Restaurateurs are time poor. They work long hours, and often the only business technology they have at hand is on a mobile device. Understanding the world of hospitality decision-makers is the first step to building technology that helps them.
On the other hand, ill-chosen technology can overcomplicate business operations, making it counterproductive when a tool is supposed to boost efficiency. Sound familiar? Here are some tips to make your restaurant future ready.
1. Keep it simple
People don’t run restaurants because they like hospitality admin, so find tools that simplify these operations. The parts of the business that are straightforward but time-consuming are ideal candidates for tech solutions: think accounts and point-of-sale systems, sourcing, rostering and reservations, plus wholesale ordering and consumer delivery platforms.
It’s worth spending time upfront before you invest in any technology. Look for intuitive design and as few steps as possible to achieve your most performed tasks. Make use of trial periods to see if the tools are easy to use. Still struggling to figure out how it works a week later? Reconsider whether it will be the timesaver you want it to be.
2. Find tech that’s fit for purpose
It’s not enough to pick an off-the-shelf technology that sort of does what you want. A lot of clever business technology still isn’t ideally suited for the hospitality industry. A human resources platform that isn’t optimised for shift work, weekend work or casual work won’t suit a restaurant, for example. A rostering system designed for the dynamic scheduling of the hospitality industry will make your life easier just by being fit for purpose.
We spend a lot of time talking to restaurateurs about their business and tech requirements and they’ll say things like, “I want to export all of my invoices into an Excel spreadsheet.” When we ask why, it turns out it’s because they want to drop the data into Xero. We cut out the middle step and built a direct integration into Xero – complete with full account-mapping abilities. If you don’t know what solutions are available, you don’t seek out the most suitable tools.
You will save time and effort in the long term by defining what you want from a tool and then finding a match rather than buying something and trying to shape it to your purposes. Clarify your requirements, then do your research.
3. Optimise opportunities to integrate
The more fragmented your technology suite, the more time-consuming it is to move data around, so select technology based on how it complements other tools. The key to being more efficient is to research and select a complementary suite of digital products that connect so you can avoid double-handling information. This saves time, but also helps to reduce mistakes.
If your wholesale ordering system doesn’t talk to your accounts and your accounting software doesn’t speak to your point-of-sale system, then you will have an unclear idea of expenses and revenue at any moment. Integrated ecosystems give you transparency and up-to-date information on which to base key business decisions. We found that partnering with brands like Xero (accounting) and Deputy (rostering) helps simplify operations and gives restaurateurs better insight into their businesses.
When I think of our ideal customer, I see a busy restaurateur who logs on close to midnight to close the business day. They are weary from a long day and all they have is their smartphone. That person is entitled to technology that is simple to use on a mobile device when tired.
Moreover, a sector this large deserves technology designed for its unique requirements. So, find tech that understands what you do. And if the tech industry could integrate these tools, the future of hospitality will see restaurateurs focus on people having great dining experiences rather than all the behind-the-scenes operations that support them. The best tech is useful, invisible and seamless.
Ben Lipschitz is co-founder and managing director of FoodByUs, an online marketplace that connects restaurants, cafes and caterers with wholesale food suppliers.