Digital transformation is no longer optional – it is required for restaurants to remain up to date, save costs and retain customers. Despite the importance of digital transformation, many restaurant owners are reluctant to adapt. The resistance to adoption can be attributed to several factors. Small-medium sized business owners may not fully grasp how important technology is due to a lack of knowledge and experience. Additionally, there is the fear of change. There is a comfortability in having total control and keeping old school ways. Fearing change is not uncommon but overcoming it is key. Even if just one team member understands the benefits of digital transformation, it is up to them to educate the team and get everyone on board.
Historically, the restaurant industry has been laggards when it comes to adopting technology. Owners remain grounded in traditional ways of doing business – you have front-of-house staff taking care of the customer from service to payment, and you have back-of-house staff taking care of the food and management. The problem is staff have been disappearing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and they’re not returning. At least not entirely.
Digital transformation, while perhaps initially difficult for restaurant owners, specifically small to medium-sized businesses, is the only way to get ahead and survive. With so many options on the market, determining which tech is the right fit can seem daunting. It can be especially confusing if the restaurant is smaller and do not have the funds to hire a long-term designated technology professional.
When determining what tech is the best fit for your restaurant be realistic about your budget and the goals you are trying to achieve. For example, those struggling to find labor due to the ongoing labor shortage should consider self-ordering kiosks, as they can easily replace the cashier. On top of the labor shortage, proposed legislation calling for an increase in minimum wage and paying employees for last-minute scheduling changes or overtime work may make it harder for small- to medium-sized businesses to afford to retain employees.
If lack of labor is a restaurant’s main issue, it’s imperative to find ways to automate to streamline ordering and cut down on long wait times. Making the ordering process as smooth as possible will improve customer experience and create reliability resulting in repeat customers. Research and seek out solutions that will best fit your needs – without doing so it will become increasingly difficult to keep your restaurant afloat.
Assessing Your Budget
Budget, too, is important to consider. Some solutions on the market require you to rip out existing hardware and software and work exclusively with one service provider. Others are like layers, and can be added on top of other solutions, which can be much more cost-effective. Integrating into an existing solution also makes the change much easier to navigate. Additionally, solutions can range in price from only a few thousand dollars, up to tens of thousands, but just because it’s more expensive, doesn’t mean it’s better. Do your homework and identify which solutions meet your needs and budget.
In addition to the overall technology, research the types of warranties and services your provider offers. Do you have room in your budget to hire a full-time IT specialist? With small- to medium-sized businesses, there isn’t always a high enough budget to have a technology expert on staff. Leaving it up to managers or owners can be daunting if they don’t quite understand restaurant technology and how to optimize it. Assess your budget and decide what is best for your business. If an IT specialist is out of scope, consider taking on a tech solution that offers trustworthy 24/7 support. This will remove the need for an IT specialist while still allowing help when needed in a cost-effective way.
Pilot the Technology
Before committing, work with the chosen provider to pilot the technology. Implement the tech and see how it goes for a few months before ultimately making a decision on which is the right fit for your business. Make sure the technology you’re investing in is helping you solve your problems. Are you struggling to fill roles in the front-of-house? Back-of-house? Companies are investing millions of dollars into technology that will forever change the way restaurants are run. Self-ordering technologies are easing the burden on the cashier, while robotic arms are making it easier on chefs in the kitchen. Piloting the technology lets you know you’re investing in the right kind of help.
Connect with providers and work to fully understand your options. Work with teams to make educated decisions. Don’t be afraid to connect with various organizations until you find what is worth taking on. Putting in the effort and making clear decisions will result in substantial long-term gains.