In the restaurant industry, efficiency has always been a driving factor. Whether it be alacrity of turning tables or keeping lines at the counter or a drive-thru swift and short, productivity equals higher sales. With a direct ROI, it is little wonder that 29% of restaurants identify increasing efficiency and productivity as a top strategic goal for technology investments, according to Hospitality Technology’s 2019 Restaurant Technology Study. This follows restaurants’ other top two goals to improve data & analytics and enhance digital engagement.
Digital tools will be one piece to solving the efficiency puzzle, but restaurants must consider both operations and workflows in order for solutions to have impact. These results include not only the desired increase in table turns and throughput but also an increase in customer and employee satisfaction as well.
Optimizing Service with Mobility
Restaurant are leveraging mobile technologies throughout the guest experience from the ordering process to alerting employees that guests are on-site for a pickup, and for payment. One example of a mobile strategy easing guest frustration is the Dine-in Mobile Ordering function offered at Chick-fil-A that combines the convenience of mobile ordering with hospitality and service. Customers order through the Chik-fil-A app and select the Dine-in option. Guests then tap their smartphone on the table numbers that are enabled with near-field communication (NFC), so the server knows where to bring the food.
“In addition to NFC, being able to identify a curbside pickup order using beacons is becoming very popular,” Skip Kimpel, CIO, 4R Restaurant Group, says. “The goal is to be able to find the guest regardless of where they park. We are finding that third party delivery companies are taking up all the curbside pickup spaces, leaving the guest stranded. Beacon technology resolves that issue and is very effective.”
One restaurant client of George Orlin, COO, Intelligent Transactions Ltd., a franchisor of a 1000+ unit full-service chain, agrees that beacons are enabling effectiveness. “The most important use case for mobile technologies regarding improving the operations dynamic of online ordering is providing the guests (or drivers) with the ability to let us know when they have arrived at the restaurant, either manually or automatically through utilizing beacon-type solutions,” the operator says. “This allows operators to more effectively greet them and provide them with the correct order quickly.”
In full-service establishments, ubiquitous mobility is driving guests’ expectation and demand to be able to pay and order how and when they want. According to Hospitality Technology’s 2019 Customer Engagement Technology Study, 36% of guests will actually choose a restaurant if they have the ability to order and pay tableside. This will drive convenience and satisfaction by reducing friction points, however, this will not be the case if guests then must still wait for a receipt. Mobile printers or solutions that will allow for receipts to print at the nearest printer can solve this issue. Epson mPOS printers allow servers to print to nearest desktop printer - or even from a mobile belt clip printer.
Epson advises operators to consider the importance of integrations between the POS, kitchen display systems and printers. A key component according to Epson is for systems to offer the functionality and flexibility needed to support POS applications as they become available on the market, so that our customers can streamline essential operations and, in turn, better engage with their own customers.
“One of the most impactful solutions for our throughput, both at order entry and in the kitchen, has been server tablets,” says a franchisor of a 1000+ unit full-service chain. “Server tablets has allowed our crew to be able to get order items into the kitchen quicker and more accurately (since they are in front of the guest), and in a more streamlined manner. Of course, for this to work as expected, we look for our technology partners to be eager and willing to integrate with the other technology solutions in our restaurants to allow the end-to-end accelerated process to occur properly.”
Maximizing Employee Productivity and Efficiency
Tight labor market, retaining employees is key. Cost margins are getting increasingly tight as wages rise and the talent pool shrinks. The 2019 Hospitality and Food Service Wage Inflation Survey, released by Harri, reports that 64% of operators reduced employee hours and 43% of operators eliminated jobs because of labor cost increases. Therefore, maximizing employee effectiveness is key to growing the bottom line and saving on labor costs for hospitality.
According to Hospitality Technology’s 2019 Restaurant Technology Study, 42% of restaurants plan to invest in technology to assist employees in serving guests. The report also reveals that 21% of restaurants have made automating services and operations a key component of innovation strategies. Providing guests with options to self-order and pay will not only help to reduce checkout times, but also increase accuracy, as the responsibility for submitting orders correctly is shifted to the guest.
One franchisor of a 2000+ unit QSR chain, working with Orlin, admits keen interest in taking advantage of devices in guests’ hands.
“As we consider self-service capabilities in our restaurants, we are looking at ways to allow our guests to engage with us digitally through their smartphone for ordering, payment, surveys and more,” he states.
Don’t Let Online Ordering Derail Productivity
More than half of restaurants (51%) report that subsequent POS purchases will be driven by the need to address online ordering, according to HT’s 2020 POS Software Trends Report. As the off-premise market continues to grow, restaurants must have strong BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store) strategies in place to make sure that operations can serve customers while not creating untenable workloads and workflows for employees.
Operational efficiency can be challenging with online ordering, especially when online orders start popping up during peak on-premise busy times, according to a full-service restaurant franchisee with 100+ locations.
“When online ordering was first introduced, it caused our kitchens to get overwhelmed and swamped with orders during these peak times, which hurt the experience for both our on-premise and off-premise guests,” he says. “We’ve since implemented capacity management solutions to help manage the flow of orders into the restaurant, which has helped greatly.”
Kimpel similarly admits that originally, online ordering overloaded the 4R POS system and became more of a hindrance than a benefit.
“Once working with operations, things like firing time and order size considerations were put into place to make sure that the incoming orders aligned with how our kitchens work operationally and eventually making for a better guest experience and less stress within the four walls,” Kimpel says. “Integration into the POS, obviously, is a necessity to make this whole process as efficient as possible.”
Insiders at Epson agree integration and system compatibility is key for merchants to future-proof systems. In the case of online orders, Epson printers are compatible with numerous POS ISVs, which include online ordering capabilities and can support online ordering services without having to integrate to the existing POS Software to make sure that orders can stream to a single printer. Epson advises operators to make sure they understand all of the online ordering options for their customers and choose hardware that gives them flexibility. All of these components are vital to future-proof systems and POS investments so restaurants do not need to buy separate components or worry about connectivity issues in a few years.
The full-service franchisor with 1000+ locations agrees that online ordering was a critical motivator for his company to reconsider the role of POS in its restaurant environment. “Up to this point, the POS has been the central nervous system for our operations, but with the advent of new digital channels and online ordering, we realized that our technology reaches far beyond the four walls of our restaurant,” he says. “As a result, we have been exploring technology strategies that include POS, but don’t rely on it as a foundation.”