The pandemic of 2020 has forever changed the restaurant industry. Read here to find out how your restaurant is impacted in The Next Normal.
Restaurant Equipment Needs in the New World: Technology Stack
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Today’s restaurant operator has never had so many technology tools at their disposal to help them streamline front-of-house and back-of-house operations.
Nearly every facet of the restaurant industry has been inundated by VC-backed technology companies that are reimagining the ways operators run their business - from point-of-sale (POS) to self-pour draft systems, 3rd party online ordering integrations to employee scheduling, and food cost management to repairs and maintenance.
The restaurant of today is fueled by technology that drives efficiency.
Better Food Ventures published the 2019 Restaurant Tech Ecosystem report which truly captures the innovation in restaurant technology.
There is a clear shift in focus to streamlining back-of-house operations instead of systems solely created for the front-of-house.
In the wake of COVID-19, restaurants are running leaner than ever.
Tighter budgets and drastic changes to team structures have either left operators scrambling to invest in technology solutions or doubling down on the technology they’ve already invested in.
One thing is clear - operators that are making sense and success of the next normal of the restaurant industry are turning to restaurant technology tools to help them meet customer demands, operate safely and efficiently, and survive.
We sat down with some of the leaders in the restaurant technology field to learn more about how their offerings have changed since the pandemic and what makes their tools more essential than ever.
Looking at Restaurant Technology with Industry Leaders
John Enny, Director of Marketing
xtraCHEF is a financial and operational management platform built for restaurants. Restaurants of all sizes use xtraCHEF to fuel productivity, make more informed purchasing decisions, and use food cost management reporting and analytics to shave percentage points off their prime costs.
- What problem does xtraCHEF help restaurant operators solve? How has this changed since COVID-19?
Prior to COVID, operators had two levers they could pull to control costs: food costs and labor costs. As dine-in opportunities continue to be limited and takeout is emphasized, restaurant operators have less flexibility to optimize profitability with the labor lever.
- How has xtraCHEF’s technology changed (or not changed) in the wake of COVID-19?
Like our customers, xtraCHEF has been pushed to adapt to this new reality. We recognized that cash flow would be an issue across the restaurant industry, so we developed and released xtraCASH, a free food cost management software tool. We partnered with Buyers Edge Platform to offer manufacturer rebates that xtraCASH customers could opt in to earn without paying anything up front. Food cost management is more critical than ever, and xtraCASH can literally put money back in operators’ pockets.
We also made enhancements to our core platform to support product mix reports, operating statements, and waste tracking, as well as offering visibility into recipe-level profitability variances.
We also developed Sync, a free Toast and QuickBooks integration. Toast customers can send their daily sales data directly to QuickBooks, which helps them reduce time spent on creating journal entries manually and eliminates the need to pay for another solution to do the task.
- Why is your restaurant technology solution more essential than ever?
There are two key points that every restaurant operator understands right now:
#1 - Automation is essential.
Restaurants must reduce touchpoints for customers, but they must also reduce touchpoints for their staff! Automating as much as possible is vital to reduce manual tasks that require physical contact.
Just by automating the accounts payable (AP) process, restaurants no longer need to worry about dirty invoices being passed from hand to hand and then stored for years in musty boxes. Cloud-based AP automation means that anyone reviewing invoices can do it from the comfort and safety of their own home.
#2 - Every dollar counts.
COVID continues to create unstable operating circumstances, and it’s anyone’s guess when things can go back to normal. But xtraCHEF gives more control back to operators, unlocking data related directly to operating costs and making it easy for them to understand and interpret areas of improvement.
Stacey Arenson, Director of Marketing
- What problem does Chowly help restaurant operators solve? How has this changed since COVID-19?
In normal times, our mission is to simplify technology for restaurants. A major part of this is by helping brands expand and maintain their off-premise strategies. In the midst of COVID, restaurants were forced to survive primarily through off-premise channels such as carry-out and delivery, so although our role has intensified, our mission remains the same.
- How has Chowly’s technology changed (or not changed) in the wake of COVID-19?
The reality is the restaurant industry was already headed towards a digital-centric space, but COVID catapulted us there.
The pandemic made it clear that restaurants need to rely on technology to keep their businesses running. While restaurant technology is always evolving, what really stood out was the way food tech companies came together to support restaurants. The entire ecosystem put restaurants at the forefront to ensure all their needs were met.
Learn more about building your restaurant’s off-premise strategy with Chowly.
- Why is your tech solution more essential than ever?
With Chowly’s tech solution, you can scale your restaurant’s off-premise strategy without making sacrifices to your existing operations. Our infrastructure allows your restaurant to take advantage of multiple revenue streams to grow your business all while connecting to your existing POS system. It’s that simple.
Justin Holmes, VP Growth
- What problem does 7shifts help restaurant operators solve? How has this changed since COVID-19?
At 7shifts we simplify labor management for restaurants. Complexities of scheduling have increased as a result of the pandemic and scheduling changes are more rapid and more complicated than ever. Operators need to communicate with their staff easily, create schedules effortlessly, and forecast sales so they can manage labor appropriately. Our technology is designed to be easy to use - every employee has the free app and teams can communicate with each other seamlessly. When restaurant operators integrate their POS data with our technology, they can generate 1-3% in labor savings.
- How has 7shifts’s technology changed (or not changed) in the wake of COVID-19?
When the pandemic hit, we saw the immediate need to build employee health checks into our platform. With 7shifts, restaurant operators and employees can be super clear on their health check process without the need for a paper trail.
Unlike a lot of other scheduling technology, 7shifts is 100% focused on the restaurant industry. We know what features are relevant to restaurant scheduling and easily incorporate customer feedback to benefit all our subscribers. We’ve seen an increased demand around streamlining critical tasks, like cleaning, sanitization, and restaurant employee health checks. We’ve taken this feedback and enhanced task management functionality in our software - 7tasks keeps teams accountable while saving time.
Use the labor savings calculator to see how much you could save with 7shifts.
- Why is your tech solution more essential than ever?
The complexities of managing a restaurant are as high as they’ve ever been. Our goal is to simplify the critical task of employee scheduling for our customers. Even though labor management is more complicated than ever for restaurant owners, our customers still tell us, “7shifts is so easy to use.”
The Types of Restaurant Technology You Need
As restaurant operators look to different restaurant technology tools to streamline their front-of-house and back-of-house operations, it can be overwhelming when considering how many tools exist in the marketplace. When we talk to our customers about what a successful technology investment for their restaurant looks like, they typically echo that technology must be three things in order to be considered a success.
- The software or technology must be easy to use
- The tool must positively impact the bottom line
- The technology must integrate or play nicely with other systems
The Future of Restaurant Technology
As Stacey said, the restaurant industry was headed towards a digital-centric space before COVID-19. The pandemic simply accelerated the process at hyper-speed.
The restaurant operators that are surviving in this next normal of the restaurant industry are turning to restaurant technology tools to help them operate in spite of tight budgets and lean teams.
The question is not if you need technology to streamline operations it’s when, and when is right now.