Overcoming technology adoption hurdles can save restaurants time and money

By Jason Wagenaar

Technology can help with many of the current challenges facing the restaurant industry, from staffing to inflation (the cost of goods and menu prices) to increased competition, and difficult-to-navigate supply chains. With nearly half of Ontario’s restaurants operating at a loss or just breaking even and profit margins shrinking, many restaurant owners tend to overlook how new technology can be used to minimize their expenses. Unfortunately, many ignore the tools that can save substantial time and money, believing instead that adopting technology is too expensive, or that the return on investment (ROI) of digitalization is not significant enough for long-term investment.

But, in an age where technology will continue to become increasingly significant, it’s important to identify and address key concerns that may be preventing the hospitality industry from moving forward.

Concerned about the cost

When faced with the idea of adopting new technology, many restaurateurs are cautious from the onset and it’s the cost that causes the hesitation. In order to better determine the viability of investing in new technology, assess the potential returns, taking both monetary return and time savings into consideration. One way to get an idea of the benefits is to test drive it at the restaurant. This allows you to really look at how technology affects your business, benchmark the results, and evaluate those results after a predetermined period of time.

For instance, in large chain concepts, some technology providers can offer restaurateurs a proof of concept (POC) which will evaluate brand standards and identify certain key performance indicators (KPI) across select locations. If the POC yields positive results, restaurateurs can rest assured that the technology will generate a positive ROI outweighing the cost of implementation and ongoing usage.

Concerned about replacing your team

Eating at a restaurant isn’t just about getting food – it’s about the relationships, the interactions, and the shared connection between those in hospitality and their guests. When customers dine in, they don’t just want to engage with each other but also with your staff, making the overall dining experience more enjoyable. This causes concerns for restaurant owners, as most do not want to install technology that could replace their human workforce and disrupt what customers look forward to when they visit.

Although technology can be used to replace some aspects of a human workforce, it is important to remember that innovation exists to complement your team, making them more efficient in their day-to-day workflows and streamlining processes.

Restaurateurs should look at technology as a means of increasing productivity, optimizing resources, and ensuring employee satisfaction, rather than as a way to replace staff. Systems like inventory or labour management, HR and applicant tracking systems (ATS), and learning management systems (LMS) are all designed to support restaurateurs.

Innovation allows business owners to save time on administrative efforts so they can spend more time on enhancing guest experiences and developing new business strategies to facilitate growth. Letting technology do the heavy lifting wherever possible means that valuable human talent can be better directed toward final reviews, implementing changes, and approvals.

Concerns about the learning curve

Getting up to speed with new technology can be a challenge and can be an impediment to restaurateurs adopting new systems. The key to overcoming this obstacle is for restaurateurs to first be conscious of these challenges, and to acknowledge that familiarization with a new process takes time. It is also important to remember that the adoption of technology starts at the leadership level. Whether it’s a single-unit restaurant or a multi-unit chain, leadership teams should implement proper processes for the gradual adoption of new technology, giving staff members the room to allocate time and effort to understand those tools.

Furthermore, it’s helpful for restaurateurs to communicate freely with the technical support staff during the early stages of implementation. While there are many online tools and resources available, many restaurateurs find one-to-one interactions best for personal, hands-on training to master a new tool.

It’s okay that you’re learning something new! Customer service staff can help you gain confidence in new technology adoption and provide instructor-led assistance through step-by-step training via phone or video conferencing. With touchpoints and clear timelines, technology providers can speed up the onboarding process, empowering restaurateurs to fully adopt new innovations resulting in significant business growth.

Embrace technology

Technology is a long-term ally, rather than a short-term enemy. As innovation continues to evolve, providing new ways to streamline operations, restaurants need to embrace this evolution, even though technology adoption may be daunting at the beginning.

Owners who achieve the best results are those who take the time to learn and use technology frequently, incorporating it into their day-to-day workflows as much as possible. When used properly, technology like labour management tools can result in optimized operations, higher efficiencies, and faster decision-making, ultimately meeting evolving customer needs. In an industry with such tight margins, technology can have a crucial effect on a restaurant’s long-term success.

Jason Wagenaar is VP, Business Development at Ameego by Humi, offering businesses a best-in-one HR and employee scheduling software solution, meeting their needs and ensuring continued scalability and growth.

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