By Rich Quintyn
In all corners of our current economy, technological advances are bringing about more seamless experiences and increased levels of productivity. Many former challenges of geography, transportation and business have been reduced or eliminated as our society pushes forward new innovations.
The restaurant industry is no different, with technology having a significant impact on businesses in recent years. Apps that facilitate delivery such as UberEATS, ordering a meal ahead of time with Ritual, or placing a reservation through Resy have become widespread. With that being said, there still exists a large opportunity for chain restaurants to utilize technology to improve their back of house functions.
Current and upcoming advances in technology will enable chain restaurants to operate in a more decentralized manner. Greater knowledge of consumer preferences, increased operating efficiencies and advances in automation will allow for more data-driven decisions at the unit level.
Having detailed knowledge of consumer preferences can have a profound impact on the way a business targets potential customers. A fresh example is the recent merger of the PC Points and Shoppers Optimum loyalty programs. With the combined program, Loblaws and their affiliates will have access to the purchasing habits of customers across retail segments and be able to send highly targeted offers regardless of where or what was actually purchased.
While chains may not have access to a similar dataset, third-party systems such as Foodora, EAT24 and DoorDash can help to identify the origins and timing of orders. Using even cursory data from these channels (as the most valuable details will be held by the application’s owner), operators can begin to draw conclusions on things such as their most popular digital channels for orders, peak ordering times and most requested items. With this knowledge, managers can ensure that things such as staffing, inventory and equipment are sufficient to meet this “unseen demand”. Where previously these insights may have only been available periodically and from corporate teams, individual units have become rich hubs of data.
As a chain scales from a few locations to many, operating in a highly effective manner becomes the name of the game. Established industry leaders have already mastered operating at scale, while progressive chains are often looking to develop these same efficiencies much earlier in their development. This is accomplished by bringing technology downstream to where it can be most impactful.
At the unit level, a restaurant manager now has the ability to make changes to the staff schedule, ensure the completion of opening and closing tasks and view the results of the most recent assessment, all from a mobile device! No dedicated IT team or extended development times needed. Coupled with integration-friendly options for POS and the average restaurant location can collect, view and act on data that formerly was only available at the corporate level. As competition increases across the industry, being able to make informed decisions closer to the frontline can be a valuable edge.
The pace of innovation in industries such as manufacturing, transportation and finance, have in many ways contributed to recent technological advances in the restaurant world. As efficiencies are achieved in neighbouring industries, hospitality has often come under pressure to keep pace. Automation is one area that could provide restaurants with the greatest opportunity to increase their competitiveness.
We’re beginning to see this movement towards automation play out, starting at the top of the supply chain. The agriculture sector has begun to deploy more advanced machinery that can replace the work of people, as labour becomes scarce and our population ages. The same tech being used to make driverless cars a reality, will soon be powering vehicles for commercial uses, with Tesla expected to roll out their semi-truck in 2019. And the coming years will bring advanced payment kiosks that can identify customers using facial recognition and customize menus to their preference.
As these advances work themselves into restaurants, it reduces the need large corporate teams dedicated to supply chain management, logistics or training, as automation could handle many routine decisions. This would allow operators to run units with less administration and a greater focus on the customer experience.
Technology seems poised to bring the restaurant experience into a new age. More so than past developments, current forces of change are so widespread that no industry should feel immune. For chain operators, the potential for increased operating efficiencies and business insights have never been this great. As consumer preferences and demographics shift, chains will need to embrace technology that will drive smarter decisions and experiences at a local level.
About the author:
Rich Quintyn is an associate at MeazureUp, a multi-unit technology company based in Toronto. Their proprietary software allows organizations to gather field insights and view detailed analytics to improve their operational performance. Current customers include The Keg Steakhouse & Bar, The Burger’s Priest and Nando’s. You can learn more about MeazureUp by visiting their website, LinkedIn or Facebook. Rich can be reached by email, LinkedIn, Twitter or on Medium.