Remember what the invention of the car did for personal transportation? Rapid innovations in software and technology are about to do the same for restaurants.
According TechCrunch, nearly $970 million in venture capital funds have poured into technologies aimed at streamlining restaurant operations and enhancing guest experiences.
Do they know something you don’t know? Not really. Restaurants are quicklyadapting new technologies. The following infographic from Small Business Trends shows the top three reasons restaurants are choosing to add new software and technology into the mix.
As you can see, two of the three reasons clearly state lowering costs and increasing efficiency. However, it can also be argued that knowing what your customers really want can also save you a lot of time and effort.
How and Where Can You Save Time and Money?
The short answer is almost anywhere, depending on the tools and applications you choose. The following list will show you 10 areas where restaurant software and technology can have the greatest impact.
Accounting and Bookkeeping: Necessary, important and so very time-consuming. The problem is, these just aren’t day-to-day tasks that people find exciting.
According to one survey, 46% of small business owners list bookkeeping as their “least favorite” responsibility. It’s no wonder when these duties can eat up nearly 2-3 weeks of your time each year.
Popular choices among small businesses include QuickBooks Online, FreshBooks and Zoho, which can make things more bearable — while saving you time and giving you a better picture of your present and future.
Inventory Management: It’s estimated that 48% of small businesses either perform inventory manually or don’t even do it all. Manual inventory takes a lot of time and allows for basic human error. A complete aversion to inventory is even worse for your bottom line.
These are trends that applications, like BlueCart, Orderly and SimpleOrder, have set out to change. These tools take your inventory process from pen and paper to state-of-the art — correlating inventory levels with past and future orders and integrating with your accounting and bookkeeping systems.
While inefficiencies and mistakes can “skew the final picture of the profitability of your business” — inventory management software helps reduce errors, improve margins and give you the big picture that you very much need to see.
Fact — 58% of restaurateurs would be interested in software and technology that can cut costs and overhead.
Food Safety: It sort of goes without saying that it’s never good if a guest gets ill from bad food or the local health inspector puts you on their watch list. However, repetitive and time-consuming food safety processes can be automated to protect the safety of your guests and ensure successful inspections.
For instance, FreshTemp’s range of digital probes and sensors can continually monitor and report food temperatures throughout the day. In a recent informal customer survey, FreshTemp customers using the probes stated that they saved up to 30 minutes each day. Proving that every little bit adds up, that’s 3.5 hours a week, 182 hours — more than a week’s worth of time — a year.
Payroll: If labor costs weren’t enough of a headache, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) penalizes 1 out every 3 business owners for payroll errors.
Then of course, there’s the sheer amount of time it takes to process payroll on your own — not to mention properly handling tipped employees and following labor laws, like the upcoming changes to the overtime rule.
Payroll services, like Wagepoint, can help by simplifying the entire process from handling hourly and salaried employees to complying with federal, state and local payroll regulations.
Point-of-Sale (POS) — TechCrunch writes, “POS is becoming the restaurant’s central nervous system, changing not just how you pay for your food, but how the restaurant runs its business.”
POS providers, like Toast, Revel and ShopKeep, have evolved into comprehensive, multifaceted tools offering a full range of functions that better connect the front of the house to the back of the house and improve guest experiences.
It’s sort of like having a note keeper collecting data in real time as you run through your shifts — giving you the best possible picture of what’s working and what’s not. In one case study, a well-established bar and grill was able to realize a 20% increase in sales.
Recruitment and Training: We know we’re “preaching to the choir” we say that finding, hiring and training employees takes an inordinate amount of time.
Thankfully, companies like HotSchedules have stepped up to fill this void with a customized talent network for restaurants and jobseekers, along with training that employees can easily access from their mobile phones.
Similarly, firms like Jolt, bring you automated checklists and tools that help make cumbersome daily processes much more routine.
Reservation Systems: If you’re only taking reservations at the door, you’re missing many opportunities to fill tables. Tools, like Eveve, DineTime and OpenTable, let you take reservations 24-hours-a-day, 7-days-a-week.
These tools also give you the flexibility to book reservations in real time during peak periods. Additionally, by capturing customer information, they help you gain deeper insights and build stronger relationships.
