It’s well known in the restaurant business that the more efficient the back of the house, the more efficient the front of house. A legacy POS and endless tabs on an excel sheet won’t cut it anymore — and it doesn’t have to with the burgeoning market of solutions that can be customized for operations of all sizes.
What’s New: Cloud-based and Customized
Because the POS is the heart of any foodservice operation, it’s a good place to start. Point-of-sale technology has come a long way in recent years, with cloud-based platforms reigning supreme. Cloud-based accessibility is essential to operations both big and small. At Grumman ’78, a food truck and restaurant in Montreal, the team uses cloud-based platform Lightspeed Restaurant to sync data from the food truck to the restaurant, making information such as sales, labour and other margins available in real-time.
In addition to instant insights, where POS systems don’t offer necessary back-of-house functions, more integrations have become available. Everything from sched-uling, delivery apps, accounting and reporting, to reservations and mobile payments is available.
Cyrus Sy, product marketing manager at Squirrel Systems says, “Unlike other POS vendors that push an all-in-one approach, we make it easy for customers to integrate with some of the best third-party applications to give them the functionality they need. If we don’t offer it on our base platform, we offer it by working with partners.”
This way of adding products and platforms to fit the needs of the restaurant is how it’s done at Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality (O&B). Cliff Snell is the director of Business Operations at O&B and says, having worked with both types, the company now prefers choosing many individual companies to satisfy bus-iness needs. “A few years ago, the task of integrating standalone software was a challenge. Today it’s easier. By introducing category-specific software into our day-to-day lives, we’ve been able to streamline and shorten turnaround time on the majority of the work we used to do by hand. Everything from onboarding to cost control to auto-closing payments and reservations has now been improved tenfold”, Snell says.
Amongst the many integrations available, most notable is the recent addition of options that target food delivery. Apps such as UberEats, Foodora, SkipTheDishes and DoorDash initially came with the addition of a device (such as a tablet) — adding not only the challenges of introducing new software but the bulk and annoyance of more (and unintegrated) hardware.
“We’ve seen it where restaurants decide to take advantage of these apps and end up with three or four iPads in the back of house processing those orders and chaos ensues,” Sy explains. “[By providing] integrations, delivery-app orders come in through the POS and go through the kitchen-automation system, much like any other order, which allows the operators to maintain a handle on their workflows.”
Benefits and Challenges
The benefits of new back-of-house technology can be obvious — more insights into data and a faster and more efficient kitchen can mean more profits — but new tech also means an investment of money, time and training and disruption to the status quo.
When O&B introduced mobile ordering at the majority of its restaurants, “The initial adoption rate was less than ideal,” Snell says. “With tons of money and time spent on the implementation and training of the devices, it wasn’t until after a few follow-up visits and some pushing that the restaurants really saw the value in them. There was a large worry around the mobile devices taking away from the personal connection servers make with their table. Today we know that’s hardly the case — we’ve created an environment where our technology acts as a bridge for and to the people and not as a barrier.”
Turnover is also a challenge to implementing new technology. Snell notes O&B tackles the problem by focusing on training key people throughout the company to be ‘super-users’ of certain software or workflows.
Sy says, with new tech there’s a lot of potential and capability, but warns when restaurants implement new technology without thinking through the workflow, they’re
likely to have less success than restaurants that consider the impact on the entire operation — from staff to guest experience.
Sy also urges restaurateurs to consider data migration. “Migrating the data is usually what locks a lot of restaurants into continuing to use a legacy point of sale. Sometimes the restaurant will have to leave that data behind, store it or just back it up.”
Finally, Snell says the capital investment required for some of the more powerful and interesting pieces of technology and software is often the hurdle. “The costs of adopting new software and technology only increase over time while we’re unable to raise our prices alongside our vendor increases — we’re only able to charge so much for a burger or a vodka soda. This limits our ability to pick up all the shiny new toys as they hit the market ,” he says.
On the Horizon
Demand for new technology is most often driven by consumers and what’s around the bend is fuelled by customers’ attachment to mobility both in terms of leaving an establishment when they’re ready (and not waiting around for servers) and by using their device. Apps such as Ready, a mobile payment system are already in use.
“We’ve been working with some partners that provide a dine-and-dash payment experience where you can ask for the bill by scanning a QR code on the table and pay right then and there without having to ask the server for the check”, says Sy. “In this case, front-of-house tech is driving efficiency for the back of house.”
Written by Andrea Victory