By Sagi Rochman
2016 HAS BEEN A TUMULTUOUS YEAR FOR THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY. Food contamination scandals. Joint-employer battles. Changing labor laws. And now we’re hearing grumblings about a new restaurant recession. This year has been tough.
Restaurant operators shouldn’t have to subsist on shaky ground, hoping to break even by year’s end. As we move into 2017, it’s clear that we need to dig ourselves out of this quagmire. It’s even clearer that there’s only one way to do it: New technology.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR RESTAURANT SMARTER IN 2017
When we talk about new technologies in the restaurant sector, the focus needs to be on how to make your restaurant smarter—both in the technological sense as well as the operational one. The ultimate goal is to streamline operations, automate systems, and provide an even more enhanced experience to every single guest (and employee). Here are the smart technologies I expect will make a huge splash in the coming year:
ANYWHERE, ANYHOW ORDERING
Think about what Domino’s did with their “Anyware Ordering” push. Customers text or
tweet them a pizza emoji, use their Amazon Echo to place an order, request an order with zero clicks through an app, and more. This is going to get big, especially with restaurants already active on social and mobile.
Customers expect not only speedy service inside a restaurant, but also when they take their food to go. Rather than leave them waiting for the host, bartender, or cashier to pick up their order and process a payment, I expect more restaurants will go the way of Eatsa and offer automated ordering and pickup, so customers no longer have to wait.
Wearable technology presents an interesting opportunity in terms of real-time notifications
and engagements. Managers get called to tables to handle urgent complaints. Servers find out about 86’ed items the moment they are nixed. Customers complete their payments through their Apple Watches. There are a lot of time saving possibilities here.
We all saw what happened to Chipotle this year, so tighter control over kitchens is an absolute must. Cloud-connected, smart sensor containers, utensils, and storage already exist—it’s just a matter of bringing them in-house for real-time awareness of what’s happening in the kitchen as well as with inventory.
I don’t know that robots will ever completely take over restaurants, but I do know that restaurants already make use of robotics to automate repetitive tasks in the kitchen. It’s only a matter of time before others take that step too.
EMPLOYEE LOYALTY APPS
With so much emphasis placed on making thecustomer happy and gaining their loyalty, some restaurant operators forget about keeping their teams happy. With growing unrest over labor wage changes, disruptive turnover rates, and more, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing restaurants offering loyalty apps for their employees.
CONNECTED RESTAURANT RESOURCES
For multi-location restaurants and chains that previously operated as individual units, I expect greater connectivity among them. Operators could use close proximity to other locations to save money through the sharing of resources. Schedules could be shared so that employees willing to “float” can work where they’re needed, regardless of location. And when one restaurant runs low on inventory, another one can send over whatever excess they have.
A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
With all the technologies available right now— and the prospect of some really innovative game changing ones on the way—the restaurant industry can be more hopeful for the coming year. Greater time savings, improved efficiency, better communication, and real-time insights are crucial to any business’s success. And that’s what you get with the right technology on your side.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Better Chains Founder and CEO, Sagi Rochman, is an international hospitality owner and technology innovator. After honing his restauranteur career in Israel, Rochman moved to Long Beach and opened up Sachi Bar and Sababa. When he met Marty Cox, President and Founder of It’s a Grind Coffee Franchise, they decided to collaborate on what is now, Better Chains: a technology firm that simplifies restaurant operation systems.
“Technology is the answer,” he said. “The restaurants must jump in.”
Better Chains products range from applicant tracking systems, to training modules, to staff
scheduling and more. For more information, visit www.betterchains.com