Is ‘tech first’ the answer for restaurants and bars?

Faced with formidable challenges, restaurants and bars might be wondering if technology has a push-button solution? For some operators, tech will prove a game-changer. But to be successful, you need to be aware of the guiding principles and deadly pitfalls.

Some industries have witnessed a quiet tech revolution. Just glimpse behind the curtain at electronics factories, car production lines and state-of-the-art fulfilment centres. The speed, accuracy and efficiency of production is breathtaking. Processes have been re-engineered, costs reduced dramatically and delivery has been fine-tuned to meet demand.

Of course, automation in itself isn’t the answer for restaurants and bars. Most customers want far more than a vending machine experience. Food and drink is something tactile, personal, to be savoured and worth talking about. That’s how great brands create and retain value.

So how much can innovation benefit restaurants and bars? 

Let’s examine three technology traps to avoid — and the guiding principles to follow.

Tech pitfall #1: Dressing up the old world in new clothes

It’s possible to have a digital makeover but not a digital transformation. For years, restaurants and bars used hand-written records and spreadsheets to run their businesses. Simply mimicking these processes today using a POS or app might be more professional and accessible — but it doesn’t change the fundamentals of the operation. Essentially, you’ll save some time, which is great, but the bottom line results will be the virtually same. This can be underwhelming and dispiriting.

True digital transformation enables a rethink. It poses questions — and answers them, such as: How do we digitise everything in real-time? What if we could remove a host of manual admin tasks entirely? How could we see the financial impact of altering our menu or switching suppliers before we do this? The possibilities are vast.

Next-Gen restaurant tech gives you answers on-the-fly. It’s so adaptable that your can get your people, processes and systems working in harmony. You’re no longer hitting endless obstacles and your operation changes in remarkable ways.

Tech pitfall #2: Half-baked innovation

It’s worth stressing that ‘tech first’ should mean ‘data driven’. Even though you are a food and beverage business, you’re also a numbers business. Every quantity, penny and time stamp is important. It must be available instantly and be utterly trustworthy because its accuracy is essential to a host of other processes. 

But here’s where many companies go wrong. Let’s imagine you could sum up an restaurant’s entire operation in 50 interrelated processes. It’s likely that maybe the data from one third of these is very easy to capture, analyse and reuse — such as yesterday’s sales and labour schedule.

Some apps excel at presenting this data and it all looks good because they’ve nabbed the low-hanging fruit. But look further and you may discover that accurate data needed from other processes just isn’t captured in real-time easily. Typical examples might include failing to immediately record supplier deliveries, stock takes, batch production, write-offs and breakages. As a result, operators are still blighted by manual processes, stubborn issues and costly blind-spots. Every event must be captured when it happens (often this is in the front of house vs. back office).

Tech pitfall avoid #3: Data chasms undermine your business

Adopting a ‘tech first’ strategy should allow you to start becoming a self-driving organisation. In fact, it’s possible to automate up to 80% of routine daily tasks. This is because the heavy lifting is done for you by staff-friendly intuitive systems that capture data-in-the-moment — and then share the data instantly with other processes, while artificial intelligence interprets this information on-the-fly and suggests specific actions for you (or acts on them automatically).

But this only happens when processes are unified and synchronised — and every fragment of data is captured and relayed in real-time. Otherwise, chasms will exist between different parts of your operation.

There’s an old saying that dates from the 18th century that’s just as true today: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. When it comes to restaurant tech, if some data arrives two weeks or two days late, this will undermine the integrity and smooth-running of your entire operation.

Put simply, this means that inventory can’t be trusted, business projections are askew, wasteful purchasing happens, staff schedules are badly managed and executive decisions are flawed. 

How to get it right

The good news is that leading Next-Gen restaurant tech can help you to avoid these pitfalls. A ‘tech first’ approach won’t mean simply replicating traditional processes with digital ones. Instead, you’ll re-engineer much of your operations, removing obstacles and optimising your business.  You’ll free up more time to spend on customers and give your brand the edge in a volatile marketplace.

To discover more, get your copy of our whitepaper ‘Next-Gen tech for the F&B industry‘. You’ll discover how tech-first businesses can transform end-to-end performance and thrive in a new era.