Tech Talk: ‘The Data Revolution Will Continue to Make Large Strides in the Coming Years’

CAKE is a Sysco company offering restaurant-specific technology solutions. The company mission is: “Technology is the key to improving the restaurant experience for both diners and restaurateurs.” CAKE’s platform was designed to seamlessly integrate front and back of house restaurant operations, allowing restaurant owners and operators to achieve unparalleled visibility into and control over their point of sale, table and waitlist management, menu pricing, guest preference tracking, reservation systems, inventory and payroll.

In this edition of Tech Talk,  CAKE CEO Mani Kulasooriya discusses POS efficiency, data,  mobile solutions and the importance of personalization through technology.

How does a POS increase efficiency and profits?

CAKE is a restaurant technology platform that brings all aspects of the restaurant ecosystem online. Our passion is to provide a fully-integrated restaurant experience that provides operators with connected solutions from seating and welcoming guests to taking tableside payments and tracking inventory. Our two flagship products are CAKE POS and CAKE Guest Manager.

Mani Kulasooriya

Unlike the standalone solutions that exist in today’s marketplace, CAKE’s combination of proprietary hardware and restaurant-specific software offers a simple, easy-to-use platform that solves for challenges in the restaurant business, ultimately leading to increased efficiencies and cost savings. CAKE’s POS system is specifically tailored to the needs of restaurants with easy-to-use functionality, including remote access via desktop or mobile.

Among the benefits of this system are increased speed of service and improved staff management. By having a system that allows staff to quickly and consistently enter orders and take payments within an integrated system, more customers can be served within that timeframe. This keeps lines moving as orders are taken and fulfilled quicker, helping to also decrease wait times for service and for tables. Additionally, POS system data can identify the busiest days and times, so owners can staff the restaurant accordingly and better manage scheduling and labor costs. POS systems can also serve as a clock-in system for employees, so all aspects of management are housed in one integrated system.

In what ways can restaurateurs get more from their POS?

By integrating a CAKE POS with CAKE’s Guest Manager, technology can become a game changer for restaurants owners trying to effectively manage their guests and provide the best dining experience possible. Where managing a large number of guests and parties of different sizes can be incredibly difficult, guest management systems use automation to remove the guessing game of wait times and enables restaurants to increase table turns and seat more people, without impacting the customer experience.

Improving efficiencies with guest management for quick, efficient and personalized service ultimately leads to an increase in revenue for restaurants, and decreases customer frustration that may come with inaccurate wait times.  

How important are mobile solutions for restaurants?

 Mobile solutions create a more streamlined experience, which can be illustrated by the impact of OrderPad integration by Inside the Box Café. In order to alleviate long lines, Inside the Box adopted CAKE’s mobile line-busting extension called CAKE OrderPad, which allows staff to take orders and customers to make payments directly from the mobile tablet, while still in line. In contrast to the antiquated pen and paper method, OrderPad orders directly feed into the main POS system and print tickets for the kitchen. This not only cuts down on the staff’s time, but also eliminates any confusion about the status of an order ticket. With this system in place, on a perfect day, people can pick up their order by the time they reach the front of the line to pay.

By implementing OrderPad, the restaurant was able to increase their total revenue during their peak hour (12-1pm) by more than 12 percent within only two weeks of implementation. On Mondays—which account for more than 25 percent of their weekly revenue—Inside The Box Café saw revenue increases of 32 percent. Additionally, POS users have the ability to access reports remotely. One of our operators from Florida shared that she was able to take her first vacation in years thanks to CAKE, since it was the first time she could step away from the restaurant and still keep an eye on operations.

 How tech savvy does a restaurateur need to be these days?

Integrated restaurant technology does the work on behalf of operators who can then make smart, data-based decisions without having to be tech savvy. Restaurant technology is becoming easier to use and integrate, so systems like the POS and Guest Manager can “talk” to one another. The data revolution will continue to make large strides in the coming years, giving restaurant operators access to even more information to make crucial decisions for their businesses.

What do you envision the restaurant of the future looking like?

 At CAKE, we envision a future where technology connects all aspects of the restaurant ecosystem and brings them online. 

As technology continues to grow and evolve, it is essential that restaurants adapt in stride with these industry changes in order to remain competitive. At CAKE, we envision a future where technology connects all aspects of the restaurant ecosystem and brings them online. This could mean the elimination of cards, cash, and splitting checks, the growth of mobile reservations and waitlists, and an improvement in menus catered to customers’ dining preferences. This will be a better future for restaurant owners and operators, as well as consumers.

Working to maximize efficiencies and profits, CAKE strives to improve the dining experience by creating an end-to-end flow within the restaurant where the focus remains on good product and quality service. Leveraging technology enables completely new ways for restaurants to talk to guests. For example, in the new future, guest profiles will be accessible directly through the POS, customers could order before they sit down to take the edge off of a wait, wait times will be accurately predicted and table turn predictions will be incredibly precise. Payment will be accepted via mobile and the check could be split at the table without waiting for the server to return.

How will technology make everyone feel like a regular through personalization?

CAKE’s technology helps increase personalization in the dining experience. Restaurants can use CAKE’s programs to create profiles of customers so staff can see their order history and make recommendations based off of their past preferences. The staff is also able to see a guest’s seating preference, if they are a top spender at a restaurant, or if they are a new customer.

