Innovations in restaurant technology have optimized operations and the guest experience by increasing ordering and fulfillment efficiency.
The restaurant industry is continually testing new software to meet the ever-evolving industry and consumer needs. There are various management solutions that restaurant owners can utilize to improve their internal operations and relationships with guests. From online review websites to social media, there are plenty of platforms where management can interact with customers, as well as gain insights into new trends.
Restaurants can reduce food waste and customer wait times while also increasing sales and profits by utilizing modern point-of-sale (POS) systems. Services like this provide ordering, sales, and analytic functions that promote business expansion and flexibility. Therefore, management should understand how POS systems can further enhance their front and back of house functions as well as proper implementation methods.
From digital ordering to public exposure, technology is impacting restaurants in a big way. The most significant innovations that are currently changing the industry include-
- Public Communication
The internet is often used as a tell-all solution for many consumers. Therefore, restaurants that do not have an online presence are missing out on potential guests. Businesses can launch their websites and sign up with third-party sites such as Yelp, Yellow Book, and White Pages to expand their customer reach. By establishing a digital platform, restaurants can communicate with the public and post information such as hours of operation, special events, menu items, and marketing campaigns.
- Social Media
Social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook allow restaurants to respond to guest feedback and monitor their online reputation. This solution is an excellent way for small business owners to stay competitive. Management can make regular posts of their daily specials, exclusive deals, and other creative interactive elements. Utilizing social media can increase exposure and create bonds between the business and the consumer.
- Mobile Devices
It is important to make sure restaurant websites are accessible across all devices, such as tablets, laptops, and smartphones. Studies show that over half of all internet searches are done via mobile devices. Therefore, if an e-commerce site is not compatible with mobile viewing, it is likely the searcher will get frustrated and take their business elsewhere.
- Online Reviews
Studies claim that over 59% of customers read online reviews before choosing a restaurant. Both social media and online review sites allow customers to share their experiences with the world. While this is great for exposure, it can be detrimental if a guest has a negative review. A Gatherup study shows that 50% of customers expect a response from the business. Therefore, management should designate a worker to monitor and respond to reviews to boost customer advocacy and value perception.
- Payment Security
Security breaches have become common concerns in the restaurant industry, putting customers' payment information and business data at risk. Reconciling security breaches can cost a company thousands of dollars and customer trust. Therefore, restaurants should invest in POS software and ordering systems that are payment card industry data security standard (PCI DSS) compliant, guaranteeing secure transactions.
As technology evolves, trends are projecting how future restaurants will operate and appeal to customers. Businesses should consider these emerging trends when determining whether they would like to implement new technology-
1. Online Ordering and Ghost Kitchens
Online ordering is increasing exponentially because of its convenience for customers. According to Nation's Restaurant News, 60% of American consumers order delivery or takeout at least once a week, over 30% of which are placed online or via mobile application. This trend has promoted ghost kitchens, or restaurants that lack seating, because they only fulfill takeout and delivery orders.
Even major fast food and fast casual restaurants such as The Halal Guys, Chick-fil-A, and Wendy's have begun utilizing ghost kitchens as part of their expansion strategies. These establishments save on customer service costs required for dine-in restaurants and cater to the working consumer that needs food on-the-go.
2. Self-Service Kiosks
Found in many restaurant chains, such as McDonald's, self-service kiosks reduce wait times by allowing customers to place orders and fulfill transactions themselves. Kiosks are equipped with card readers that accept debit and credit card payment. They also allow the buyer to pay with cash by printing a receipt that they can present at the counter. These terminals enhance the guest experience by increasing service speed and reducing order errors from miscommunication.
3. Voice Assistants
While it is still in the early stages, voice recognition features have great potential and versatility to be used via mobile and in-person orders. Some fast-food chains are beginning to implement voice assistants in their drive-thrus and kiosks where customers can place orders without an employee present. Eventually, consumers will be able to use voice recognition features within mobile apps to quickly place orders, reducing the time it takes to type an online request manually.
4. Biometric Identity Verification
Many smartphones have already implemented biometric security measures, such as fingerprinting and face scanning, to grant access to the phone and data-sensitive apps. Now, consumers can place online orders using these technologies along with e-wallets. Biometric technology is also used inside of the restaurant, where employees can clock in by physical verification. This prevents employees from asking co-workers to clock them in and promotes accountability by tracking which employees have had access to the cash drawers, monitors, and inventory.
5. Robot Chefs and Servers
Companies like Bear Technologies are working on creating products that assist employees in serving and ordering, allowing them to focus on customer service. Additionally, companies have experimented with testing robots that can produce relatively simple dishes, such as pancakes and coffee, so chefs can spend their time on more elaborate meals.
6. Cloud-Based POS Software
Traditional systems are quickly being replaced by modern cloud-based POS software that allows users to access information from anywhere at any time. These systems solely run on a network connection, eliminating the confusing installation process of traditional terminals.
This function also allows businesses to sync hand-held devices, portable terminals, and printers to the software. Plus, not only are cloud-based solutions more cost-effective, but they also provide advanced features and reporting that give insights on all operations. For example, sales data from each POS system can be consolidated to determine the most popular items, best salesperson, and promotion performance.
7. Touchscreen POS Terminals
Also available with cloud-based POS systems, touchscreen terminals increase order efficiency by using a comprehensive menu and transaction layout. Modern POS terminals are also able to process e-wallet payments, as well as credit card chip insert and swiping.
