Technology is rapidly changing the world and the way businesses operate, and the restaurant industry is no exception. New technologies are altering how restaurants of all sizes operate – from food trucks to five-star dining – and there is a tremendous opportunity for restaurant owners to capitalize on the latesttechnological capabilities to run their businesses better than ever.
To compete and succeed, restauranteurs are looking beyond just the latest food trends. They are not only determining whether to incorporate kale or quinoa in their menus, but also looking at ways to automatically track sales, payments, inventory, CRM and payroll data, so they can run their operations as leanly and efficiently as possible. By having an accurate, consolidated, up-to-date understanding of how money is flowing in and out of their businesses, restaurant owners can have confidence in their operations and keep their primary focus on what they are truly passionate about – their food and service.
Listed below are four of the most significant technology trends worth tracking and an assessment of how they can help restaurant owners and operators better manage and understand their businesses, to ensure they’re turning a profit and staying ahead of the competition.
1. Immersive Customer Technology
“Front-facing technology” or “guest-facing” technology is revolutionizing the way restaurants do business and interact with customers. Using tablets and smart-screens, customers can now interact with POS systems directly, browsing menus, ordering food and drinks, receiving special upsell offers, entertainment and more.
These new technologies not only reduce ordering errors and customer downtime – especially during peak hours when staff is backed-up – but also give the customer a feeling of control, which is important in today’s ‘on-demand’ era. Front-facing technology allows diners to order, interact and pay at the time they choose, whether for a two-hour sit-down meal or a quick ten-minute pick-up; this can make the difference in the customer’s mind between visiting you or your competitor’s establishment.
2. Reservation and Pre-payment Technology
Restaurants are now taking advantage of new ways to confront an old problem – reservation backlogs and cancellations. New technology is enabling pre-paid or pay-for-table reservation systems to sell non-refundable ‘tickets’ to a dining experience. Instead of having to wait three months for a reservation to open up, patrons can purchase tickets for the date and time of their choosing. The restaurant gets paid before the diners even walk through the door, which frees cash flow upfront for purchasing inventory, and also lets restaurants manage their inventory with precision.
Where things really get interesting are the unique promotions that can integrate into the system. Restaurants can sell tickets for pre-packaged or limited selection dining experiences, which can drive demand and increase purchasing scale. They can also look to implement ‘surge-pricing’ models similar to those used by hotels and Uber, or connect CRM software to reward frequent guests with priority reservations, special pricing and more.
3. Mobile Payment Technology
Mobile payment technology has become a must-have for many restaurants. This is especially true for mobile operations, such as the explosively-growing food truck movement or delivery services such as Sprig and Munchery. Mobile payments are fast and convenient, and consumers are now becoming accustomed to the idea of paying online or through a mobile device. With mobile devices, transactions can be done anywhere, and you never miss a sale. Mobile payments also open up the opportunity to better understand customers through data, creating profiles based on their purchasing frequency and history, allowing you to build personal and lasting relationships.
4. Cloud-based Restaurant Management Technology
Restaurant owners are also realizing they no longer have to endure a large upfront cost and the limitations of a closed-architecture on-premises system with features that will be outdated in a few years. Cloud-based point-of-sale and management systems not only reduce costs, but offer many benefits over traditional hardware-based systems. These include a variety of different features and reporting capabilities ranging from mobile wallet integration and loyalty programs to ingredient inventory and e-commerce.
In summary, restaurant software continues to evolve and with it, new opportunities are presented to the forward- thinking establishments. Restaurants that choose a cloud-based management technology with an open-architecture design are well-positioned to take advantage of the latest technology trends and integrate emerging products and solutions—such as guest-facing technology and reservation and pre-payment systems—as well as the most popular payment solutions.
By: Eric Dunn, Senior Vice President for Payments and Commerce Solutions, Intuit