Written by Jeff Stone, CEO of Compeat for Hospitality Technology.
Restaurants are constantly battling one thing or another: food and labor costs, turnover, changing consumer preferences, etc. But with the support of sophisticated technology, restaurants can make smart decisions that will support their business model. In 2019, we suspect six trends will affect all restaurant operators. However, when restaurants use technology to closely align their operations with these trends, they will likely have a successful year.
The Rise of Business Intelligence. Business intelligence (BI) is no stranger to the food industry. The era of “big data” was born from the corporate world trying to reign in massive volumes of collected information, but it didn’t take long for savvy restauranteurs to realize the untapped wealth of information held captive in our POS systems. Real access to this information would go on to revolutionize the way our industry operates. We have now come to a point where using BI in daily operations gives operators the competitive advantage over competition, perhaps more so than the traditional battle of food and ambiance.
How technology can help: Put simply, restaurant operators can’t fix what they can’t see. A good BI software is key to removing the guesswork in fixing your operations. Realtime data can be aggregated into simple dashboards to make informed decisions, raise red-flag items, and create actionable items to improve your bottom line. Like anything else, BI is ultimately a skill that can be mastered. Rather than just streamlining operations, restauranteurs can use BI to pinpoint exactly where they are losing money. Gain an advantage over competitors by making real, tenable changes that are backed up by your ability to monitor progress made in reducing costs and improving sales.
Greater Need for Mobility. Mobility is already a concrete part of our personal lives. We want to be connected 24/7 from where ever we may be. So why would this be any different in a restaurant? Imagine how much smoother your restaurant will run when the managers are no longer tied to the back-office keying data into the computer. How much time could you save if corporate could pull down any sales, labor, or forecasting reports from anywhere; slicing and dicing as needed without having to wait for files to be verified and transferred?
How technology can help: Mobile technology has gone from a luxury to a must-have for the restaurant industry. With the need for managers and operators to be in so many places at once, it just makes sense to get them out of the office. Look for cloud-based software that allows you and your managers to do inventory counts, order, create and assign schedules, and more from any smart device.
Growth in Popularity of Voice Recognition. Building on the above, we should face it – our smartphones have spoiled us. We love the freedom of using instant commands to streamline tasks that are otherwise tedious, and even more convenient methods are on the horizon. According to Oracle’s Restaurant 2015 report, 50% of restaurant operators surveyed like the idea of using voice recognition to gather customer feedback and 49% would be interested in using voice recognition to allow guests to ask questions about the menu.
How technology can help: Voice recognition technologies are emerging – and improving – in the retail and foodservice industries. Imagine the time it would save if you need only to speak to take orders or to communicate when plates are ready in the kitchen. Voice recognition may also grant you the ability to inform about the products you are picking up for delivery, to give instructions to print tickets and bills, to update stocks, and more.
Improved Labeling for Allergens and Restrictions. Food allergies have become big topics in the last few years. Worst case food allergies to items such as peanuts or eggs can be fatal and need to be taken seriously. Other allergies and aversions will affect a customer’s loyalty to a brand, based on the ease of ordering to and trusting that items are tailored to their needs. Add on to that the possibility of a lawsuit for misinformation, and the outlook can be quite scary.
How technology can help: A menu building software is a great tool to be sure that each ingredient in every menu item is known. Not only will this type of software track and map nutritional details of ingredients and recipes to help monitor compliance with FDA nutrition reporting requirements, it will allow servers to quickly answer any consumer’s questions regarding allergens with confidence. You can also easily attach specific notes about storage and cross-contamination requirements. Plus, the added drill down reporting will help you manage margins and analyze sales.
Sustainable Business Practices. Sustainability has been a hot topic for the last decade and will only continue to grow until businesses consider how their specific operations can incorporate environmental efforts. While we know how important it is, many operators struggle with practical ways to incorporate these practices into our daily operations. Reducing food waste, sourcing sustainable farmers, and going paperless are just three examples of how restaurants can support the rise of sustainability.
How technology can help: Start with the numbers. A reliable forecasting software can be installed that allows operators to prepare precisely the right amount of food for each shift, reducing waste caused by over-prepping or over-ordering. There are also scores of software options available for ordering that compare the costs of vendors for you, reducing the legwork needed by operators to source different local vendors to find one that is aligned with your values. Lastly, go as paperless as possible. Human resources is a great place to experiment. Going paperless in recruiting, onboarding, and training practices will save an enormous number of trees while greatly reducing the time spent on these processes. Of course, this also helps your bottom line too.
Increased Security Concerns. The vast amount of data stored in your POS and back office systems are a focus for data thieves, causing data breaches that have tarnished the names of many great businesses – including restaurants. I believe that 2019 will be the year that companies really crack down on security to reduce the threat of these data breaches.
How technology can help: While it may seem nearly impossible to stay ahead of the hackers, there are a few steps that you can take to reduce your risks of becoming a target for breaches. One important way that restaurant operators can evade malware software from pirating credit card data, private employee information, and banking transactions is by using cloud-based software. Cloud-based software removes the need to store private data on premises, sending it into an off-site secure environment away from the threats of on-site malware. Don’t be afraid to consult with your provider about their security.