By David Hopkins
The technology landscape is rapidly changing underneath restaurateurs’ feet, and with that shift comes a number of opportunities to not only improve their guest experience, but also their bottom line. Restaurateurs’ physical landscapes have expanded too, if only temporarily. Patios bring more seats, more people and more chances to make money — and more chances to make mistakes. The seasonal real estate can become a headache unless the right systems and tools are in place to manage it.
The most obvious tool to help manage that risk is new point-of-sale technology. POS systems have been around since the 1970s, with McDonald’s being the first restaurant to introduce it, and became more mainstream in the 1990s with the Remanco system — a.k.a. the Squirrel system. Back then, POS was mostly a glorified cash register, but now additional tools have been implemented in most POS systems, and they can be incredibly useful for restaurant managers and owners who have more ground to cover in the summer months.
“Cloud-based labour scheduling software like Ameego, Hot Schedules and 7shifts have transformed the pen-and-paper art of scheduling into a tech-optimized science.“
With the right POS system, every guest can contribute data, which makes gathering and reviewing information much easier than in the past. Restaurant owners and managers are first and foremost decision makers, and they need valuable information to make good decisions. Whether it concerns labour cost, menu mix, ordering preferences, time-of-day sales or kitchen efficiency, the better the information your team has, the more effective its decision making will be. Any and all developments in terms of reporting tools, reporting specifics and reporting details make it easier to run a successful restaurant properly.
For most restaurateurs, that means first and foremost assessing and managing labour needs. Cloud-based labour scheduling software like Ameego, Hot Schedules and 7shifts have transformed the pen-and-paper art of scheduling into a tech-optimized science. Sales projections, staff availability and hourly wage rates can be easily factored into staffing decisions to ensure that, on any given day, a restaurant has the ideal number of staff on hand to ensure a high standard of service without breaking the bank on labour. That patio? The right call made on the right data can ensure that it is covered efficiently, and that operators get return on their cost of labour.
“It is easy for operators to get caught up in the newest tech, but software alone won’t overcome an undesirable menu, poor service or a budget heading into red ink.“
Back of house, software and hardware extensions to existing POS systems are changing hospitality operations. Kitchen display systems (KDS) appear on a digital screen that replaces printed or handwritten ticket orders in commercial kitchens by connecting to the restaurant’s POS system. The two main benefits of KDS include a more efficient and seamless transfer of information from order-taker to kitchen, as well as valuable operational feedback regarding preparation time per order, preparation time per station, order wait times and more. While KDS existed and was used in restaurants five to 10 years ago, it is only recently that the systems have been refined and streamlined into a tool that is useful enough for restaurants of every size.
Increasingly, those screens display out-of-house customers, not dine-in guests. Companies like Uber Eats and Skip the Dishes have made meal delivery a requirement for quick-service and fast-casual concepts alike, and have replaced the old-school process of taking phone orders and punching items into a POS system. Seamless integration between online ordering and POS systems greatly improve operational efficiencies while limiting errors in ordering processing. This type of integration will continue to be critical to restaurant operations, as online ordering to home delivery becomes the standard in the industry.
While these systems are great tools for restaurant owners and operators, one should also be cognizant of what are still the most important factors to success: delivering exceptional value, a positive guest experience and fiscal responsibility. It is easy for operators to get caught up in the newest tech, but software alone won’t overcome an undesirable menu, poor service or a budget heading into red ink — that takes operators’ focused, informed use of the suite of tools at hand. Patio season should bring a smile to everyone’s face, guests and restaurateurs both.
About the Author
David Hopkins started his career in restaurant management in 1990 and has held various senior management positions in the industry. In 2001, David formed The Fifteen Group Inc., a consulting company dedicated to maximizing restaurant profits through effective sales generation and disciplined cost control management. You can reach David at email@example.com.