Published June 17, 2022
Restaurant owners have a lot on their plates, other than just delicious food and drinks. Aside from keeping the creative juices flowing in the kitchen, they have to consider branding and marketing, customer relations, health and safety, team training, online ordering and delivery, inventory management, payments, payroll and more. All this within an increasingly digital environment made immediately necessary in the past couple of years. It’s no wonder efficiency is a huge factor in the success of their business.
Simultaneously, customer expectations are changing in a time when on-demand, self-serve, contactless everything and instant gratification are pushing the boundaries of what makes a restaurant appealing to consumers.
Restaurant technology is the answer.
Customer loyalty. Higher engagement. Better reviews. New revenue streams. Stronger tips. These are just some of the areas restaurant owners and managers are constantly trying to solve for. Finding ways to boost efficiency plays a huge role in answering all of these potential areas for improvement, while making way for new opportunities as well. Thankfully, technology is bridging the largest gaps restaurant owners face today and providing guests with the interaction and experiences they seek.
Here are a few strategies for using restaurant technology to improve efficiency and increase your bottom line in 2022.
It’s important to note the changes that have happened — for some, almost overnight — to the restaurant industry’s business model when looking to increase efficiency. For example, what used to be considered front-of-house — the hostess stand, the dining room, the wait staff, etc. — now encompasses so much more, like your website, online ordering apps, contactless payment systems and curbside delivery options.
Collect data and adapt
Customer insights are essential to improving efficiency and providing the experience guests want. Restaurant owners must look at their customers' journeys today and determine where they’re missing the mark. What percentage of guests prefer online ordering? Are curbside diners starting to come back into the dining room, but still crave a contactless experience? Knowing patrons’ specific tendencies and wants will help restaurant owners focus their attention on areas ripe for improvement.
Related: Read how NCR Analytics helps Battle & Brew deliver a better customer experience
Make the dining experience seamless
In an age where control equals comfort for customers, and servers want to provide a seamless experience from order to payment, investing in a modern point-of-sale (POS) system is a no-brainer. Smart POS systems give customers the flexibility to order however they choose — online, tableside, or mobile. This not only allows each guest to tailor their own experience based on time, comfort or location, but it also saves servers’ time and reduces the potential for errors.
Simultaneously, POS systems clarify and expedite communications between the front and back of the house. Paper tickets with made-up acronyms and hard-to-read chicken scratch used to frustrate chefs, line cooks, expediters and servers, and drove food waste to an all-time high without clear fault. Point-of-sale systems alleviate all of these hurdles, increasing efficiency by establishing a direct line of communication between the customer and the kitchen team.
Keep your waitstaff happy to increase efficiency
When your waitstaff feels the love via increased tips, they’re more likely to work smarter and harder. A smart POS system that utilizes contactless payment can often increase tips by providing pre-set amounts for guests to choose from. When given three pre-populated tip amounts, customers will typically choose the middle option. By setting these amounts at 15%, 20% and 25%, managers can sway those 18% tippers to up the ante a bit and reward their staff for staying agile in today’s changing restaurant landscape.
Welcome and service guests with your website
Who — or what — is the first thing patrons see today? More often than not, it’s your website and not your hostess. This is a double-edged sword for many restaurants because online engagement is “new” and sometimes scary. At the same time, a well-built website can do so much more than an in-person hostess for both customers and the business. While updating a website may cost you time, money or both up front, its extensive reach and financial gains far outweigh the expense and effort. Use your website to make it easier for guests to find you, to improving marketing and communication strategy and efficiency, and to enhance your dining experiences, whether via online ordering or reservation management.
While it may seem customers are driving the adoption of restaurant technology, many restaurant owners, managers and staff recognize the many ways today’s tech offerings can improve back-of-house operations. Just as with your restaurant’s front-of-house, it’s important to dive into the data and feedback to flag hindrances and pivot.
Adopt a good inventory management system
Gone are the days of manually tracking inventory, calling up food suppliers, and using calculator-led cost analysis to determine annual food waste. Today, digital inventory management systems streamline and simplify these tasks, cutting costs, losses, time and mistakes. Utilizing an integrated inventory management system helps restaurant owners track food items in real time. For instance, alongside a fully-integrated POS system, restaurants can 86 menu items when they’re sold out, then re-order in time for next week’s service. Inventory management also helps reduce waste and provides insight on what dishes sell best. Many also integrate with suppliers’ technology to improve order and delivery process.
Related: How restaurants coped with food and labor shortages
Use technology as your training assistant
When it comes to the restaurant business, some things cannot be learned from a tablet, such as what today’s specials taste like or how to properly open a bottle of wine tableside. But several things do lend themselves to self-led instruction via a smart POS, for example. And in many cases, technology can actually take training and the flow of information a step further. By providing waitstaff with an arsenal of tools to actually improve the customer experience, they can highlight specials based on specific customer data or loyalty program offerings.
Implement digital menus
Making ordering as easy and accurate as possible benefits all restaurants — and integrated digital menus do just that. From digital menu boards and kitchen displays to contactless digital menus, narrowing the window for human error during the ordering process leads to happier customers, less waste, better staff communication and an overall better experience for everyone — not to mention the positive impact all of that has on your bottom line.
Technology remains a key asset as restaurants continue to change and evolve their business models. Restaurant technology not only keeps you on the cutting edge of the industry, but it also provides key information specific to your business and clientele that allow you to increase efficiency throughout these changes.