The future of restaurant tech is personalizing everyone’s experience to have it their way, and that applies to both customer experiences and the systems restaurants use to serve them. These days tech-enabled services are suggesting items based on an open order. Inventory systems are prompting vendor orders, employee management systems are monitoring table rotation, and so much more.
Tying all of these systems into robust, collaborative POS systems completes the ensemble, allowing businesses to serve complicated menu items such as trendy quinoa or poke bowls heaping with customer-chosen ingredients while tying all that data into their inventory system and sales data. The innovation in restaurant tech is remarkable, and that’s only going to continue as tech-enabled services continue to revolutionize the industry.
Restaurant tech is moving so fast, that sometimes it’s difficult to understand what features are available to you as a restaurant owner. To make that easier, we’ve outlined a series of critical restaurant systems and listed the modern capabilities of each. Take the time to think about each of these systems in your restaurants and determine if these innovations would make an impact in your business — chances are, they will!
Smart Inventory Systems
Having a smart inventory system reduces your food waste, makes theft harder, prevents over and under ordering, ultimately makes your restaurant more efficient. Transparency between menu changes and demand and the ingredients used to make them are critical when operating on slim margins.
Here are a few ways modern inventory systems are changing the industry:
Real-time inventory depletion
The days of real-time inventory management are here. By using consolidated systems, restaurant owners can understand how menu changes affect sales and ingredients as they’re happening. By tying the weights of food shipments to the ingredients of specific dishes and then tracking how many of that item is being sold, restaurant managers have all the information they need to make intelligent inventory decisions. Some systems also include depreciation on high-ticket items like HVACs, which is helpful when tracking depreciation across multiple locations.
Automatic and prompted purchase order generation
When your inventory is synced to the quantities used in your dishes, some systems can prompt you to place a new vendor order replacing that specific ingredient(s). Or at least add what is needed to your weekly bulk order list.
Resource sharing across multiple locations
Inventory functionality gets even more impressive when locations are sharing data between one another. Imagine a situation where one of your restaurants undersold beef tips, but another location is rapidly running out. Assuming distance isn’t an issue, that’s a perfect opportunity to unload some of your extra inventory onto the restaurant that needs it.
Vendor invoice uploads that tie into accounting
Inventory systems with vendor integrations can also tie into your accounting software. Having a real-time profit/loss number is a powerful asset to any restaurant, and while there will always be a few blurred lines based on discrepancies in inventory weights, having an approximate number and being able to compare that to historical data is useful.
Mobile app restocking
Modern inventory is all about data, and giving employees the ability to update inventory with a mobile app is the most efficient way to do that. This complements the “per order” functionality we spoke of above. If a worker notices that a particular ingredient has spoiled, throws it away, and then marks that in the app, then that data will play into your vendor orders and P/L projections.
Guest Management Systems
Guest management systems refer to the world of the host stand and seating. While some restaurants aren’t willing to pay the extra costs of these systems, there’s no doubt that modern reservation systems are impressive and can do a lot for making sure your seats are full, and your customers know what to expect when waiting. The question isn’t how expensive is the system, but rather how much will this system make me if I implement it?
Here are some interesting features appearing in modern reservation systems:
Personalized customer profiles to provide any additional recommendations
Some systems let you add in notes and collect data about customer preferences. This means you can be proactive about offering that window seat or private room.
Allow guests to get “inline” online
Some restaurants function better with a line system than a reservation system. Modern guest management systems give you functionality for both.
Automated or manual server rotation with statistics
If you want to eliminate host choice and implement a completely neutral seating system, you now have that option.
Reduce the costs of no-shows by charging cancellation fees
By keeping customer data in a guest management system, you can automatically charge customers for no-shows. This is a powerful feature for high-ticket restaurants.
Visualized restaurant seating
Customizing your host’s screen to the layout of your restaurant has been around for a bit, but functionality like including seating time for each table and other innovations keeps it useful.
Have a lot of international customers? Let them receive notifications and updates on their table with a multi-language supported system.
SMS text notifications.
Texting is one of the best ways to communicate about reservations. Today’s systems let you automatically text customers when their table is ready, gives updates on time, and more.
Accepting reservations through socials and your website at any point.
Disjointed reservation systems are only a hassle. Instead, integrate across your social media, website, and manual input to have a fully-informed system that reduces labor-costing errors.
