Gone are the days of just having an old cash register at the counter and tracking your employees’ time and attendance on the back of an envelope. Today's profitable and growing restaurants embrace new technologies, hardware, and applications to increase productivity and profits. If you're starting a restaurant or already running one, these are five critical technologies that you must consider having in order to grow.
Point of Sale (POS) System
This is the heart and soul of your business and - if it's a good system - should provide most of the technology functions needed by any growing establishment. For many restaurants, this means mobilizing their employees and enabling them to take orders using tablets throughout the facility. Many POS systems are now integrating with self-service kiosks so that customers can order on their own, which will increase your staff's productivity and help reduce overhead. A great POS system should integrate with mobile payment technologies (see below) so that payment can be taken at the table. Inventory management is critical in any POS system and time must be taken to make sure all kitchen and dining room supplies are maintained. A good POS system will collect customer data and either have its own customer relationship management system (CRM) to track loyalty or enable you to reach out proactively with offers and other communications, or integrate with leading CRM systems. Finally, good POS systems will have workflow and automation technologies built in to remind you when inventory gets low, a loyal customer is in the house, or a large order has been rung up.
Go to just about any restaurant in most European countries and you'll notice something different: when it comes time to pay, the server comes to your table with a mobile payment device. There’s no waiting in line at the cash register or signing a physical check. This will be commonplace in the U.S. within the next few years and your restaurant must be ready to accommodate. Customers today want to pay fast and also want the choice of being able to use whatever form of payment they desire. Simply accepting a credit card won’t be enough going forward – and restricting yourself to only accepting cash could certainly be a quick way to end your business. Set yourself up with online payment processing and be prepared to accept payment services from Apple and Google. Your mobile payment system should, of course, be secure, accept credit card chips, integrate with your POS system, and serve up digital receipts by email.
Managing employees in this very tight labor market is a huge challenge for restaurateurs, which is why a powerful employee scheduling tool can be critical. Good software will be completely mobile and allow employees to check their schedule, request shifts, get alerts, and maintain profile data about themselves for communications and filings. Speaking of communications, today's leading staff management applications also allow employers to communicate with individuals and groups of employees to update them on food or safety issues, or merely just to check in on their status. Your system should, at a minimum, be able to track time and help calculate wages and tips. It should integrate with your payroll system and point of sale systems. It should be easy to set up and use, requiring minimal training so that new employees - especially in an industry with a high rate of turnover - can get up to speed as quickly as possible.
If your restaurant accepts reservations, then you should sign up with a few online reservation systems. Your customers - particularly those under the age of 40 - demand the ability to make reservations on-the-go and from their mobile devices whenever they want. Your job is to make it as easy as possible for them to do this. A good online reservation system, such as OpenTable and BookaTable, can give you the ability to list menus and pricing, show calendars on your website and Facebook page, be (of course) mobile, and send alerts to your customers. It should allow you to internally manage these bookings from anywhere to help you fill tables when needed and offer incentives and points to entice customers back. Finally, you'll want the ability to download customer data into your CRM or email system in order to reach out to customers proactively in the future.
You'll want to get your restaurant up on a few popular online delivery sites, such as Postmates, Caviar, and BeyondMenu, in your area to ensure that customers can have your food delivered right to their door. You'll need to pay attention to your delivery minimums, and the services should accommodate all of your menu items and combination deals. The ability to quickly update descriptions, items, and pricing is critical. A good online delivery system will accept credit cards (and other forms of payment from Apple or Google) and offer email and text communications to both you and your customers. More advanced systems will integrate with your internal POS system.
Do you need all of these technologies to succeed right now? I'd like to say no, take your time, and just pick and choose what you want. But that's not the case. The fact is that you do need them all – and you need them as soon as possible.