The Menu – the latest insights on restaurant technology trends, customer successes, and best practices.

3 Trends Driving Integrations and Automation in Restaurants

Amber Mullaney
VP of Marketing, QSR Automations

Never before has integrated technology been more important than it is right now for the hospitality industry. The dining experience has shifted dramatically with the introduction of off-premise options, and restaurant operators must continually adapt to these changes. As digital and mobile capabilities flourish, creating more and more opportunities for guests and restaurant staff alike to engage in a seamless, modern dining experience, how can operators stay nimble and adapt to these shifts?

No matter where the restaurant technology industry goes, focusing on automation and integration when approaching technology solutions will ensure the most optimal performance in any restaurant.

Here are three trends driving this need for automation and integration and how restaurant operators can utilize them to create best serve their guests at every level.

Trend One: Rise in "Stay at Home Movement"

According to a report by the National Restaurant Association and Technomic, 60% of "restaurant occasions" now happen off-premise. With consumers opting to stay at home more, operators must consider the best ways to integrate their technology to meet this growing trend.  63% of restaurant delivery users agree that ordering delivery is more convenient than dining out. With statistics like these, it's easy to see how operators and technology companies are scurrying to integrate their technology. Gone are the days of front-of-house tablets, operating independently without connecting to the restaurant POS system, kitchen display system, or online POS system ordering partners. Innovative solutions providers use a myriad of APIs which allow their software solutions to integrate with a restaurant operator's other technology. This versatility creates more efficiency and will enable them even to add some marketing muscle to their business. Take the example of integration between a kitchen display system and a point-of-sale. With the two solutions united, they can create processes like capturing a guest's data when they place an order. With that information, an operator can more easily market deals and specials to those diners down the line. With the ability to identify things like a diner's meals or the frequency of when they eat off-premise of on-site, savvy operators can create personalized communications (like emails) without much effort.

Most importantly, though, the integration can provide diners with real-time updates about the progress of their orders. In many cases, the point-of-sale device will give an arbitrary quoting time for off-premise pickup times, which you can preconfigure. These settings can be problematic, especially when they're not accounting for the steady stream of walk-in traffic a restaurant might also be experiencing. Because the point-of-sale device is connected to the kitchen, guests receive the most accurate window into the orders. Quoting off-premise orders directly from the KDS shows them, down the minute, their order status.

Trend Two: Business Optimization Through Operational Data

With everyone angling for more modern methods of dining, it's not surprising that digitization is surging in the restaurant sector. With that conversion comes the cruciality of using data to optimize a restaurant. With integrated technology that connects front-of-house guest management, point of sale, kitchen display system, and third-party online ordering partners, operators can easily share data between software solutions. Through these integrations, operators can monitor performance and identify operational inefficiencies in their workflows or the diner's journey.

A robust set of technology featuring accessible analytics provides reliable metrics, showcasing everything from average cook times, speed-of-service measures, and even items that have "expired" in the expo window. Numbers have a stark way of showing the irrefutable reality of a situation. With these digestible analytics, operators can identify areas where numbers are swelling. For example, they may see their speed-of-service times lapsing well beyond their averages on Thursday nights. With this data, they can make quick improvements, like staffing rearrangements, to prepare for that rush.

Don't just think about the kitchen, though. Integrations allow operators to get this same data from the entire spectrum of their workflow. Think about the big picture of all the possible data a restaurant can create. There's data around guests, their orders, your seating economy, your food, and so much more. Integrated technology will allow operators insight into the picture and not merely a deep dive into one niche area. One example is considering the different types of orders that come in regularly. If a restaurant has an off-premise dining system, at any given time, there could be walk-in, delivery, and takeout orders coming into the point-of-sale. With this integration, an operator can get the same level of kitchen clarity mentioned earlier, ensured across all different channels. And again, not to keep repeating it, but it allows more accurate information to get back to the guests, whether they're awaiting an order at home or coming in to pick it up.

Trend Three: Future-Proofing for Scalability & Growth

Best-of-breed technology providers that are at the forefront of innovation are looking to make sure their solutions are easily integrated with others to ensure their customers can quickly scale for growth. When operators have a unified architecture that can easily add other components to it, they can achieve growth and scalability.

It's essential to think in the long term with all restaurant technology solutions. Indeed, a significant hesitation for many is the thought of potentially being "stuck" with something that they don't want, or that will become outdated soon.

Restaurant technology with "agnostic" capabilities allows it to integrate with different software or technology. So, if an operator were to change their point-of-sale system, they could do so without disrupting their entire technology ecosystem. This kind of adaptability saves time and resources in the long run, curbing training and implementation time, and allowing operators to scale their technology up at their own pace.

Conclusion: Navigating Technology Options

Restaurant technology options are plentiful these days, and while there isn't a "one-size-fits-all" blueprint for the entire operation, it's clear that forward-thinking operators are looking for ways to drive growth, optimize the guest experience, and ultimately have a smarter restaurant. To accomplish this, they have to have the best-in-breed solutions that are automated and integrated.

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