Customer Ordering Systems
As we move more toward more personalized restaurant experiences, table-side ordering and self-serve ordering are continuing to expand their reach — especially when it comes to fast and fast-casual restaurants.
Incredibly popular in fast food restaurants such as Taco Bell, self-serve order screens are fantastic for fast food or line-based restaurants. By capturing orders early on, you can get food to your customers faster by reducing order times. These screens also give you the opportunity to upsell relevant items and encourage additional items.
Table-side ordering isn’t anything new, but it is getting with more user-friendly tablets and additional features like server calls and pay-at-the-table features. Whether via stationary tablets or mobile POS systems, table-side ordering puts the customer in control of their experience.
Employee Management Systems
It’s no secret that the more time a restaurant manager can spend on the restaurant than in the restaurant is a huge benefit. Having that time to think critically about the restaurant is an essential driver of success, and employee management systems that save managers’ time can go a long way.
Systems can now predict labor needs based on historical demand
Modern management systems are now leveraging POS integrations for real-time data, and some can “reportedly project future sales with up to 95% accuracy given historical sales, seasonality, weather trends and other external factors, making it possible to accurately predict future labor needs and create optimized schedules.”As these systems become more sophisticated, they will have a huge impact on manager productivity.
Restaurant tech isn’t all about the customers, managers, and front-of-house staff, the kitchen has room for technological sophistication as well.
Systems like Eatsa’s integrated back of house operation tools can manage orders from a variety of channels, including third-party delivery, mobile, walk-up, web, and catering, and then route orders to the appropriate prep station without any human input or tedious manual queue handling from multiple tablets.
Modern Online Ordering Systems
Online ordering isn’t new, but the way it interacts with your restaurant can be. Centralized systems are the future, and having a system that seamlessly fits into your restaurant’s workflow in both front-of-house and in the kitchen is critical for efficiency.
Here are some features of modern online ordering integrations:
Directly integrates with your POS
Online ordering systems like CAKE notify you via your POS whenever an online order is placed. This hands you the controls and lets managers approve of when and what you want to go to the kitchen.
Communicates important information with your kitchen
There’s no need to guess about deliveries, online orders, and takeout times. By printing the information directly onto a receipt and/or adding it to a kitchen order screen, your team will know when food needs to be made and reduces costly errors, such as preparing food way too far in advance.
Personalized order recommendations.
Modern online ordering systems have powerful personalization features, such as suggesting items based on order history or suggesting items that are known to complement each other. This has the potential to increase your average customer cart value, which is a key metric when tracking online orders and ultimately increases your bottom line.
Real-time reporting that lets you see exactly how online ordering affects your restaurant.
Sometimes online sales can feel murky, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Systems like CAKE’s online ordering integration give you real-time sales data split by source, so you can know exactly how much online, delivery, takeout, and dine-in orders are making your restaurant.
Custom Restaurant Mobile Apps
Companies like Chipotle, Chick-fil-A, Domino’s, and others are choosing to utilize mobile apps to offer customers more streamlined experiences. While this is an expensive endeavor, it can do wonders for the right businesses.
Examples of core functionality in these apps include:
Loyalty programs are among the most popular uses of custom apps and for a good reason. “Restaurant loyalty club members spend an average of $2.14 more than other guests, according to a report on Customer Loyalty Statistics from Businesswire.com and McKinsey Research.”
Loyalty members are also a great lead generation resource. 82% of loyalty club members refer at least one person while spending an average of 67% more on an annual basis than other guests.
Mobile payments in apps make delivery and takeout experiences seamless for customers. By being able to complete the entire process from the comfort of their home without any human interaction, mobile apps reduce the barriers to placing an order and increase order frequency.
Takeout and delivery advanced ordering
Instead of using third-party apps, many businesses are choosing to accept takeout, catering, and delivery orders directly from the app. This centralizes customer actions and eliminates the software that these third-party apps take.
Mobile apps also allow clever opportunities for location-based advertising, with Burger King taking it as far as encouraging people within 600ft of a Mcdonald’s to go to them instead. While this may be a bit aggressive outside the context of a famous fast food rivalry, there are some really smart ways to use this technology. E.g. advertising a special for festival-goers or offering a discount if customers show a ticket to an event.