8. Mobile Devices
Hand-held POS devices reduce the time it takes to pick up credit card payment for a bill, process payment at the register, return the receipt, and collect a signature for authorization by allowing servers to finalize transactions at the table. Portable devices also allow servers to send digital orders to the kitchen immediately once an order is taken. These functions provide quicker, more personalized service and allow waiters to handle multiple tables simultaneously.
9. Kitchen Monitors
As order frequency increases, printed tickets prove to be less efficient. Implementing POS kitchen monitors will alert kitchen staff immediately when a new order is placed, along with any special instructions. Monitors also eliminate paper waste and the risk of misplacing an order. By mounting the screens on the wall, every cook can see incoming requests, increasing service speed and accuracy.
Businesses that prefer a paper trail can integrate receipt printers for the front and back of the house. Thermal printers use heat to imprint characters on the receipt, eliminating the cost of ink. These printers are generally used at the checkout counter rather than in the kitchen due to its heat sensitivity. Instead, kitchens typically prefer impact printers that use ink and make a sound when printing, alerting the staff of new orders.
11. Cash Drawers
A Statistica study disclosed that 32% of fast-food consumers still prefer paying in cash. Therefore, restaurants should keep a cash drawer as a security measure. This hardware can be synced with established POS solutions to track all cash payments and input the quantities into the database.
Adapting to modern technology can be overwhelming, but it is vital to maintain customer loyalty, sales, and traffic. Restaurants can start implementing technology in their business with five simple steps-
1. Research Solutions That Fulfill the Restaurant's Requirements
After determining what operations could use improvement, management should conduct extensive research to find what solutions would best fit their needs. All employees should be made aware of future technology adoption so that they can report any issues they experience. Services should not only solve any problems the restaurant has but also provide functions that optimize overall efficiency while remaining within budget.
2. Put Together an Implementation Team
Restaurants can even assemble an implementation team by assigning one or two members to the project. This team will manage the preparation required for implementing new software, including communication, clerical work, and gathering resources. Adequately preparing for new software will streamline its integration and make employee training more comfortable.
3. Test a Pilot Program to Pinpoint Glitches
Engaging in a pilot program allows management to test the system for any bugs or technical difficulties before training employees. Pilots also enable staff to learn the system well enough to perform a demonstration for the remaining workers. Once the restaurant owner is satisfied with the solution, the implementation team can move on to the final stages.
4. Train Employees on the New System
After installing the new software and hardware, management can begin extensively training employees. While training, staff should ask for feedback and ensure that everyone is on the same page. With each function, employees should understand how to operate the features, why it matters, and how it affects the workflow.
5. Launch New technology and Customize Tools When Needed
Now, the new technology can be fully implemented in everyday operations. However, it is crucial to monitor reports after installation to compare with old data to ensure the restaurant's needs have been met. If the business is still experiencing issues, many systems offer complimentary customer support that can address any questions and concerns.
Investing in advanced technology, such as a POS system, gives restaurants several benefits that increase their overall efficiency and profitability. Implementing this software has several benefits, including-
1. Operational Efficiency
Automating functions such as ordering and alerting the kitchen staff can improve accuracy and reduce waste.
Using a POS system allows waiters to double-check the customer's order on a review screen before sending it to the kitchen. This feature ensures that all placed orders are correct, minimizing food and drink waste. Once the request is reviewed and submitted, the kitchen is alerted of the new order and time it was sent. Access to this data allows the kitchen staff to see what dishes need to be made and in what order, minimizing customer wait time.
While things can become rushed when there are high levels of guests, using an automated ordering system keeps the front and back of the house on the same page.
2. Enhanced Customer Service
Modern POS software can typically be integrated with other management software, inventory tracking tools, to account for current stock and products. This prevents the restaurant from running out of an ingredient, which would require them to temporarily discontinue dishes that contain the item.
The software also allows users to customize a seating map, to create an efficient seating system, so guests do not experience long wait times.
These systems also recognize loyalty programs that promote spending while improving the customer experience. At checkout, guests can input their information and pay for their meal at the transaction terminal. POS systems offer many terminal options, including-
- Online ordering
- Traditional counter terminals
- Portable tablets on the tables
3. Increased Profits
Providing excellent service increases customer satisfaction and advocacy, which can drive traffic and sales. Studies show when restaurants optimize order efficiency through implementing technologies such as table tablets, customers are inclined to spend more than guests who order traditionally. Ordering systems integrated with stock management also reduces inventory costs by preventing food waste from overstocking ingredients.
POS systems also provide in-depth reports that expose which aspects of operations are incurring the most excess costs. Insights on labor costs, sales, and inventory provide the data necessary to outline a company budget that will minimize expenses to drive profits.
4. Enhanced Employee Satisfaction
Many POS solutions can also handle employee scheduling and hourly wages to ensure each shift is appropriately staffed. These features allow employees to receive their work schedules in advance, providing enough time for any corrections.
Employees can also switch shifts among each other, through a series of requests and approval steps within the POS system. This allows management to monitor communication and ensure that schedules and staffing are on target.
Automation also simplifies employee training by creating a comprehensive layout where trainees can become familiar with the seating chart, menu, and ordering system.
Enhancing restaurant operations with modern restaurant technologies such as a POS system can maximize guest satisfaction, traffic, sales, and profits. While software tools do create additional expenses, the investment provides businesses with advantages over competitors. By investing in modern solutions, businesses can streamline ordering and food preparation while saving operational costs in the long run.