The world is changing – it’s a cold, hard fact. Technology is on the rise in our industry and it’s becoming smarter and smarter with each passing minute. These days, consumers are buying all their food online, automated units are stirring sauces and dicing onions, QR codes are plastered on every surface, and integrated cloud-based software is taking all of the ‘grunt’ out of gruntwork. Basically, technology is unavoidable. While that seems exciting for many, some of you might have reservations about this. I know I did. When all of these burgeoning technologies first arrived, the wheels began turning in my mind. Are we sacrificing personal touches for the sake of efficiency? Is my favorite mom-and-pop shop going to lose its sense of individuality as we step into the digital age? Let’s get into it.
Before we shift our focus to technology in the service industry, it’s important to emphasize that your restaurant has specific needs. While many businesses are jumping on the modernization bandwagon, it might not be the best fit for some. For instance, Generation Z doesn’t seem to care about having a server at their table – they could take it or leave it. They’re perfectly okay with scanning a QR code and ordering from their phones. At the same time, other generations tend to prefer table service. It’s comforting to enter a restaurant, be welcomed by a smiling face, and know your server by name. Above all, we want to preserve the integrity of your vision. It’s up to you to decide how to use this technology.
- Automated restaurant equipment: With smart kitchens on the rise, developers have included many features that can cut down prep time. We now have the capability to install pre-set cooking methods into your equipment based on your specific recipes. For instance, screen displays have buttons for a dish or recipe, and the oven will automatically set the timer and temperature for that particular item. Alongside the technology that has the ability to chop, mix, dice, julienne, and mince, you’re saving a small fortune on labor with just the press of a button.
- Kitchen display systems: It’s easier than ever to track time on all of your tickets at once with a KDS. You can course out meals as well. Not to mention the ability to recall tickets with just one swipe of the finger. No more sifting through the receipt spike to find the crumpled up ticket for a dish that went out two hours ago. It’s all right there at your fingertips.
- Inventory software: Using recognition software, you can simply take a photo of your invoices and let technology do the rest. There’s no limit on how many invoices you can scan. The more information you give the software, the smarter it becomes. After you scan an invoice, it processes the information and updates your inventory automatically. It can even calculate your cost of goods.
- Analytics software: This software garners information and insights that help improve your restaurant’s overall performance. It displays realtime restaurant data like peak hours and sales to help you track key performance indicators – KPI is vital for helping you reach your metric goals. You can even look at the analytics of nearby restaurants to compare and contrast your own.
- Mobile POS and QR codes: I’m sure you’ve noticed that most servers these days are carrying a tablet from table to table. Gone are the days of walking across the restaurant to the POS to place an order; they can do it all while table-side. This reduces ticket times by up to 20% which allows servers to take on 8-10 tables per section, as opposed to the standard 4-6. In an age where more and more people are leaving the service industry, this is vital for maintaining high volume without compromising customer satisfaction or ticket times. QR codes are popping up on tables everywhere. These put all the ordering power into the customer’s hands. Statistics show that this actually encourages customers to order more food and beverages, as the customer no longer has to wait for their server to put in their order.
How we interact with the world has changed immensely. As we learn to live in these new times, we must explore the idea of employing up-and-coming kitchen technology. With the time and labor saved from utilizing these features, your team can focus on the bigger picture without weighing themselves down with menial tasks. As the business owner, you can decide how much or how little you want these features integrated into your restaurant. This allows you to tailor your dining experience based on individual needs.
It’s easier now more than ever to adopt these facets of technology into your business, which looks different for each and every one of you. The integration of these technologies will be vital to your restaurant’s growth during these transformative times.
Kate Ratledge, Bar & Front of House Consultant. Togather Restaurant Consulting.