Tech Trends in the Restaurant Industry
Previous articles on this blog discussed the intricacies of changing consumer demand in the food industry and the complexities facing restaurateurs dealing with issues like legal compliance, food sourcing, product delivery, and managing the changing reality of each of these concerns while maintaining profit margins.
Scott Boatwright, Chief Restaurant Officer at Chipotle Mexican Grill, speaking at a recent industry event, warned restaurateurs of the perils of disregarding evolving technological developments in the business: “The ground is shifting under our feet and holding on to the past way we’ve run restaurants isn’t the way we are going to do business going forward.”
A well thought out technological plan supported by the appropriate software, cell-phone application development, and the integration of new on-line strategies are the keys to successful restaurant operation today.
According to the National Restaurant Association, four out of five restaurant operators agree that use of new technologies:
Increase a restaurant’s sales;
Make their restaurants more productive; and,
Give their business a competitive advantage.
Reducing labor costs and better utilization of emerging online trends are two challenges critical to achieving higher profits:
Reduction in Labor Costs
Needless to say, a great restaurant experience requires great service. The restaurant industry is highly labor-intensive and labor costs are expected to rise 50 to 100% over the next five to seven years. Moreover, because the unemployment rate is so low, many restaurants are severely understaffed and need to spend a great deal of time and money on recruiting. The result being that any technologies that can facilitate more efficient hiring, managing, paying, and recruiting of talent are operational gold.
There are now many online, cloud-based, and stand-alone software solutions that can be easily scaled to the needs of your operation for scheduling, allowing employees to clock-in and clock-out, maintaining attendance records, tracking an employee’s daily productivity, and handling all phases of talent and workforce management.
More sophisticated online ordering systems can streamline the take-out function of your operation by printing web-based orders directly to the kitchen, eliminating the need for wait-staff and facilitating faster delivery of the product to the consumer.
Point of sale kiosks are already supplementing or replacing the need for waitstaff especially in casual dining establishments. Just stop in to your neighborhood Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, or Chili’s to see these robots in action. Not only do kiosks expedite online ordering that can direct your customer to featured items with higher profit margins, they provide family games (like trivia challenges) and entertainment for your waiting diners. Also, there’s no waiting for the check which aids in quick table turnover. Diners can simply call up their check and slide their credit card to pay for the meal.
Bringing in New Sales
Restaurants are using international third-party services like Open Table, to bring in new customers and to advertise. For example, this week on Open Table, the site is featuring LGBT-managed restaurants in a particular city, to celebrate Pride Month. Open Table services tourists and locals alike.
Cell phone apps manage everything for savvy restaurateurs from wait-list management on a busy Saturday night to on-line ordering from services like Grub Hub and Door Dash. Rating services (like Yelp), applications that recommend places to eat to consumers, apps with maps that provide tourists with restaurant locations, even applications that calculate a service tip, each provide opportunities for restaurant operators to gauge customer opinion, bring in new business, and increase sales if they are used properly and messaging is consistent across platforms.
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(image courtesy of Patrick Tomasso)