You’ve probably encountered restaurant management software. For the uninitiated, restaurant management software is all of the tech in a business that improves efficiencies. From guest management software to kitchen display systems and even finding the right point of sale (POS), these are the digital tools that simplify life for staff and guests alike. Despite the difficulties we faced in 2020, new restaurants continue to open and existing restaurants have eyed coming back after facing bankruptcy. With vaccinations promising a better, more equitable tomorrow in many places around the world, the time is now to consider (or reconsider) your restaurant management software.
About a Restaurant Management Platform
1. What is a restaurant platform? A restaurant platform is a Swiss Army knife for your operation, a multi-tool that offers solutions for all of your tech needs.
2. Why would I need a platform? The pandemic has taught us that flexibility is critical. That lesson applies to a restaurant platform irrespective of the size of your operation. Whether you’re a large chain or a one location restaurant, having access to off-premise efficiency tools, contactless tech solutions, and more is invaluable.
3. The following are features and solutions you should seek in an operational platform.
In the past, kitchens worked by a paper ticket system, which was handwritten by the waitstaff and passed to the back-of-house (BOH) staff. That created multiple problems, including the legibility of the ticket, to the potential to lose it if it were dropped or to fall behind the workstation.
Modern restaurant tech centers around a kitchen display system (KDS). A KDS is a digital screen that relays information to your BOH, minimizing pain points by digitizing tickets. That means that waitstaff can digitally communicate with the BOH without losing the ticket itself. A robust KDS that includes features like:
● Order Views – This is how your BOH staff actually sees the information. Look for a KDS with customizable features that allow your staff to look both at the overall incoming orders and the items in particular so that they can prepare accordingly.
● Meal Coursing – A feature that ensures that all the orders on a guest ticket come out simultaneously. For example, if a table orders a chicken dish and a steak dish, the cook times are likely different. A good KDS will account for those differences, staggering their start times, so that orders go out fresh and together.
● Order Routing – For larger operations, you might have multiple stations. Order routing is a programmable feature customizable to each operation that allows you to send each order to the right station at the right time (think a fry station, grill, etc.).
● Tag-on-touch – With tag-on-touch, your staff can mark off each item from an order individually without inadvertently removing the whole order. This quality control tool lets your staff to avoid mispacks, and ensures that everything is satisfactorily completed before handing the order off.
● Bin management – Imagine a busy shift, and your crew is cooking along. Unfortunately, you run out of an ingredient at the wrong time, which puts everything behind. Bin management is a programmable feature that prompts staff to replenish high-volume items before running out.
● Recipe Viewer – A recipe viewer is a supplement to a great KDS. Recipe viewers show staff the proper way to prep orders. This is the perfect tool for training, and in fact can be programmed with phantom tickets —non-food-related orders— to remind staff to take on other tasks. For example, you might remind your BOH routine responsibilities like sanitation or other prep work.
In addition to these features, look for a KDS that provides data analytics. Using restaurant data, you can help streamline your operational efficiencies by employing historical data and staying a step ahead.
Capacity management provides critical real-time data to your front-and-back-of-house to balance incoming orders whether they are made on-premise or come in through off-premise ordering channels. With off-premise dining channels commanding much of the current market, it’s important to make sure that orders are processed and delivered without lags in time for either. Without capacity management, you run the risk of bottlenecks to service that results in slow order ready times, and angry customers
Waitlist & Seating Management
Where a KDS helps operational efficiencies in the BOH, waitlisting and seating management technology assists your front-of-house (FOH) in the same way. This tech should include the following efficiency tools:
● Reservation Management – As guests call in, this feature allows your host staff to quickly and efficiently manage reservations. Look for a platform that supports real-time metrics, so that you never keep your guests waiting.
● Waitlist Management – Just as above, good FOH tech provides waitlist management with real-time values. In doing so, you can tell your incoming guests what their wait will be, which was proven useful in 2020 as seating maximums were imposed in many places around the world. You can use this tool to limit your incoming foot traffic and remain safe as needed.
● Data Analytics – As with a rich KDS, data analytics are a valuable feature of any FOH technology. With this attribute, you can determine your average table turns, useful information when assessing needs like stock, staffing, and future efficiency measures and tailor guest experiences.
Bear in mind that limited capacity means limited availability. Waitlisting/seating management solves this. It also helps to organize your incoming traffic, even when situations are normal
Takeout and Delivery Optimization
As the pandemic presented unprecedented challenges to the restaurant industry, off-premise dining became an imperative opportunity for revenue. At this point, off-premise will remain an integral part of all business. Beyond that, evidence suggests that the shift to more off-premise dining channels will continue well beyond any pandemic-related maximums.
Imagine that your restaurant has a lot of incoming off-premise orders. Those orders may be for curbside pickup, takeout, or delivery. If they’re for delivery, those orders may go out from one of many third-party delivery services or perhaps from their own in-house delivery operation. Either way, an order aggregator ensures orders are organized and delivered accurately, that mispacks and returns are minimized, and that your guests are able to sit down satisfied with their meal.
Contactless dining trends gained traction over 2020, as a measure to ensure the safety of both guests and staff alike. Contactless dining technologies connect your guests with your staff by integrating with your existing or developing tech stack. Guests can utilize their smart devices to access:
● QR Codes – Incoming guests can use QR codes for a variety of functions. By employing one at the host stand or at the entry to the restaurant, guests can place themselves on a waitlist. At the table, guests can use QR codes to access the menu.
● Order Ready SMS – Once waitlists or orders are entered, your restaurant management software can give real-time metrics to alert guests when their table or food is ready.
● Order Ready Screens – An order ready screen is a stand-alone screen that lets guests know how far along their orders are. This tool gives guests the leisure and flexibility to react accordingly while freeing your staff to pursue other tasks. The goal of contactless tech is to mitigate risk, while maximizing freedom for your guests. While dining habits could change, it’s just as likely that mask culture may endure beyond the pandemic as it has already in many places around the world. Contactless tech taps into those concerns and girds your operation for future outbreaks while providing convenience measures for your guests.
Order optimization is a valuable asset for diners on the go. With order optimization, guests can pre-order their food before arrival by accessing your online ordering system. From there, an API connects to your front-and-back-of-house to communicate the order. Now, picture a guest with limited time, perhaps with family in tow. They arrive, sit down, place their drink orders with a server, and their food comes out at the same time. That creates convenience for your customers, while also increasing your table turns.
While you might not need to execute on every goal right now, a restaurant platform can help you when you do. With the right restaurant management software, you can increase table turns while minimizing pain points. Ideally, your restaurant management software will remain technologically agnostic. That means that you can build on your restaurant management software and change things out accordingly. Look for technology that plays well with others either through APIs or through the right partnerships.