Innovating the Industry: New technology and techniques for 2018

From the winter 2017 issue of CRFN

By Alex Fraser

The Canadian foodservice industry continues to see innovating new technology that’s having a positive impact, creating efficiencies for restaurants across the country. As we quickly approach the new year, we’ll touch on some of the new technology that could impact restaurant operations in 2018 and beyond.

Table Location Systems

How many times have you walked up to your favourite coffee house, café or fast casual restaurant counter, and upon finishing your order, are handed a two-foot high metal card holder with a number on it for you to take with you to your table to let the service team know where to deliver your items?

Most times, these holders are too large for the table, look awkward and can be challenging to keep securely upright in a busy environment. If too small of an order card holder, you get to watch as the service team walk from the kitchen with various plates and bowls, stretching their necks, as if they are performing some sort of walking yoga cadence trying to locate your order number.

If that isn’t something you enjoy then we have a great solution. LRS Canada provides a table location system that identifies where guests are seated. Instead of a number card, guests are given a tracker that broadcasts their exact location to an order display.  When the item is ready, food runners then know where the guests are seated and can deliver the food immediately.

Key Benefits/Features

Faster Food Delivery: Faster food delivery means food is hitting the table with more heat and creating quicker, more efficient table turns.

Improved Productivity: This app can improve productivity as the delivery becomes more efficient, aiding in scheduling labour more effectively.

Analytics and Reporting: Identifies delivery times to highlight challenges in delivery time goals. Managers or operators can manage delivery performance times and over multiple locations

Pricing for the systems varies depending on what type of tagging options the client is looking for between on-the-table or below-table-varieties.

Goodbye to the Hood System?

As many of us know, sous vide cooking is the process of slow-cooking vacuum-sealed food with water set to a specific  temperature. This relatively foolproof method will cook everything from steak to fruit and can be executed with proper equipment and basic technical knowledge.

As everyone who has opened a restaurant is aware, one of the biggest factors in finding the right location or space, as well as impacting budget, is whether or not there is allocation to have venting and a hood system. If you are cooking with grease or use gas, you will need an approved, engineered hood and HVAC system. Hood and HVAC systems can run anywhere from $30,000 to $300,000 depending on a number of factors, including the potential need for an ecologizer unit, which is used for cleaning exhausted air.

With the introduction of a combination of a self-vented oven, and a sous-vide set up, we are able to potentially eliminate the need for a hood system, because the vented-combi oven vents the grease-laden air and anything else that gives off grease particles from the oven chamber.

We have found that there may now be an opportunity to prep items that have been cooked in the vented combi-oven, and can now be placed in sous vide applications to facilitate service. Yes, service — no burners, no pan work.

Imagine preparing to cook and serve a  coconut chicken rice bowl. After roasting the chicken breasts in in the oven, cooks would add some coconut milk, chicken stock, vegetables and herbs and spices, etc., until its cooked to the desired temperature and flavour profile. Once complete and cooled down properly according to provincial health standards, the cook would then build the chicken breast, vegetables and coconut broth and portion into the sous vide bag. Once portioned, the bag is sealed in a  Kryo-Vac Machine and now you have your portion for service.

During service, we can now fill the immersion circulator bath or unit with the bags needed for service.  Once an order is placed, we simply portion out the rice from a rice cooker, and cut and place the sous-vide ingredients onto the rice, garnish and serve. Nothing has needed a hood, and has also not produced any grease-laden vapor.

Of course, sous-vide cooking will not address all cooking needs, and in most cases, having the ability to cook without the need to worry about the hood is simpler for sure. But this equipment set up can support the production of bowls and reheating bagged and marinated cooked vegetables, meats, proteins and grains.

Having the potential option of not needing a hood by using the combination of a self-vented combi-oven and sous vide machine may just be the answer to finding the perfect location and keeping the pre-opening budget in check.

No More Table Comment Cards!

In the restaurant industry, one of the most important measurements of success in service is obtaining guest feedback. Table touches by management is usually the first opportunity, which in some cases is followed by a comment card that is often included with the bill drop.

Storm Kiosks is aiming to build a more modern and integrated experience with a customizable unit that would be housed inside the restaurant and where guests can log their experience. This is a stand-alone unit that encourages customers to give feedback in a simple, user-friendly way:

  • Customers start by selecting an icon that best represents their feeling on the dining experience.
  • The restaurant can set up a series of questions they would like feedback on, for example, “How happy were you with our Features tonight?”
  • Restaurants can also incentivize customers to get their feedback by doing a gift card giveaway.
  • Guests can input their e-mails into the system and opt for receiving promotions or monthly newsletters.

Mobile Ordering and Delivery Apps

Until recent years, technology has been underutilized in the restaurant industry. Recently, we have discovered how some of this technology can benefit restaurants by making it more efficient for ordering and payments.

Currently there are number of options in the marketplace. Many point-of-sale systems now have an app option that will be driven directly through the POS, making this the most integrated option for operators. Examples of POS systems that have an online ordering app option include Vivonet, Revel and Aloha.

Advantages

  • Guests can order and pay on the app and avoid a line up.
  • Integrated reporting, inventory management and cash reporting.
  • Opportunity for increased revenue with increased efficiencies.

Things to Consider

  • It will be an individual restaurant app and the operator will need to market the app and promote it to their guests.
  • Develop a marketing plan for the app and ensure you understand the costs involved to drive traffic.
  • Adjust kitchen/barista station operations, efficiencies and scheduling to properly execute a change in business flow.

Third-Party Mobile Ordering Apps

Third-party apps for online ordering is a growing industry. There are many options for third-party apps; some integrate with the restaurant POS system and some do not, and none of them integrate with all systems. You will need to look for an app that will integrate with your specific POS. Examples of third-party ordering apps for both integrated and stand-alone solutions include Maegan, Chow Now and Grub Hub. These apps are generally most effective in quick service environments, where guests can simply order, pay, determine a pick-up time and location, then drop by to grab their order. They can also benefit full service restaurants as well, however, allowing restaurants to avoid labour costs at the ordering stage and increase the efficiency of order turnaround.

Mobile Delivery Apps – POS

There has been an influx of mobile delivery apps in recent years. These work very much like the mobile ordering apps except they have an infrastructure of delivery drivers and they pick up the order from the restaurant and deliver to the guest. Examples include UberEats, JustEat and DoorDash.

Advantages

  • Restaurants with in-house delivery can eliminate their delivery labour and insurance liabilities by transitioning to a delivery partnership
  • Restaurants without a delivery infrastructure can now deliver with a delivery partnership with no extra staff, labour or liabilities
  • Restaurants can benefit from the strong marketing efforts behind these apps and increase brand exposure, order turn, increase efficiencies and revenue

Innovations in technology, new techniques for cooking, and advances in preparing and delivering food for customers present exciting opportunities as we approach 2018. Bringing more efficiencies, and over-all opportunities to capture more margin and produce better service experiences has to be the focus.

Alex Fraser is VP Western Operations for The Fifteen Group. The above article was written with support from the company’s Vancouver and Toronto consulting teams. For more information, visit www.thefifteengroup.com

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