Highlighting a few of the technology trends restaurateurs can expect next year
By Kavita Sabharwal
Restaurant technology is an ever-evolving game. Gone are the days when customers had to wait for their server to manually imprint their credit card onto carbon paper to pay for their meal. Instead, technology has advanced to the point where servers can take orders using a tablet, while diners can order food using an app that sends a receipt straight to their email address. So what new advances can restaurateurs expect in 2017?
Available at the touch of a button
“Both restaurant owners and diners will take greater advantage of the conveniences and benefits of wireless and mobility technology and online access,” says TouchBistro founder and chief executive officer Alex Barrotti. “More and more, diners are going online at home or on their mobile devices to look at menus and restaurant reviews, check out dining specials, or place reservations or meal orders before choosing where they want to eat. Restaurant owners are finding out it is less expensive, more flexible and easier to implement mobile/wireless technologies to run their business in a more efficient, profitable manner.”
Smaller restaurants require flexibility
For owners of smaller, mom-and-pop restaurants, it may be harder to keep up with evolving restaurant technology, but Barrotti says the key is finding something that helps run a business while remaining flexible.
“Whether the restaurant is a new start-up or one that needs a better system to improve their operations, it is important the technology they purchase can be right-sized for their operation and can grow as their business grows, without hefty upgrade, installation and custom programming costs,” he warns. “Since great new features and technology are evolving so rapidly, they should choose technology that is regularly updated for no additional charge with the latest innovations and best functionality. Ideally, the technology they choose can be integrated with other major programs they might use, like accounting, scheduling or their payment processor.”
Barrotti warns restaurateurs to stay away from one thing: proprietary single-purpose hardware, as it locks users into a closed eco-system. This inflexibility could ultimately spell a loss of revenue by trying to keep up with technology trends as they progress.
“As manpower is usually at a premium in small restaurants, [restaurateurs] should also look at the technology itself to see how easy it is to use, so the training curve for management and staff is short and easy,” Barrotti adds. “And they should look for technology that is available without heavy upfront costs. They want off-the-shelf hardware, such as tablets, that are affordable and don’t require costly installation, custom programming fees, or pricey long term contracts.”
Delivery services mean free marketing
As a restaurant owner that takes full advantage of food delivery services like Uber Eats and Foodora, Kanpai Snack Bar owner Trevor Lui believes the cost for this technology is worth it, especially to increase his marketing reach without additional expenses in that category.
“We call [using delivery services] found money. It’s an automatic increase in gross revenue on top of our restaurant’s revenue,” he says. “We don’t add anything to our bottom line or have extra expenses to operate take out. There’s a cost to use Uber but that is still ancillary revenue we add on to our weekly sales. Uber allows us to market to a database that they already own. It would take us forever to reach out to those people since Uber is global, not regional. If you’re an Uber user from New York City travelling to Toronto, you can order from us but I’m not doing any extra work to market to you.”
Another potential pitfall smaller restaurants must consider is lacking manpower. For Lui, welcoming food delivery services to his kitchen meant he would have to make some back-of-house changes.
“I don’t think it’s for everyone. There are certainly some adjustments you have to make along the way. It does change the way you operate your business,” he says. “We believe that the net on our revenue for takeout with aggregators is not ideal but it’s still profitable. It’s twofold: getting food out to a larger crowd without having to work harder at it and that marketing strength; we really like it.”
Going forward, expect more food delivery services to join the share in large cities. Although restaurant technology trends continue to emerge, Lui believes delivery services are, at least, the start of the new normal.
“We live in a society where, especially in a big city, people are built on the practices of convenience. If I’m standing on the street and I can order food off my phone in five touches, walk to my condo and the driver will be there waiting for me, there’s a level of convenience there,” he says. “For us, it’s being able to accommodate the need for convenience. Some people may not like it, but we believe it’s the way of the future.”
Kavita Sabharwal is the online editor of RestoBiz.