GUEST BLOG POST BY RESTAURANT 365
Today’s modern customer is used to online retail, immediate delivery, and the interconnectedness of a smartphone world. Restaurants need to match the pace of technological change in the world at large. To keep up with the changes, restaurant owners and operators should stay informed of up-and-coming technological trends.
Restaurant technology, of course, can increase revenue by bringing in new customers or encouraging more sales from existing customers. However, restaurant technology can also help improve restaurant operations. Some technology may help streamline operations, saving time and resources for a restaurant. Other technology may help optimize operations, preventing food waste or labor inefficiencies.
Here are eight exciting restaurant technologies that improve operations.
With the National Restaurant Association reporting that off-premise sales now make up 60% of all foodservice occasions, delivery is becoming a crucial part of restaurant operations for many businesses. Restaurant operators looking to meet the challenges of providing delivery are looking at creative technological solutions.
2019 saw experimental trials of food delivery by drone in North Carolina. Organized by a drone development company with the help of the Federal Aviation Administration, this trial was small in scope but provided promising results. While drones may be somewhat restricted by distance, weight, and weather, future trials are planned to capitalize on the potential for fast, cost-effective delivery. The sky may not be the limit anymore for operational delivery solutions.
More than 100 million Americans are customers following special diets with restrictions on what they can eat. Restaurants looking to meet this challenge are turning to technology like artificial intelligence to help them customize their menu to their guests, even automatically.
New York-based THE.FIT launched a “menu personalization engine” trial in 2019, which leverages AI to use automatically turn an existing restaurant menu into a customized menu for customers, based on their individual dietary preferences.
THE.FIT also uses the AI to collect data about ordering habits, demographics, and social engagement, allowing restaurants to better provide personalized customer experiences. Restaurant technology solutions like this trial are now looking to AI as a base for providing potential answers to common operational problems, like dietary restrictions.
Restaurant technology is streamlining operations in the front and back of house — as well as the back office. Restaurants using disparate back office and accounting systems that aren’t able to easily share information are making way for more advanced technology that enables communication between systems.
Some restaurant management systems can be fully integrated with a restaurant’s bank and POS system, allowing for innovations like automatic bank reconciliation.
While manual bank reconciliation is a lengthy, time-consuming process at the end of the month, fully integrated restaurant management solutions can make bank reconciliation a painless process. With automated bank reconciliation, operators can reconcile their bank activity every day.
2019 showed that restaurant technology is one step closer to automating some kitchen tasks, with a Seattle-based company called Picnic debuting a prototype of a new automated assembly platform for restaurants.
This modular machine can be configured to produce many different kinds of dishes using different ingredients, but in its trial phase, it is engineered to produce high-volume, customizable pizzas.
The technology would be controlled by a customer-facing app, where customers can choose their custom toppings, and it would require only one worker, who would place dough into an assembly line and replenish toppings.
This prototype technology speaks to the new possibilities in applying kitchen robotics to improve back of house operations.
Restaurant technology should streamline operations and automate time-consuming, error-prone tasks. Accounts Payable (AP) automation technology has emerged as a critically important technology to optimize invoice processing and add money to a restaurant’s bottom line. Restaurant accounting software that includes AP automation helps address particular AP challenges in the industry, with quick inventory turnover, multiple weekly orders, and many vendors being the norm.
End-to-end AP automation allows restaurant operators to capture invoices, convert into transactions, and record invoices automatically in the system. Invoices can be routed through custom workflows, with multiple payment options sent directly and securely through the same platform.
AI and data are becoming more critical for business operations, across all sectors of the economy. In the restaurant industry, big data is being applied to help meet customer expectations. Third-party apps, from map GPS apps to delivery services, now recommend restaurants or menu items based on data from past purchasing behavior and location.
Of course, it can be difficult to give a customized experience to everyone who engages with an individual restaurant. Emerging technologies like conversational ordering through Facebook Messenger, or voice ordering through Alexa, give restaurants the opportunity to use AI to predict and offer up suggestions based on previous order histories or other similar customer orders.
This big data can be broken down into patterns, which can be used to drive personalized marketing and increased marketing ROI. For instance, with insight into when certain customers visit a restaurant, special offers can be customized to encourage them to come in again sooner. Technology solutions provide insights into customer behavior, making data a key ingredient for success for a restaurant.
Evolutions in restaurant management technology and related integrations allow for advancements in tools like menu engineering. Menu engineering takes recipe costing, managed by an inventory tracking system, and combines it with historical sales data drawn from the POS system. With this information, operators can view the profitability of each menu item, as well as the sales record of the item.
By viewing the profitability versus popularity of each menu item ranked on a matrix, restaurant owners can make smart, data-driven operational decisions about what items to promote, retire, or price adjust. Menu engineering technology replaces guessing in the dark with exact, up-to-date calculations, helping restaurant owners protect their bottom line.
Some restaurants are running trials on facial recognition experiments at self-service kiosks, allowing customers to look at facial recognition kiosks and reorder previous meals.
This was trialed in restaurants that have menus with multiple optional customization layers. With all the choices, simplifying reordering encourages customers to consider coming back.
By providing customers with a way to opt-in to quickly reorder their favorite meals, facial recognition technology may also help develop loyalty and build lasting customer relationships.
Technology in the restaurant industry, just like as in any sector, is a tool. The effectiveness of restaurant technology depends on how a restaurant operator wields it. But with all of today’s technological innovations, tools are getting more and more powerful – and the implications for restaurant operations have never held more potential.
To learn how Restaurant365 is changing the restaurant technology ecosystem with restaurant accounting software and restaurant operations software in an all-in-one, cloud-based platform, visit the R365 website.