Rapid employee turnover at restaurants doesn’t just leave your business on the back foot when it comes to preparing and serving food – it can also threaten the security of your systems and data. It’s not unusual, for example, for a reduced staff at a restaurant to have to share roles more than they otherwise would – or even for a new team member to prematurely be granted more responsibility (and the access that comes with it). To help shield your business from the risk of a breach and enable it to recover more quickly if one occurs, ensure that any user names and passwords used to access your systems aren’t shared or reused – and that passwords are changed regularly. Also, connect system access to specific roles instead of people so if a person leaves a role for a different one, there is a natural shift in permissions for system access.
As supply-chain challenges continue to put pressure on prices, restaurant operators looking to make a profit – or to simply stay in business – need to understand the health of their business in small detail. While a POS system can collect reams of data about a business, the information won’t do much good if the operator doesn’t give the system the right prompts or know how to translate the information it collects into actionable insights. Your data can’t be a substitute for your own knowledge about your business. A recent webinar from Speedline Solutions covered how to use your POS to get to the heart of your objectives – and though the advice applies regardless of what kind of system you’re using, it starts with being able to ask some specific questions about your business (then leaning on your systems for help in answering them). Consider setting a general goal and then drilling down on it to get as specific as you can. For example, if you start by asking yourself how you can increase the amount of your average check, identify a more specific question you can ask: How can you entice more people to add the appetizer special to their order? If you’re wondering if you can raise your prices, how much you might be able to increase the price of your best-selling menu item before the price turns people away?
The challenges of the past couple of years have also created opportunities for restaurants – but any restructuring can also open the door to increased cybersecurity risks, particularly as data is migrated and new employees are brought on board. This has been especially true throughout the course of the pandemic as cybersecurity attacks have climbed for organizations of all sizes. The costs are high: According to IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach is $3.28 million, with an average cost per each lost or stolen record of $161. To help protect your business, consider hiring a risk management professional who can assess your data and systems, help you minimize any weak links, and enable you to train your staff to minimize your risks. Your cybersecurity procedures should ensure that know who is using your systems – every transaction should be linked to an employee, for example – and that sensitive information is protected behind firewalls and accessible only by those who need to view it. Make sure that cybersecurity training is ongoing for your staff – and that it includes information about how to avoid falling for phishing scams. Stand-alone cybersecurity insurance can provide some additional protection as well.
You know there is power in the data you collect about your operation. In the coming months, expect to see developments in exactly how restaurant operators can slice and dice that data in order to draw clear conclusions about it (and then create more targeted, personalised marketing messages). On the Lunchbox platform, for one, digital customers are divided into active, regular and lost categories – and they receive different automated promotions designed to increase the frequency of their visits. After you collect data about your guests, how well does your technology help you connect the dots? It should help you convert semi-regular guests into loyal patrons and deliver increasingly customized offers to your best customers over time – ideally without much manual input from you.
You likely have guests whose habits you’d like to change: The one who regularly orders delivery from you even though he lives in your neighborhood, or the couple who visits semi-regularly who you’d like to see more frequently. Understanding and mining your data can help transform some of those guest behaviors in the direction you’d like. Allison Page, founder and chief product officer of the restaurant platform SevenRooms, told the Spoon recently that data is changing the game for restaurants by empowering them to build better relationships with guests. When you know the regular customer who orders delivery from you lives nearby, for example, you can entice him with a promotion of his favorite appetizer if he collects his order in person. If you know the favorite dish or wine of the couple who visits you only every now and then, you can invite them to a wine-tasting event or other experience featuring the wine they like along with a new dish you’re promoting. What clues are your guests providing through the data they’re sharing with you?
QR codes, which have enabled no-touch digital menu reviewing and ordering throughout the pandemic, all while helping short-staffed operators keep up with orders, have become ubiquitous in recent months. The National Restaurant Association said half of all full-service restaurants in the U.S. have begun using the codes since the start of the pandemic. But now concerns about privacy are making some question consumers’ use of the codes because businesses can gather valuable data about consumer spending patterns through the codes – and it’s all connected to their credit cards, the New York Times reports. If you’re using QR codes in your business, be sure you understand how the tech companies enabling your codes are using your data (i.e. ensure they aren’t selling it) and how you can best protect your customers and business in the event of a breach.
We all know that data is important to operating a successful business – hence the sharp rise in restaurant tech before and during the pandemic. But even if you have tools to gather reams of insight about everything from your inventory to your guests, they aren’t as useful as they could be if you can’t make sense of the information they collect and readily translate it into actionable steps to boost your business. Brightloom, for one, has been making a business out of helping operators put their data to work. When you look at your systems, how much do they tell you about your guests’ preferences, their order history, and other business-critical variables such as the weather forecast and local goings on? Can you review that information and quickly make incremental improvements as a result?
Just like flexibility has been key to keeping restaurants running in the past year, it’s also a critical aspect of any technology you’re implementing. Your existing system should not only be able to handle your current sales streams but also be capable of scaling up in different ways to accommodate changes. Flexibility extends to the ways in which you are able to collect and present data about your guests and other aspects of your operation. Even if you don’t know how the industry is going to evolve, your systems should be agile and user-friendly enough that you are getting the kinds of actionable information you need to be able to make incremental changes.
Amid the labor crunch, restaurants have been facing a lot of upward pressure on their wages lately. As of May, 30 states, the District of Columbia and forty-five localities have set minimum wage rates above the federal level. But at the same time, many restaurants likely are not making best use of the tools they have on hand to better manage their labor costs and gain as much as possible from them. According to research from TouchBistro, 39 percent of restaurant operators are not using their POS to view labor reports. These reports can help you identify when you are overstaffed in your kitchen and dining room, which staff are successfully upselling most frequently and making customers the happiest, and which staff may be stealing from you. All of this can ensure you always have the right number of people on hand for a shift, that you’re rewarding and developing the right people, and that you’re quickly identifying sources of theft. It may even give you some wiggle room to raise your wages.
Consider it one of the pandemic’s silver linings. Before Covid-19, many restaurants were lumbering along with a patchwork quilt of technology – an outdated POS that made it difficult to pull information from the operation in an easy-to-analyze format, an overabundance of tablets to track orders, or any number of other siloed systems that were unable to eliminate time-consuming manual processes. But the demands of the pandemic have changed that, according to new research from J.P. Morgan and payment provider FreedomPay. Restaurant Business reports that the pandemic shifted restaurant leaders’ tech priorities from serving immediate needs to anticipating where business was heading and being prepared for it. One key insight from the research is the importance of data to maintaining a restaurant business in real time, responding to rapid change and enabling growth. Has your technology matured in this way since the pandemic started?