.
When it comes to food costs, nothing beats data-driven insight. Integrated cloud-based software allows operators to track inventory; cut down on “tablet hell” by pooling delivery and POS orders into one cloud-based platform (which can then automatically adjust inventory and even transmit automated re-order requests when ingredients run low); and highlight both top-selling items and their slow-moving counterparts.
That’s just to name a few; overall, data insight helps to drive profits while also cutting costs and boosting customer satisfaction. Remember: nothing eats at the bottom line like a neglected or underserved customer—and the potential for recurring revenue goes out the door when they do.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is an index ranging from negative 100 to 100 that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a business or service to others. It is used as a proxy for gauging the customer's overall satisfaction with a company's product or service as well as the customer's loyalty to the brand.
Operators have the ability to increase this score by investing in integrated front-of-house and back-end technology such as a POS system that incorporates self-ordering kiosks and tableside ordering, in addition to mobile applications and a quality KDS (Kitchen Display System) to help your back-of-house staff keep up with customer orders. These tools provide the ability to streamline communications between kitchen staff and servers in order to enhance the overall process and create an organized and professional environment for guests. The data that operators can gather from these tools can also assist in making enhancements to operational logistics and customer service, which tend to increase a restaurant’s NPS.
Customers are the heartbeat of any restaurant. Operators should continuously look for ways in which to store customer data such as insights provided from third-party vendors like OpenTable or GrubHub, or via captured data from subscription-based brand emails and surveys. Providing customers with free Wi-Fi in exchange for an email address is also a way for restaurants to garner contact information for subsequent messaging campaigns.
Data aggregating isn’t just for the value of the brand; by doing this, operators can track things such as food allergies, past orders and purchasing trends to better market to their audience and serve their existing base. The possibilities are endless—but only if the data is tapped.
There are also significant benefits to developing a loyalty program. Loyalty programs not only reward recurring guests but aggregate data that empowers restaurant owners with insight on how their customers are engaging with the brand, whether that be through mobile apps, online reservations, redeeming offers, dining frequency and more. Again, data is the bridge to insight, customization and efficiency—the hallmarks of a successful restaurant brand in 2019. Armed with relevant data, operators have the ability to recognize loyalty members and tailor rewards to the individual, playing to both the exclusivity and customized-to-consumer demand of the market today.
Graham Campbell is the COO of Givex, a global cloud-based operations management solution designed to streamline business efficiencies and generate valuable and actionable customer data with offices in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, Brazil, Singapore and newly opened in Mexico City. Campbell is an innovative technology executive with over 13 years of experience in the payment, e-commerce and point of sale sectors. He started at Givex in March 2006 and since then has held positions including: VP of Projects & Implementations, VP and General Manager of Givex’s point-of-sale (POS), Senior VP of Product Development and now holds the position of the company’s Chief Operating Officer.