The use of technology in this fashion allows more personal relationships to be built with customers. Our system keeps track of customer seating requests, what they have ordered in the past, and if they are repeat or new customers. This information allows servers to make informed recommendations about what the customer may want based on previous behaviors, such as a suggested wine for the table. CAKE’s Guest Manager is also a great communication tool. Customers can make a reservation and the restaurant is able to respond directly.

CAKE allows restaurants like The Painted Pony to keep track of customer preferences about what they like and where they like to sit. This personalization from technology can be illustrated by a testimonial from The Painted Pony Restaurant owner, who shared her direct experience of the Guest Manager messages. Customers have told The Painted Pony that when they receive a message that their table is ready, they feel important and frequently thank the business for the message. Many customers have asked The Painted Pony employees about CAKE, and taken an interest in how the system operates.

How does technology promote efficiency in hospitality?

Bundling systems that can speak to each other can streamline both front and back of house operations, something that is missing from other standalone solutions. In addition to improved efficiencies from the POS system with easy-to-use functionality, CAKE’s Guest Manager is the company’s other flagship product. Guest Manager enables a personalized, streamlined and efficient system for restaurants to interact with customers, including a predictive wait-time algorithm for better accuracy which leads to a higher retention of guests and the ability to track guest preferences, dining history and customer milestones. Restaurants also have the ability to look back over the course of a year to determine which days and times are busiest and make informed staffing decisions that in turn provide the best customer service possible. These CAKE POS and Guest Manager solutions can be purchased separately or as an integrated bundle.

With CAKE’s Guest Manager system, restaurant staff can access table statuses in real time without physically checking on tables and updating statuses manually. When a customer orders their food, the system is automatically updated so the host is informed about where customers are in their meal, which allows them to provide accurate wait times to other guests. This all happens behind the scenes, without being intrusive to the dining experience.

What trends are you seeing from diners in what they expect from technology and restaurants?

 Diners are expecting a more stream-lined dining experience that is tailored to their specific wants and needs. Customers – especially the 9-to-5 lunch crowd, don’t want to wait. For example, OrderPad technology allows staff to take orders and customers to make payments directly from the mobile tablet, which contributes to the ease and speed of transaction. According to Inside the Box Café’s owner, Cliff Barsi, “On a good day, people can pick up their order by the time they reach the front of the line to pay, something we were not able to do before.”

Additionally, customers are becoming increasingly expectant of wait systems that allow them to venture to a nearby bar or take a walk while waiting for their table, rather than waiting on site for their name to be called. Integrating text messages to alert customers of wait times helps drastically reduce restaurant walkaways because guests know exactly how long they must wait and do not have to remain close to the entrance.

Do you think restaurants not responding to this demand will lose customers?

To develop a competitive edge in the ever-growing restaurant industry and support the longevity of the business, it is crucial that independent restaurants adapt to new systems in order to operate more efficiently, understand their own strengths and weaknesses and build stronger relationships with customers. Over time, restaurants who neglect to respond to this demand will lack this competitive edge and may ultimately lose customers.

What are the advantages of increasing technology use in the hospitality industry?

Choosing an integrated POS system tailored to the restaurant vertical comes with several key advantages, and options do not necessarily have to be costly. Some of the specific advantages independent restaurant owners have experienced in making this change include better customer service, increased tips, increased speed of service, improved staff management, decreased paperwork and access to real-time information.

For example, some POS systems offer more than sales and revenue tracking, and include additional tools to further improve customer service through integration. By maintaining a database of customers through a restaurant industry-focused, integrated POS system, restaurants are more equipped to greet and build relationships with repeat customers, offer menu suggestions, change menu items based on their past purchases and create loyalty programs that drive repeated business.

Additionally, research has shown that people are more likely to leave a tip at a restaurant when they order on an order pad because of the direct interaction they have with the cashier. Studies have also shown that people are hesitant to leave cash tips on a table after they eat.

How are fears allayed regarding technology taking away from hospitality?

With increased use of technology in the hospitality industry, there are sometimes fears about a decreased connection between staff and customers. However, there are many ways that technology can enhance the human experience and personalization through guest profiles and preferences, and operators should take advantage of these opportunities for connection. For example, the use of OrderPad technology to take orders while customers wait in line may seem like it could lead to decreased connections. However, it is an opportunity for digital intimacy to lead meaningful interactions and conversations. The alternative is sourcing overwhelmed staff who are focused on operations to take these orders.

In what ways can independent restaurants, who might have less resources, use technology to their advantage?

In recent years, POS technology and solutions have come a long way in both quality and affordability, with some providers making the up-front investment minimal for the restaurant owners. Obstacles that independent restaurant owners may have previously encountered – including usability and high costs – have dissipated.

To support the longevity of the business, independent restaurants must adapt to new systems in order to improve efficiencies. An integrated POS system offers a competitive edge and streamlined efficiencies to independent restaurants that are still managing revenue through cash registers and bookkeeping. With significant usability improvements, POS systems are much easier for operators to learn and integrate into daily operations. 

At CAKE, we see technology as the key to enable completely new ways for restaurants to manage operations in a more efficient and cost effective way, while providing guests the best possible experience. We are also passionate about leveling the playing field for independent operators, providing them cost-friendly tools and technology that are currently only available to large chains. For example, we know that independents don’t have the time or budget to hire teams of people working behind the scenes to build individual guest profiles, so CAKE does that automatically.