Technology in restaurants can be a game-changer for the customer experience, employee workflows and the bottom line. The need for convenience and seamlessness was already driving rapid adoption of restaurant technology, and the pandemic accelerated it. Contactless payments and ordering, tap and pay and QR codes are now commonplace in restaurants. Restaurants like Chili’s have implemented new technology and processes to increase service efficiency and improve the guest experience. And it’s an important aspect of the company’s strategy to address staffing challenges.
An added benefit of adopting restaurant tech is that it also improves data collection capabilities, which can be used for gathering financial intelligence and strategic planning. With so many options available, figuring out what to use in your own business can be overwhelming. Which restaurant innovation can help drive growth or reduce labor costs? Who can you call when things go down? How can you leverage these tools to support strategy development? To help you navigate your options, here’s a guide to the latest trending technology in restaurants.
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Robotics is one of the most exciting new technologies in restaurants, and they are finally becoming viable. They can operate more efficiently than a person, improve safety and reduce labor demand.
Viewed through the COVID lens, there is added appeal for operators and consumers for increased use of kitchen robots. In addition to increasing efficiencies inside the restaurant, they reduce human contact with food and provide a more touch-free experience.
One of the most exciting innovations is the Flippy robot. Made by Miso Robotics, Flippy is a robotic cooking arm that’s capable of tackling a number of tasks, from fries to burgers. After a successful initial rollout, its latest version is even more hands-off. In light of the ongoing staffing shortage, Flippy is being touted as a solution for handling one of the most monotonous, dangerous restaurant jobs.
Restaurant automation is also powering ghost kitchens. Efficiency is paramount in ghost kitchens and specialized robots are being used to run orders and perform cooking tasks.
While robotics may be one of the more exciting new technologies in restaurants, QR codes have quickly become one of the most ubiquitous. QR codes for menus are everywhere, and they’re likely here to stay. A contactless menu experience benefits customers and restaurant operators. It’s more sanitary than handling a paper-based menu, reduces printing costs and saves employees’ time cleaning between table turns. Also, it allows for a more dynamic menu, since the online version enables you to quickly and easily make updates so customers can see the latest menu items and prices.
Restaurant air purifiers
Living through a pandemic has made everyone more conscious of cleanliness, and that includes air quality. Social distancing isn’t always possible in every part of a restaurant as capacity levels begin returning to normal. Air purification technology in restaurants can help ease guest and employee concerns. A good air purifier solution can remove much of the dust, dander, mold spores, allergens, viruses and bacteria from indoor air so everyone can breathe a little easier. Used alongside other restaurant industry technology, such as UV lamps and electrostatic sprayers, they can help mitigate the spread of illness among guests and employees.
Time clock GPS & restaurant scheduling software
Restaurant technology can also be used for employee administrative tasks. Using geofencing, an app on the employee’s phone can be used to verify that they are on site, preventing time card fraud. Geofencing can also be integrated with scheduling software so employees can only clock in when they’re scheduled. And it can prevent mistakes by sending employees notifications that their shift or break is ending and remind them to clock in or out. These apps help cut down on time card and scheduling errors, ultimately reducing the burden on payroll.
Scheduling software makes it easy for employees to access their schedule and request changes. Instead of calling their coworkers to exchange shifts, they can request a swap through the app.
Online restaurant reservation system
Reservation systems like OpenTable allow for convenient reservations. They also reduce the mistakes that come with overbooking or potentially logging in a reservation with the wrong date or name. The platforms provide insight on the volume of reservations so operators can make informed decisions when adjusting seating and table openings. Online reservation systems integrate with your table management software to make it easy for front-of-house workers to seat guests. As an added bonus, reservation systems can also be a smart marketing tactic and a good way to reach new customers.
Learning Management Systems
Training and e-learning technology is becoming more of a standard than a trend for the restaurant industry. Utilizing online training helps ensure consistency from teams across all units which translates into a better experience for your guests. Restaurants who use e-learning for their talent and training management can experience lower operating costs, lower turnover and improved store performance. Look for a talent management system that allows you to easily customize your training program, delivers robust metrics and is easy for your HR team to set up and deploy.
Third-party delivery is booming for its convenience and safety. And it’s a great way to reach new customers. But it also has its drawbacks. Third party platforms come with high costs that restaurants often have to pass on to customers, and they limit how much information operators can gather about their buyers. New tools are helping restaurants implement their own delivery operation without having to shoulder all of the costs and operational burden. For example DriveKindness uses a franchising model that operators can invest in. They pay a flat commission for every order and the entire delivery fee paid by customers goes to the driver.
Another new service, Club Feast, provides a subscription-based model, where consumers can buy weekly credits that they exchange for meals at participating restaurants. Club Feast hires its own drivers, and its ordering process makes it easy for restaurants to efficiently produce meals.
Operators are also using QR codes to encourage users to order directly from the restaurant. Customers who come in for takeout orders are prompted to scan a QR code to receive emails, which can then be used to promote the restaurant’s own delivery services. As customers and restaurants seek out ways to reduce the costs of delivery without sacrificing convenience, delivery models and the technology that supports it will continue to evolve.
Pay at table technology
Innovative restaurant point of sale technology allows for end-to-end self-service. New technology in restaurants allows guests to order and pay for their food at the table. One example is Order & Pay, from the makers of the Toast POS system. It allows guests to order and pay from their phones using QR codes. Order & Pay reduces wait times for customers (which has been a big pain point for restaurant guests recently) and satisfies the need for contactless payments. And the restaurant can cover more tables with fewer workers.
Evaluating the right tech for your restaurant
As you evaluate which restaurant technology to implement, keep customers first. It’s important to understand whether your guests will adapt to these new technologies. If they’re confusing for the customer, it will only cause frustration for them and for your employees. To stay on top of how technology impacts the customer experience, monitor guest intelligence data as you test new solutions.
It’s also important to consider the costs and resources needed for implementation. Onboarding a new technology across multiple sites requires careful coordination. In addition to IT concerns, such as networking and security, operators also have to consider how easy it will be for employees to work with. Despite the promises of convenience and efficiency that new technologies may offer, if it’s difficult or costly to use, it’s not worth the investment.
Technology will continue to evolve, and external factors, such as labor challenges and food costs, will continue to impact the industry as a whole. To keep up with the latest trends, sign up for the Restaurant Industry Performance Pulse, a weekly update providing data insights from across the industry.