Who hasn’t had the experience of trying in vain to catch a server’s eye to ask for the check after a meal? Mobile payment isn’t just for your online orders. If you’re looking for ways to improve the experience your restaurant delivers for guests, whether they eat with you or take their food to go, consider the process you require them to go through to pay for an order. While speedy payment is helpful in any category of restaurant, it can ease a major pain point in full-service restaurants or other establishments that take payment following a meal. Consumers are likely to use mobile payment more frequently in the next few years: Research from emarketer forecasts that by 2023, 80 million people – or about 34 percent of smartphone users – will be making mobile payments, up from 59 million in 2018.
Are you generating the greatest possible benefit from your POS system? Particularly during periods when sales are lagging, it can help to be able to automatically pull detailed business data to help you understand the factors that are driving your business and how you might need to adjust them. If you have an integrated system, for instance, you can quickly assemble reports of your sales, average check totals and staff costs. As Toast reports, some systems let you compare time periods, as well as peak sales by hour and menu item. You can use that information to develop specials and promotions at the right times and have the ideal number of staff on hand to help.
How automated are your back-office functions? For all the promise POS systems have when it comes to making such processes more efficient, a recent survey of nationwide restaurant operators across multiple segments found that 60 percent of operators polled still rely on Excel as their primary financial management tool. The survey, completed by Hospitality Tech in partnership with Restaurant 365, found that POS accounting systems could generate significant efficiencies and cost savings for operators if they used the features available to them. Unfortunately, there is still a substantial gap between operators’ goals and the capabilities of the systems they have in place. If you’re looking for a technology accounting partner who can help you buy the right system and get the most from it, Restaurant 365 advises you to assess how clearly the vendor spells out integration options, as well as how those options are maintained and supported. Then find other operators (beyond the ones the vendor provides) who are using the system and can share their experiences.
As a new year approaches, it’s prime time to take stock of what went well and set the stage for the tests you’re likely to face in 2020. For most operators, labor spending and management continues to be a perennial challenge, along with such obstacles as managing the complexities of your inventory and finding a profitable path to offering delivery. Restaurant365 shared a list of operational challenges operators can expect in the coming year, along with some suggestions on how to manage them. While it’s not the most uplifting of countdowns, it does cover some important territory and may help you prioritize the steps you want to take to build your business in the months ahead. We summarized some of the key challenges here – along with some tech tools that can help you manage them. First, to manage labor costs, particularly if your state is in the roughly half of the country that is increasing its minimum wage in 2020, make the most of tech tools that can save you time and money. By integrating your POS with an accounting and scheduling platform, for example, you can analyze your labor and sales data to optimize scheduling and improve your forecasting capabilities. If you struggle with keeping your inventory accurate and your ingredient costs in line, consider inventory management software that can guide the process from start to finish – and offer tools such as smart ordering and receiving, which can help you maintain profit margins on menu items and pinpoint when vendor costs are higher than normal. Finally, if you want to offer delivery in an effort to meet consumer demand, make sure you’re making data-driven decisions when selecting a service model. Restaurant365 advises you use operations software to automatically calculate and track your delivery profits based on sales, cost of goods sold, and delivery expenses.
Your access to customer data can help you strengthen your connections to customers – but only if they’re able to trust you with their personal information. As point-of-sale malware continues to pose problems for restaurants, does your technology go the distance in helping you protect the information customers share with you? Encryption technology can help in some important ways. First, as the hospitality website Emerging reports, encryption scrambles the data that comes across your POS, making it significantly more difficult for hackers to use any data they manage to steal. If you have staff taking payment from guests at their tables, introducing tableside technology, which often encrypts customer data when a card is swiped, can also prevent the skimming of credit card information en route to your POS.
A recent study by NCR and Technomic found that two-thirds of restaurant operators don’t use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve their businesses. The respondents said that if they were to invest in AI, it would be to help drive their mobile ordering, mobile applications and promotions. The restaurant operators surveyed who aren’t yet using AI said they either don’t fully understand its potential benefits or they hesitate to invest in emerging technology. Where do you stand? If you’re among the hold-outs who think AI may have some potential to help your business, imagine being to your most loyal guests what Netflix or Spotify are to people who love movies and music – having the ability to match your guests with meals they may not have considered but are likely to enjoy. AI can both empower your ordering functionality and make it seamless. As a report in Restaurant Technology News explains, on top of allowing a guest to order via mobile app, AI technology can offer functionality like conversational ordering through Facebook Messenger or Alexa. Having voice and chatbot ordering powered by AI can allow your customers to use any kind of phrasing when they place an order. Then, based on a person’s ordering history and cross-comparisons with other customers who have similar tastes, the technology can suggest meals and upsell additional items they are likely to enjoy – instead of leaving those guest experiences to chance.
