When thinking about restaurant operations, and the great divide that once existed between front of house (FOH) and back of house (BOH), the first line of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Ballad of the East and West,” comes to mind:
“Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”
In their respective roles, FOH had their job to do with the dining public, and BOH had their culinary magic to create in the kitchen. Though dependent on one another to achieve their shared goals, both worked independently, only catching quick glimpses of each other during the mad rush of dinner and lunch hours. No one dared crossed that chasm until something went awry from a stampede of diners, leading to the inevitable slip-up, and the resulting finger pointing. When misunderstandings between the FOH and BOH would occur, the guests’ dining experience would suffer.
Today, that FOH/BOH separation no longer exists, or at least it doesn’t have to. According to a 2016 National Restaurant Association (NRA) report titled “Mapping the Restaurant Technology Landscape,” most operators agree that technology makes restaurants more productive. Yet, 32 percent of those surveyed considered their restaurant operations to be lagging when it comes to technology. Today, operators without integrated restaurant solutions between FOH and BOH, are coming up short. Those restaurants that do surge ahead are tapping the communication value inherent with a data-driven technology foundation. Why, one must ask, would an operator continue to keep teams siloed when so much cooperation, communication and information can be realized by using connected restaurant technology?
Integration requests from operators have been building for a few years. The reason why is not difficult to fathom; restaurants are the polestar of data, most of it surprisingly complex in structure. Restaurants amass an explosion of data, from the operational front, to back of house, and in the following categories, and then some:
- Customer data:customer contacts, loyalty program enrollment, dining frequency, customer preferences, average order amount
- Kitchen data:menu items, recipe data, cook times, and average cook times, plate-to-table times, items that have been 86’d
- Guest management information: reservations, wait times, turnaround times, peak traffic times, pickup and delivery times
- Staff data:scheduling, hours worked, training completed, labor costs
- Inventory management data:food tracking and management, average food waste
This data pours in by the minute, whether it is tracked or not. Operators who do track this tsunami of data insist upon having a dashboard that can display an integrated view of everything going on in the restaurant, simultaneously. That way, everyone from the host stand to the kitchen, remains informed. To keep restaurant staff updated, operators choose cutting-edge technology that connects their Point of Sale (POS) to their KDS, all the way through to the guest management system. This integrated technology can provide the following dashboard detail:
- A high-level operational overview – giving operators a bird’s eye visual, so choke holds can quickly be identified and immediately acted upon
- A view into kitchen operations – offering hosts and waitstaff access to order statuses, so diners can be apprised of any extended waits for tables or food
- A front of house view – giving kitchen staff immediate knowledge around the number of customers waiting to be seated, waiting for meals, and orders coming down the pipe
With the ability to push data points to and from a restaurant’s various implemented tools, operators can use this technology to keep all operational data visible to each employee. This effort helps employees work with each other in a more cooperative environment, and also improves customer satisfaction, which ultimately has direct impact on revenue.
In looking back at the NRA’s 2016 technology report, four out of five respondents also cited the use of technology in their restaurants as providing a competitive advantage. When restaurant leadership has a vision to improve the customer experience through technology, big things happen. Customer loyalty ushers in word-of-mouth advertising, which leads to quantifiable increases in the bottom line, resulting in a heftier bank balance for future expansion.
In today’s food industry, diners have endless options. As a result, low prices, a great meal, and ubiquitous advertising is not enough to capture dining loyalty. However, restaurants using connected technology to deliver a customer-centric experience can crank up the “wow” factor. The result: An expected dining experience can be transformed into an exceptional, and most memorable one.
With such an increased emphasis placed on guest experience today, seamless and integrated technology is the quickest path forward to exceptionalism in customer experience. When the entire restaurant is considered, from the kitchen to the floor, hosts don’t overbook, and orders don’t come out late, cold, or inaccurate. Gone are the days where servers are running to the back of the kitchen, yelling: “Where is my order for table #2?” And, chefs continually ring call bells to alert delayed servers that their food is ready. Waitstaff can simply check into whatever tool they are using to view order status from the kitchen, and chefs can access current guest status to determine potential delays on the floor.
Restaurant operations is indeed a joint effort. In the BOH, chefs give their heart and soul into churning out quality dishes in the shortest amount of time, all while fighting the kitchen’s heat. Over in the FOH, the wait staff juggles multiple table orders, using memories of an elephant, all while attending to the specific needs of “terrible two’s Tommy,” “loudmouth Larry,” and “uppity Ursula.” Yes, both are culinary heroes. By choosing the right technology tools, operators can forge camaraderie between the two by providing a data-driven lens into each other’s working world.
With off-premise dining at an all-time high, operators must have the right technology in place to handle everything from take-out and to-go orders, to third-party delivery. By connecting the FOH and BOH, everyone is on the same page. If online ordering and delivery platforms are integrated into a kitchen display system, the KDS can seamlessly send orders to the kitchen without having to manually enter the order into the POS. That saves valuable time with ensuring to-go and delivery orders are hot and fresh.
Additionally, the right guest management system, when integrated to a restaurant’s kitchen display system, will have customizable tabs with the ability to filter carryout and delivery orders to a take-out tab. This makes operation of a take-out station easy. From the take-out tab, a hostess or FOH staff running the take-out station can easily view order details without leaving the host stand to obtain kitchen updates. Likewise, integration also makes it possible for the kitchen staff to have insight into FOH metrics, like the number of parties seated or waiting in the lobby. This gives the chef and his team visibility into what is happening in the FOH. Integration between the guest management system and the KDS makes this all possible.
With seamless FOH and BOH integration, diners have a great dining experience, take-out and to-go orders roll out without a hitch, and all this data transparency helps employees remain cool, calm and collected in the most demanding dining hours. Operators who use integrated technology can say goodbye to ruffled employee feathers and hello to guest satisfaction.
About the Author:
Lee Leet is the CEO of QSR Automations and founded the company in 1996. ConnectSmart Kitchen, a kitchen automation solution, and DineTime, a guest management platform, have all been created by QSR.