At a time when labor is stretched thin, something often has to give. But since that can’t be food safety, operators are leaning on technology for help. One technology to watch is radio-frequency identification (RFID). Chipotle recently announced it would be testing RFID case labels to track its ingredients’ path from suppliers to its restaurants. If and when food safety concerns arise, the labels can help operators track them to the source quickly. What’s more, RFID labels promise to save time on inventory management by limiting the need for staff involvement (and the chances for human error).
Using data to make menu recommendations to guests is now a given – but the restaurants taking best advantage of it are digging deeper than simply suggesting fries with a burger. According to a recent report from Fast Casual, restaurants can leave valuable opportunities on the table if they don’t use their data to cross-sell a wider assortment of items. For example, can your technology stack analyze the most-popular accompanying items ordered with a dish by your local/regional/national guests and then make tailored recommendations reflecting real-time data? Prompting a guest with a special beverage, appetizer or dessert – based on tried-and-true data on guest preferences – may help you connect guests with new favorite add-ons.
Nearly every aspect of restaurant operations needs to be flexible right now – and your technology is no exception. Having a means to get information to customers in real time can help you make sure people are informed about what’s happening in your restaurant, including changes to anything ranging from your menu to your operating hours. Digital signage can help you by providing a flexible tool to get information out to customers as they need it. You can promote limited-time offers that help get excess menu items out the door faster, or upcoming events at your restaurant. If you’re looking to hire new staff, digital signage can help you get the attention of the people who already support your restaurant and believe in your brand. And speaking of your brand, your digital signage can be used to reinforce your business values and express appreciation for both customers and employees at a challenging time for the industry.
As restaurants try to manage with fewer staff, it’s become more important for kitchens to have clear direction about what needs to happen when – especially as restaurants bring in new and growing streams of business. A new report on 2021 performance and 2022 priorities from 65 respondents at 59 fast-casual and quick-service restaurant brands indicated that 87 percent of respondents are looking for improved visibility into kitchen production backlogs. Kitchen display systems are a key growth area in restaurant technology right now because they can enhance the efficiency of a kitchen and potentially allow it to process more business with less staff. For restaurant operators, one of the main lessons to emerge from the pandemic is the need for diversified income. Do you have the tech tools to help you organize and prioritize those streams from a single dashboard? They may help you serve guests more efficiently and require less labor than you’d normally need.
Technology should help make doing business easier and more efficient – not add a layer of extra equipment and complexity. It helps when you can use a single interface to manage many streams of business. One new tool from Nextbite makes it possible to manage their menus across a range of third-party delivery providers from one interface – kind of like a kitchen display system for managing external delivery streams. The single interface comes in handy when you have to remove or add menu items amid supply fluctuations, update pricing to reflect price changes from suppliers, and altogether make your menu consistent across many platforms at once.
At a time when restaurants are having to run on especially thin margins, knowing who your most profitable guests are can be a big advantage. According to a new survey of more than 2,000 U.S. consumers, you will likely do well by focusing on your higher-tech guests – and serving and rewarding them through your mobile app. More than half of survey respondents cited mobile app availability as central to their willingness to spend more money. What’s more, your app can help secure their business for the longer term. An overwhelming 79 percent of respondents said they use mobile apps to connect with restaurant reward offerings. These guests are also the most likely to be interested in taking part in subscription offers.
As the labor crunch wears on, robotic kitchen assistants have quickly become less novel and more mainstream as a growing number of quick-service brands have them preparing menu items from scratch. While technology is weaving its way through more restaurant tasks these days, humans are still needed to oversee operations and troubleshoot some tasks. Is your staff up to the job? For many restaurants, tech oversight is becoming a larger role. While you can likely turn to external tech support when equipment malfunctions, being able to make quick fixes in the moment and intuit the reasons for problems is also valuable. As you interview applicants and look to develop existing staff, consider how to help them adapt to the evolution of technology in your business – and to answer their questions about what may be required of them as you adopt new tools to support your front and back of house. At the same time, ensure you understand your external tech-support resources and what will actually be available to you in the moment you need it.