Technology is a big part of our lives these days, and it’s not going away anytime soon. But, while we may love interacting with our mobile devices and apps as consumers, for restaurant district managers, it can be overwhelming to weed through the many new types of software, hardware and technology-based services out there today.
One helpful way to take a step back and evaluate your options when it comes to technology is to look at specific areas of restaurant operations that could potentially benefit from a technology upgrade.
Below, we highlight six key areas of restaurant operations that can often benefit the most from upgraded technology:
1. Customer Experience
Without customers, your business will be nowhere, so this is a good place to start when it comes to thinking about technology usage. In many cases, improving your technology can be a good way to increase loyalty and even pull new customers into your restaurant.
First of all, take a look at the process of ordering food in your restaurant. If you’re a drive-thru or counter service QSR, it may be worth looking into a digital menu board that can change with the seasons. This gives you flexibility and often makes the ordering process more enjoyable for your customers.
If your restaurant is more of a sit-down, table service type of place, you should look into tablet-based ordering systems. These can both speed up service and improve the customer experience by offering more convenience and simplifying the ordering process. You can even add custom content and games to keep diners entertained.
Finally, you may want to look into order-ahead technology, such as a custom-built mobile app. This is the ultimate in convenience for your customers, but it also gives you a touchpoint with them before and after they come to your restaurant.
A less sexy, but still very necessary area that can benefit from technology improvement is compliance. Every restaurant is responsible for some type of compliance reporting, and many today manage their reporting using binders, notebooks and other analog tools.
These do restaurant managers a great disservice because they are cumbersome, easy to misplace and require managers to visit each individual store in order to review the information.
Instead of relying on paper-based compliance reporting tools, consider upgrading to a digital solution like Squadle that will allow your employees to enter compliance data using a tablet. This way, you’ll be able to access the data at any time, allowing you to verify that compliance tasks are being completed regularly and helping you identify any potential issues before they become a serious problem.
3. Food Safety
Another less-glamorous but vital aspect of restaurant operations that can benefit from technology upgrades is food safety. Food-borne illness is a serious problem, one that all restaurant owners and managers need to pay attention to and take the necessary steps to avoid.
One type of technology that can be very beneficial in avoiding food-borne illness is digital thermometers. These purpose-built devices allow you to ensure that food is being stored at the correct temperature at all times. Best of all, they can be read via a mobile device, so you don’t have to go into the location every time you want to check on them.
Beyond this, a digital reporting solution like Squadle can help you keep track of the daily tasks that are required to ensure food safety: hand-washing, sanitation and separation of cutting boards, proper storage practices, etc.
Consider setting up a custom list of important food safety tasks in your restaurant, so that any manager on shift can double-check that everything is being completed consistently and correctly.
4. Point of Sale
For a long time, point of sale systems were a boring must-have for restaurants. Of course you need to be able to accept payment, so a POS is a basic necessity. But technology has taken these systems to the next level.
Point of sale systems today can do everything from managing inventory to building customer loyalty. When you go to select a system for your business, you should look for features that will help you to not only accept payments but to manage your restaurant more efficiently and reach your customers more directly.
Additionally, you may want to consider investing in a mobile POS solution that will allow you to accept payments at the table. This can dramatically speed up service, since it keeps servers from having to go back and forth between the POS and their tables. This is another area that can improve both the operation of your restaurant and the customer experience at the same time—win-win.
5. Employee Communication
Up until recently, many restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and other service-based businesses did not have a convenient way to communicate with their employees.
Many actually relied on in-store bulletin boards to convey messages around things like schedules, daily duties and protocol updates. While this will do in a pinch, it means that employees who aren’t in the store on a given day can easily miss out on important information.
If you haven’t yet, now is a good time to invest in an employee communication system. Whether that means setting up corporate email addresses for everyone on your staff or relying on a group communication tool like Slack, it’s just good business to open the lines of communication with your workers.
Of course, there’s a big difference between being a desk-bound employee who checks email all day and being on your feet constantly the way most restaurant workers are. So be sure to set clear expectations around how often employees should check their email or other communication formats for updates.
Finally, if you haven’t brought your marketing efforts into the 21st century, now’s a good time to look at the many tools available to help you reach customers new and old more effectively.
If your restaurant isn’t using social media, evaluate your goals and whether social channels would be a good way to meet them. For example, if you struggle to bring customers back in after the first visit, building up a Facebook following and offering discounts or special access to those who follow your status updates can be a great way to build that loyalty and stay top of mind.
There are hundreds of digital marketing options out there for restaurant managers to take advantage of, and it can be overwhelming, so start with a few new tools, measure their impact and go from there.
When it comes to the operations of your restaurant, technology can and should be your friend. It can help you streamline internal processes, avoid costly mistakes, communicate with your employees and make customers happy. It’s worthwhile to take a look at these six areas of your business and analyze whether upgrading the technology you use could help your restaurant succeed now and in the future.