Restaurateurs embrace technology ahead of a looming recession

By Mo Chaar

The challenges for Canadian restaurateurs from the last few years continue as we face a possible recession. Inflation has increased costs across the board, placing financial pressure on restaurant guests and operators alike. As a result, restaurateurs face heightened pressures of meeting customer expectations, finding labour, implementing cost-effective ways to meet changing customer needs, and standing out in the crowded marketplace.

Despite economic headwinds, restaurants are now better equipped than ever to overcome these obstacles. This adversity also presents an opportunity for businesses to evolve and recession-proof their operations.

To meet the ever-changing demands of today’s customers, restaurant owners must prioritize investments in integrated technology. By implementing cutting-edge technology, restaurants can deliver exceptional customer service and uphold guest satisfaction, cementing their reputation as top-tier dining destinations.

A pinch of loyalty

As consumers become more discerning with their dining choices and spending, restaurants with a strong sense of community will hold a competitive edge in generating steady revenue. With the cost of dining out rising in Canada this year, customer loyalty has never been more important. Loyalty points can help diners offset costs, while also helping restaurants keep their regular clientele coming back.

By implementing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software linked to a loyalty program, restaurants can monitor customer preferences, orders, and feedback. Investing in an omnichannel POS platform will help brands not only capture the right data, but also provide solutions to analyze that data and leverage it for highly targeted marketing campaigns.

With the right system, restaurant owners have the data they need at their fingertips, including buying trends and customer demographics, which can help operators build a loyalty program that will entice customers to return. Loyalty programs allow restaurants to provide data-driven incentive messaging based on past purchases, reward redemptions, and more. It’s important to keep track of top guests and ensure promotions are being crafted to keep them interested in coming back. This tactic has proved worthwhile in the past few years and it’s just as important now in uncertain economic times.

For restaurants looking to expand their customer base beyond their loyal customers, a great way to do this is to leverage third-party delivery apps or offer delivery services. Additionally, curbside pickup offers convenience for patrons and can help reduce wait times and increase revenue streams.

Rising prices and shrinking wallets

In 2022, restaurant revenues rebounded as the worst effects of the pandemic waned. Nevertheless, the cost increases and possible recession present obstacles that restaurateurs can address by harnessing technology to stay competitive.

Inventory management systems can aid restaurants in streamlining supply chains, minimizing waste, and cutting down on food expenses by tracking inventory down to the ingredient level.

Additionally, restaurants can use data analytics to examine customer behaviour and preferences. By doing so, they can make well-informed decisions about menu offerings, pricing, sales forecasting, and reducing food waste. Using a combination of AI and data, restaurants can offer lower-cost, higher-margin items to offset decreased consumer spending.

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Smart menus, smarter service

With today’s labour shortages, running a successful restaurant necessitates flexibility and creativity. While replacing workers with tech is not the perfect solution, restaurants can minimize the need for human interaction by implementing smart technology such as digital ordering systems and mobile scan-to-order. Online ordering channels and POS systems can also be integrated to direct orders straight to production, reducing the need for manual order taking.

Additionally, intelligent scheduling software can help restaurants optimize staffing schedules, lower labour costs, and ensure sufficient peak-hour coverage. Kitchen Display Systems can coordinate cook times and standardize cooking instructions, allowing operators to maintain quality, even with less experienced kitchen staff.

Quick-service restaurants can take their efficiency efforts to the next level by introducing self-service kiosks to expedite orders, decrease wait times, and enhance overall efficiency while improving customer satisfaction and limiting labour.

Food for thought: dining in 2023

Many restaurateurs have already adopted new technologies to simplify the ordering process, combat staffing shortages, and mitigate the impact of inflation, leading to an improved experience for both staff and customers.

While accurately predicting the future is impossible, there are many reasons to be optimistic about what the coming months hold for the restaurant industry, despite an uncertain economic outlook. Restaurant owners with a solid strategy in place will meet diners’ expectations while maintaining quality and customer service.

With a continued investment in tech to streamline operations and eliminate unnecessary costs, restaurants will be able to navigate a potential recession and continue to provide exceptional dining experiences to their guests.

Mo Chaar is the Chief Commercial Officer of Givex, where he oversees commercial strategy and development worldwide, including the development of GivexPay, as well as managing sales teams within North America.