In the restaurant industry, there’s an innovation for just about everything you can think of. From managing wait lists, to selling lunchtime leftovers, to gamifying the dining experience, we’re at the point where you might find yourself saying, “Of course, there’s an app for that.”
That said, not all restaurant tech is created equal or should take top priority. In this post, we’ll look at five emerging restaurant technologies you should keep your eye on this year.
1. Portable Payments
While mobile payments like Apple Pay and Google Wallet were all the rage in trend reports last year, this year it’s all about bringing the payment to the guest. This all harkens back to the “boutique” model that many businesses and restaurants are moving back to. It’s a model that prioritizes the guest’s personalized experience and focuses on a server’s ability to romance the patrons, even during traditionally banal parts of the dining experience like payment processing.
2. One-for-All Technology
Wait list apps, customer engagement, scheduling apps, inventory management tools … the list goes on … food pick up, food delivery, food donation … and on. All this tech is great, but it’s a whole lot to juggle and eventually one of those balls is going to drop. In other words, more technology, more problems. When systems don’t speak the same language, restaurants end up with siloed processes, and all the data these apps collect becomes fragmented and unmatched, and therefore, unusable. The ability to report, make sense of and understand trends is compromised.
This is why best-in-class tech companies are looking to centralize these various technologies by transforming their offerings to be the linchpin of activity. What better place than the heart of a company’s operations and sales data: its POS.
Take TouchBistro for example. TouchBistro uses what are commonly known as APIs in order to integrate subsequent devices and their information into the POS environment. An API, or Application Program Interface, might sound technical, but it works quite simply: It’s a connector that allows software like TouchBistro to seamlessly integrate with other technologies like inventory management, accounting solutions, and reservation management software. By integrating all of this tech into a single solution, sales data, customer behavior, and trends are more efficiently tracked, reported on and projected. Not to mention, it’s much simpler to manage and work out of one app than ten!
3. Self-Ordering: Kiosks and Table Side Tablets
With the proliferation of quick-service restaurants and delivery and take out apps, it only makes sense that we’d begin to see self-ordering emerge as a tech trend. Take-out and pick-up apps are abounding, and they’re making businesses money, not just because they’re making food more accessible but because they’re automating the upsell. When restaurants give customers themselves the option on a screen to make modifications and enhancements and choose add ons, they’re actually doing it…and those little customizations are adding up. According to the Harvard Business Review, Taco Bell announced that, “orders made via their new digital app are 20% pricier than those taken by human cashiers, largely because people select additional ingredients.”
The newest manifestation of the self-order is the kiosk. We’ve already seen self-serve kiosks pop up in chains like McDonald’s and Panera Bread and we’re beginning to see self-service tablet kiosks on restaurant tables. The consumer preference would indicate that this self-service, DIY ordering is not going anywhere. It’s been reported that 71 percent of 18-34 year olds prefer to order for themselves from a tableside tablet. Not only is bill splitting easy, but there’s less chance of error, customers can pay up when they want to, and they don’t have to wait for a server to come to the table—a perfect solution for a time-sensitive lunch.
4. Wearable Tech
Right alongside the tableside tablet movement is the push towards wearable tech, which is about more than just counting steps. Smart, wearable hospitality technology notifies servers when someone has come through the front doors, when they’ve been sat or when an order is ready for delivery. When connected to tableside tablets, guests can make requests to their server even when they’re not right at the table. Wearable tech presents a happy medium of technology and in-person service, where servers aren’t replaced by a kiosk.
It’s having major impacts on internal communications as well. In a busy, big venue, wearable tech can act as an inter-restaurant messaging system, where management can alert all staff of important notes, like 86-ing a certain item or a spur of the moment feature dish, without having to call halt on a busy night or chase staff down individually. The best thing is: servers can glance at wearable tech without seeming rude by whipping out their cell phone at a table.
5. Real-Time Data Automation
Data automation is the next frontier for restaurants. With a combination of live numbers, historical data and reporting mechanisms that automatically populate and trend data, restaurateurs and managers can make better, faster decisions in all aspects of their restaurant from ordering produce, to scheduling, to projecting revenues and making upgrades.
Take inventory for example. Coming into the restaurant two hours early on a Sunday morning to count bottles, inventory boxes, and take stock is no picnic. Now inventory levels can be automated from the start, with low-level alerts and notifications to re-stock.
As Maggie Crowley, the product manager at BevSpot said, “At the end of the day, all of this technology aims to give users time back in their day, so they can focus on doing what they love: providing a great experience to their guests.”
No person or process or fridge in the restaurant industry has been left untouched by today’s advancements in technology. The good thing for restaurants is that they’re relatively small cost investments with huge efficiency, productivity, and cost saving results. The challenge to restaurants is not adopting all restaurant tech, but rather prioritizing the tech to implement first.
About the Author: Taylor Moore is a Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro who writes about food trends, restaurant best practices, and tech innovations for the foodservice industry. She never says no to dessert and is on a life-long hunt for the best cheeseburger in the world.