Chances are you’ve already introduced technology to help you drive efficiency in different areas of your operation. But as technology develops and promises to improve more parts of a restaurant business, it’s difficult to keep track of what you should invest in next and which companies are in a strong position to help. One tool that may be of use to you in the coming year is this updated map of the restaurant tech ecosystem. A collaboration of TechTable, a platform and annual summit about innovation in hospitality technology, and Better Food Ventures, a food tech and agtech investment firm, the map spells out the many areas of the restaurant industry where technology is having an impact, along with key players in each area. It can help give you a sense of the hospitality tech landscape, whether you’re looking to build a smart kitchen or enhance your ordering and delivery technology.
The number of internet-enabled devices is expected to reach 75 billion by 2025, or more than triple the number of such devices in use by the end of 2018, according to the technology firm ITProPortal. A technology-driven restaurant owner can adopt internet-enabled devices to monitor and manage everything from the operation’s food waste to its energy use. While these devices promise significant cost savings and efficiencies, their access to your data creates new points of vulnerability. It is increasingly difficult to prevent security breaches as threats become more sophisticated and employees who aren’t adequately trained leave a business exposed to threats. To help manage such threats, the tech security firm ControlScan advises operators to use next-generation firewalls to limit entry points for malware, and to use a managed security service provider that can identify vulnerabilities in a network, investigate and report security breaches, and troubleshoot other network security problems. Whether you outsource your network security or not, being able to keep tabs on your network in those ways is becoming increasingly important as businesses across sectors find that it’s not a question of if a security event will occur, but when.
“When you look where 5G will end up taking us, it’s a whole other world for the retail and restaurant space.” That’s what Aaron Allen, founder and chief strategist at the global restaurant consultancy Aaron Allen & Associates, told Forbes recently. 5G, the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, promises such benefits of data upload and download speeds that are 10 to 20 times faster – speeds that could transform the technology capabilities of restaurants. AT&T sees the greatest potential for 5G in restaurants in three areas: It can significantly reduce latency (or, in other words, the time delay between when you take an action when using technology and when you receive a response), provide a boost to computing power across applications, and deliver sharp increases in speed (think of a file that currently take seven minutes to download taking just eight seconds). In practice, consider being able to use Internet of Things sensors to more efficiently track food waste in your kitchen, or to be alerted exactly when the local high school’s football game ends and you’re likely to get a post-game rush. 5G may help streamline how your POS system communicates with your third-party delivery vendors, or bring a higher level of content personalization to your menu boards, customer text messages or loyalty program promotions. These capabilities certainly exist today, but they work only as well as the network delivering them. The major internet service providers have been launching 5G in major cities throughout this year and will continue to spread the service – check with your provider for the launch timelines for your area.
Across industries in the U.S., labor productivity has effectively doubled over the past 30 years, according to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the foodservice industry has been among the slowest to grow, at about 80 percent below the national average and ranking just below the post office and just above the mining industry in productivity. The food and beverage strategy firm Aaron Allen & Associates points to one culprit holding the industry’s productivity back: restaurants’ slow adoption of new technologies. The company says the next five years will be more disruptive to foodservice operators than the past 50 years have been, and slow adopters of technology are likely to be left behind. Specifically, technology is making the restaurant experience more and more frictionless for customers and operators alike: Once a consumer gets used to ordering his favorite take-away meal with merely a couple of taps on his phone, then automatically earning loyalty points redeemable for this item at the times of the week when he craves it most, he won’t want to give up that experience. Similarly, once an operator is using tech to monitor everything from the most popular menu items to the functionality of appliances, she has time to focus on providing better customer service, connecting with staff or even scaling up the business. While these updates can be difficult to transition to for an older operation used to managing business more conventionally, restaurant startups are launching with this technology already embedded into their business models ― and it’s giving them a clear advantage when competing with more established brands.