Kitchen layout. Handicap accessibility. Carry out and mobile order pick up. All essential components when designing a restaurant concept in today’s connected world.
The National ProStart Invitational features an exciting management competition, where participants demonstrate their knowledge of the restaurant and foodservice industry by developing a new restaurant concept and presenting to a panel of judges. The teams are judged on concept, menu and costing, marketing, critical thinking, and operations.
This year I had the privilege to judge the management competition, looking closely at restaurant operations like organizational chart, interior and décor, floorplan – among other things. Overall, I was extremely impressed by the unique ideas presented, but here are the 5 topics that stood out to me:
1. Takeout: an intrinsic part of food service rather than a secondary addition. The rise in popularity in takeout for pickup was evident in various components of the restaurant concepts we saw at NPSI. From an operational standpoint, the teams often dedicated a section of the floorplan and org chart specifically to preparing takeout orders. It is clear that takeout for pickup is a huge component in the future (and present) of restaurant profitability.
2. Takeout with third-party delivery: keeping customers happy.Almost every concept included some sort of 3rd party delivery component which is a testament to how significantly companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash have changed the restaurant world. The trick here, and what some teams needed to explore further, is how to leverage 3rd party delivery while maintaining control of food quality. It’s a doubled-edged sword: avoid 3rd party delivery and lose out on a huge chunk of potential revenue; deliver sub-par dishes, and possibly lose customers (who might also leave you negative reviews). A few teams did present solutions however, such as separating hot food from cold, and venting containers so food is always enjoyed fresh.
3. Self-Service Kiosks. As expected, kiosks appeared as secondary ordering components in many of the concepts we saw. But one team took this concept even further, eliminating all other forms of in-store ordering. While this concept is definitely worth exploring, there are a few issues that needed to be addressed. Guests want convenience which can mean the ability to order what they want without staff interaction – a great point. But what is the course of action if your customer has questions or makes a mistake when ordering? What about customers who do not like technology – maybe older generations or those who are less open to technology? An additional plan needs to be put in place for these types of scenarios, to ensure the customer is being served efficiently and in a way that suits their needs and preferences.
4. Restaurant Technology. While restaurant technology was included in most of the presentations, one team dove in head first with their semi-truck-sized food truck that featured digital menu screens, free WIFI, a social media command center, hand-held ordering tablets, and solar power panels. As someone who works in the field of technology, it is exciting to see these kids (the future of the restaurant industry) thinking about what a smart-restaurant might look like, even if all of these components combined might not necessarily be conducive to a profitable food truck.
5. Restaurant POS: the heart of the operation. While every team included the location of the point of sale in the layout, a few teams tied the restaurant POS to back to other components within their presentation. Since the restaurant POS is the heart of a restaurant, these teams were able to tie it back to other important things like cost control, labor and inventory management, loss prevention, menu management, mobility, delivery, loyalty, and interactive digital displays. The point of sale can be a huge part of managing a successful restaurant business – and make managing that business much easier. I am hoping that our relationship with the NRAEF and NPSI will help these future restaurateurs see that choosing the right restaurant POS can make or break a restaurant business.
Judging the management competition at NPSI was a great privilege for me. I left the event inspired and thankful for the opportunity. Congratulations to all the participants, teachers, and mentors – you guys are all winners. I look forward to dining at your 5-star restaurants in the near future!