In 2021, large and fast-growing restaurant brands must have well-defined and precise policies, procedures, processes, and systems in place to effectively manage their supply chains, monitor food safety and quality, ensure worker and workplace safety, and drive consistent location performance and compliance. Unlike the early days of restaurant operations, when manual processes and record keeping were enough, today’s leading restaurant chains rely on modern technology platforms and digital tools to execute their daily routines, and for monitoring, tracking and reporting on performance. Without these technology solutions, they face the risk of delivering a degraded customer experience and potentially incurring long-term damage to their brand reputation.
The use of technology is fairly ubiquitous across the restaurant industry today, but larger organizations must contend with many variables that smaller, regional chains don’t have to. For example, restaurant companies that own and operate multiple brands not only need to adhere to regulatory standards, but also they also must deal with complexities related to scaling, communicating, and executing on brand standards, guest experience, worker and workplace safety, food safety, supplier management, and product recalls. Adding to these complexities are evolving COVID-19-related health and safety requirements, which vary widely from state-to-state and even county-to-county.
As these larger restaurant companies manage operations and supply chains, scaling as they add new locations and integrate new brands into their portfolios, technology plays a key role in ensuring each location is providing consistent quality, safety and exceptional customer service. In turn, brands are rewarded with increased efficiency, and ultimately, a boost in profitability.
Technology Impact and ROI
Today, technology impacts fast-casual and quick-service restaurant chains across every facet of their supply chains and operations. However, when used in these five ways it provides the highest return on investment:
Supplier and Supply Chain management – For large restaurant chains, this includes all the people, systems, vendors, suppliers, and processes involved in designing, sourcing, producing, transporting, and serving food to guests. Software platforms can provide chains with the ability to streamline supplier management, automate the onboarding of new partners, and then monitor their performance to determine whether they’re meeting compliance mandates and their overall quality requirements. The ability to navigate the supply chain challenges due to COVID-19 highlights the importance of these platforms which allowed brands to find new suppliers or switch suppliers without major interruptions, forgoing the need to eliminate menu items as a result.
Supply chain traceability – Good supplier management is directly related to the ability to effectively manage the food supply chain in order to quickly resolve product quality incidents and execute product withdrawals and recalls. A well-designed recall plan and a software-driven recall process allows for the removal of products from distributors and restaurants as fast and efficiently as possible, which can protect your brand from liability, reputational harm and the potential for significant loss of revenues. New FDA regulations, such as the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Blueprint, will require innovative technology-driven solutions for traceability and recalls. As a result, there will be an accelerated movement towards creating data standards for exchanging Critical Tracking Events and Key Data Elements, which are required for record-keeping and will allow brands, and their web of suppliers and distributors, to improve food safety and act quickly when food safety issues do occur.
Digitizing operations – The trend towards digital transformation in restaurant operations is well underway and will become more pronounced in the years to come. Operational execution in and “above” the restaurant – at the enterprise level -- is imperative to ensure locations are executing with consistency, safety, and quality, and adhering to regulatory and brand standards. From location self-assessments to COVID-19 employee health checklists, technology platforms collect and analyze operational data to drive continuous improvement across every restaurant location. By digitally transforming operational routines, and by meticulously monitoring routines and addressing issues promptly, brands can achieve new levels of consistency, quality, and compliance.
Proactive and preventative – Today’s multi-brand organizations are turning to technology and innovation to become more proactive, versus reactive. Being proactive allows issues to be resolved in the preliminary stages, lessening their impact and their chances to escalate and expand. Ideally, preventative measures, processes, and procedures shouldn’t be limited to the organization itself: they should become intrinsic to the business’ entire supply chain ecosystem. This starts with selecting and working with qualified suppliers and the ingredients and products being sourced. Here, technology can play a role in operationalizing and scaling the ongoing evaluation, onboarding and management of tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers in a number of ways, including managing compliance with digital audits, inspections and certifications, and rapidly assessing and responding to food quality incidents.
Continuous innovation - Business leaders overseeing operations and quality management at the highest levels of multi-brand organizations recognize that innovation isn’t a singular event -- It must be ongoing. These leaders look well into the future to understand and predict where their organization needs to be next from a technology perspective in order to address changing market demands. In the fast casual and quick service restaurant sector, we’ve seen what the power of technology adoption and innovation can do, especially during COVID-19. For starters, it enables agility. During the pandemic, digital technology is being used by large, multi-brand organizations to quickly scale out entirely new consumer safety policies and procedures, in some cases on a global level. This in turn, allows them to engender more enduring brand trust and create a more exceptional experience for customers in the midst of an otherwise chaotic world, turning a negative (the pandemic) into a positive (trust).
There’s no doubt technology and innovation are changing the face of the restaurant industry. And the pace of digital transformation is only going to grow and expand in the years to come. As fast casual and quick service brands, both large and small, look ahead with hope to 2021, a single truth they can count on is this: technology will continue to be a key differentiator that allows them to tackle new challenges while delivering a consistent, high quality product that is critical to maintaining the best possible customer experience.
About the Author
Mitch Porche serves as president and CEO of CMX. His responsibilities include guiding the company’s strategy and growth and executing the company’s vision to become the leading provider of enterprise Quality Management Software (QMS) solutions. Under Mitch’s leadership, CMX has established itself as a technology pioneer, providing integrated SaaS solutions for operational excellence in retail food safety, supply chain management, and operations.