Fact — 64% of restaurant decision makers would choose tools that help them gain customer feedback.
Shift Planning: You’re in the process resolving a guest question, a shipment just came in and, in the middle of all of it, one of your servers calls in sick. Just another day at the office right? But it doesn’t have to be.
Scheduling tools, like Deputy, 7Shifts and When I Work, help you automate the entire process — letting you take care of everything from your tablet or smartphone. Bye-bye, paper and pencil and hours of wasted time.
When someone calls in sick — you can simply send a notification of the open shift to other servers who’ve marked themselves as available. The person who wants the hours will then contact you. This is why you can learn to love technology.
Social Media: Despite the amount of time any individual can spend on social media, it can actually be a time-saver for restaurant managers.
Checking responses on your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts can help you quickly check the pulse of your customers. Conversely, you can also announce a promotion or event in real time.
And monitoring review sites like Yelp, Zagat or even Google+ can help you stay ahead of any poor or inaccurate reviews.
Tableside Payments: Along with the cool factor, tableside payments can help up table turns, revenue and cardholder security.
A June 2016 article in Hospitality Technology indicates that as little as one additional table turn per shift can increase revenue 20-25%. Plus, there’s the peace of mind in knowing that the customer never loses custody of his or her card.
For more information, check out companies like TouchBistro and Ziosk. Note: Many POS providers also offer tableside payments as part of their services.
Fact — 63% of owners and managers would pick software that improved efficiency.
What to Consider When Choosing Restaurant Software and Technology
With the growing number of choices, finding the right solutions can seem overwhelming. By identifying and comparing a few basic factors, you can determine which tools will be the best fit.
- Cost: Make sure you understand the full cost of the product. Is it a one-time fee or monthly subscription? Are all of the features included or are there additional costs for specific functions. Learn as much as you can so that you can make the most informed choice.
- Customer Service — If you have a question, how quickly and effectively will it be answered? And will the person you’re working with be friendly or someone you hope to never have to contact again. Even with the best platforms, things happen. Make sure your software is backed by excellent service.
- Ease of use — Can you picture yourself and your staff using this tool? Or, if it’s like splitting an atom, is it more trouble than it’s worth? Software design has come a long way and you should be able to expect a friendly user interface. If not, look somewhere else.
- Enterprise vs. Cloud: To keep it simple, think of enterprise software as more traditional and generally more expensive. Cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that are hosted online tend bring your greater versatility at a lower cost. In fact, the advent of “the cloud” is one of the reasons you’re seeing the proliferation of restaurant technology.
- Integrations — The whole goal of using technology is to allow your systems to talk to each other. For example, your POS system will need to be able to share information with to your bookkeeping/accounting system. And it would only make sense that your payroll and scheduling tools integrate as well. You see where we’re going with this, right?
One of the best places to find out if one tool integrates with another is on the product website. Look in the navigation menu for items like partners, integrations or the acronym API (application program interface). Sometimes this information is also found in the support or FAQ sections. When in doubt, you can also ask.
- Intent — Was the software originally created for franchises, independent operators or large chains? In other words, is the software or technology designed to meet the specific requirements of your restaurant? While some platforms are able to evolve and serve a number of audiences, others fail when they stray from their roots. Again, it’s all a matter of knowing your business and what you need.
- Operating System Compatibility — If you’re looking into scheduling software, is it Android, Apple or both? If you think about it, it’s really not helpful if only half of your staff can use the app or if you’re going to be potentially tied and/or limited to one specific brand of technology.
- User Reviews and Ratings — Visiting review sites, like Capterra, GetApp or G2 Crowd, or even doing a basic online search for “reviews of __” can help you learn if people are delighted or if there are concerns that you ask about.
- Training and Onboarding — Are there online guides or are you on your own? Find out exactly what will be required to implement the solution and what kind of training and support you’ll receive.
Has restaurant software and technology already started to save you time and money? What are your wins and fails? What are you looking for that you haven’t found. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Content guru and marketing co-conspirator at Wagepoint, Michelle is a professional writer with agency and corporate experience who is now diving into payroll. When away from the keyboard she spends time hiding chocolate from her children and attempting to escape for a morning run (to work off the chocolate).