Restaurant Tech in 2021: A Year in Review
Since March of 2020, our world has shifted in ways that could not have been predicted in a pre-COVID era. As the world continued to change in 2021, one industry that was forced to adjust their strategy was Food and Beverage, specifically restaurants. With health and safety becoming even more imperative as new variants surged, many restaurants were forced to alter their operations to survive and to care for both employees and customers. Even so, nearly 90,000 restaurants have closed their doors since the beginning of the pandemic. However, this sector of the industry has been an example of resilience and innovation. With the introduction of several new technologies and electronic tools restaurants have continued to improve their bottom line before, during, and after the pandemic. Here are some of the standouts from 2021.
Most people have used an online portal in relation to their job, whether it be during the hiring process or after. Now, apps are available to both managers and employees to make scheduling easier and smarter than ever. Managers now use data collected by the restaurant through POS (point of service systems) and other tools to gauge how many staff members they need at a given day and time, helping them ensure that they have enough staff to cover a typical rush without over scheduling on a slower day. These employee portals are now even easier to access from any device, including smartphones to give staff all the tools they need to check their schedule, switch shifts, and request time off and even access their paystubs and W2s thus reducing labor costs by up to 5 percent. Tip payout solutions have also appeared on the App scene allowing managers to tip out directly to employee bank accounts.
Labor and Food Cost are essential to the success or failure of a restaurant, so minimizing waste, over ordering, and theft is essential. New artificial intelligence or AI technologies allow business owners to manage inventory on an almost molecular level by balancing current inventory with what is being sold in real time. This level of clarity and oversight provides operators the opportunity to not only notice when an item is being mismanaged – whether through expiration, theft, over portioning, or other means – but to anticipate and pivot when mistakes happen. If done correctly, the effects to Labor and Food Costs can be minimized or prevented saving time, energy and money in ways that can really impact the overall bottom line.
With in-person dining at lower levels and mobile ordering taking off, being able to provide customer service that keeps customers coming back has never been so crucial. Luckily, restaurateurs are up to the task. For restaurants this includes allowing patrons to reserve tables through apps, tracking where they prefer to sit, and providing menus through QR codes to continue to minimize contact points. Mobile ordering and the uptick in delivery orders gives restaurants a chance to have customers order directly from their platforms saving them the commission fees charged by third party delivery services, although third party apps are still popular and a part of the new revenue mix for restaurants. Using data gathered from those who order with their smartphone gives restaurants the chance to tailor their menu and make menu suggestions to create a more personal experience. Getting to know customers’ preferences, whether on the menu selections or through seating preferences makes customers feel cared for and more likely to return.
While “chipped” cards and digital wallets have been around for a while, the pandemic made them a necessity in reducing personal contact points. This shift in payment solutions allowed restaurant owners additional opportunities like the ability to shorten order processing time which not only increases table turnover but also server attention. Each of these factors alone is an incentive for owners to embrace technology, but together they created a huge financial and ethical bonus for restaurants that may be struggling.
Every restaurant is a business, and businesses need to be aware of their margins to turn a profit or even stay afloat. Integrating all the data collected from a variety of methods has given restaurateurs the ability to track their performance in a way that was once considered imaginary. From menu items to employee performance, many questions owners have can be answered through data technology these days. Restaurants can turn the results into action strategies which positively affect the bottom line. While not every business is ready to leap into all the technologies available to them today, there are many places to begin testing solutions that can improve the dining experience, save time, and keep everyone safe. For many restaurateurs, using tech has enabled them to remain open and profit in a pandemic filled world.
At TMDL, we understand that the needs of the restaurant industry are unique. That’s why we have made it our priority to become well-versed in all our clients’ needs, from the specifics of payroll to a variety of POS, inventory, and bill payment solutions. With this knowledge and our commitment to understanding the unique needs of our clients, we can offer opportunities, solutions, and value to their businesses.