So, you’re starting a food business – and you’ve already come up with your business plan, branding, found your location and hired your staff – but now you’re wondering what technologies you’ll need to invest in to keep things running smoothly.
Well, while it may all seem overwhelming (especially if you’re not particularly tech-savvy), don’t fret! We’ve come up with 6 technologies that can help your business excel – streamlining your operation, reducing labor costs and keeping you one step ahead of your competition.
1. A Point of Sale (POS) System
A POS system is like the motherboard of your restaurant. It’s where your servers will record their orders, where your chefs will receive them and where your cashiers will invoice them. It’s also where your menu, product prices and inventory are stored, and where you can see how your staff is performing and what tips they’re earning. With a POS system, your whole establishment is connected and there’s no need to huff about with scribbling orders on tiny notepads or tracking your revenues in a ledger. Most POS systems also offer analytics, allowing you to track your performance and even generate sales reports remotely, so you can be in-touch with what’s happening in your restaurant at all times.
When shopping for a POS system, look for a cloud-based model so that you can remotely access your system, and a supplier that offers technical support and training.
2. Employee Scheduling Software
Remember the good old-fashioned phone chain, where you had to call every single person up individually when you had news or had something to schedule? Well, luckily, thanks to employee scheduling software, you won’t have to deal with any of that. It’s your one-stop-shop for scheduling employee shifts, organizing your employees and keep all of your communication on one platform. And most come in a friendly app format, so that you can manage and update schedules wherever you are – and your employees also get the memo as soon as there’s an update.
Research shows that these systems can help reduce employee scheduling time by up to 80%. Especially when labor costs account for up to a third of a restaurant’s operating costs, making sure that you plan your employee schedules efficiently is really critical!
3. Inventory Tracking Software
Inventory tracking software helps you manage your stock levels, purchase orders, recipes and menu costs – and goes beyond just looking what goes in and out of your restaurant, with predictive forecasting and portion control. Inventory tracking systems can help you place more accurate orders from your suppliers, fine-tune your portions and perhaps most importantly, keep a closer eye on your produce to make sure that nobody’s dipping their hand in the cookie jar (no pun intended). The best systems will be able to sync with your POS system, or will be built right into your POS system, so look for a program that’s compatible with your existing software.
4. An Online Ordering Platform
While online ordering and food delivery is very popular with quick service restaurants, it’s been growing increasingly popular with full-service restaurants, too. In fact, take-away sales have increased 8% over the last few years, and customers who place an online order have a 95% chance of returning to your establishment. Now doesn’t that seem like a worthwhile investment? Online ordering can also increase your exposure, and make it easier for your customers to find you among a sea of competitors.
At first, you may want to go with an aggregator platform – one that combines offers multiple restaurants through one single portal – while you’re raising awareness and getting your business off the ground. But once you’re up and running, you might want to consider adopting an internal online ordering system, as aggregator platforms are highly competitive and can charge a per-order commission of up to 15%.
5. A Loyalty Program
Did you know that up to 65% of the revenue generated by a restaurant is coming from repeat customers, and that these customers will share the good news if they like your restaurant?
Rewarding your customers for their loyalty isn’t just the honorable thing to do – it’s the smart thing to do. Loyalty programs can not only get you repeat customers turned brand promoters, but are also likely to generate more revenue. In fact, research shows that customers spend on average 39% more on their order when they’re close to unlocking their next loyalty reward. It’s just a good investment.
But when we talk about loyalty programs, we’re not talking about the good old business card that you stamp or punched out every time a customer buys a meal – we mean a digital loyalty program; one that’s managed from an app and allows customers to track their progress and receive personalized offers tailored to their behavior and preferences. These types of programs are mutually beneficial – as you get to collect data on your customers and they get rewarded for their loyalty.
There are lots of reward program options out there – from existing apps to developing your own app – but whichever option you land on, just make sure that it can integrate with your POS system.
6. Self-Ordering Kiosks or Tablets
You may think that self-ordering kiosks only belong in fast-food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King, but really, they don’t. Self-ordering kiosks are taking storm in all types of establishments – whether it be in the form of a full-sized kiosk or just a tablet that’s brought to the table.
They come with several benefits:
Reduced service times: kiosks have been shown to significantly reduce service times and free up front-of house staff, reducing labor costs and allowing you to provide a better service to your customers. Of course, that’s not to say that they should replace your staff, but merely complement them so that you can augment your overall experience.
Automated up-selling: kiosks or tablets automatically prompt customers to splurge on extras or upgrades. McDonald’s found that the average check size for customers ordering from a kiosk was 30% higher, and that 20% of customers who didn’t initially order a drink would buy one just because it was offered.
Menu flexibility: digital menus allow you to change and adapt your menu items and prices daily, or change the order of your menu items, placing high-margin items higher up so that they won’t be overlooked by customers.
So, there you have it. Depending on the type of establishment you’re running, you may choose to invest in anywhere from 1 or 2 to all of these different technologies. The most important thing is that you choose the best solution for your customers, your staff and your budget. But whatever you do – do your research, and make sure that you invest in suppliers that provide training to your staff so that they’ve mastered the different systems well before opening day.