From the cash registers to the marketing techniques, many aspects of a contemporary restaurant can benefit from modern technologies. Consider the benefit of the following forms of restaurant technology and learn how they may help you contemporize your concept and appeal to more customers.
Point of Sale (POS) Systems
Contrary to popular belief, POS systems are more than just hyped-up cash registers. Modern POS systems include all the hardware and software a restaurant owner needs to enter an order, display it for kitchen staff, and even perform additional tasks such as recording inventory counts and labor costs. Like accounting software, POS systems can cost a pretty penny. Nevertheless, systems like these can take a load off any manager’s shoulders.
Order-Entry Touch Screens
With a POS system, all orders are entered using touch screen technology. Touch screens can be configured to your exact restaurant menu items and options. This makes entering a guest’s order simple and intuitive.
Credit Card Readers
These days, restaurants that do not accept all major credit cards are at a serious disadvantage. Be sure your POS system comes equipped with a credit card reader. These readers can also load gift cards with money or read gift card information during transactions.
Kitchen Display Systems
Also called KDS screens, these display monitors hang above kitchen work stations and transmit information from the order-entry screen in the front of the house (FOH) to the kitchen. By eliminating the need for paper tickets, these screens enhance accuracy, help record service times and expedite orders from the kitchen to the guest.
Handheld Inventory Device
Handheld inventory devices are portable POS systems that sync up with your other POS software. Instead of writing down inventory counts and transcribing them into your computer, just input your inventory counts into the device to create reports faster and more accurately.
Restaurant managers can benefit enormously from installing software programs on their back of the house (BOH) computers. Financial software can help restaurant owners and managers by organizing data and creating accurate reports in any of the following areas:
- Labor hours and payroll information
Most popular restaurant chains use accounting software to run these reports and keep their profit and loss (P&L) statements in order. You can easily find restaurant accounting software online or at computer and media stores. Popular restaurant financial software includes Quickbooks, Microsoft Dynamics GP, and Peachtree, to name a few. Although many restauranteurs consider financial software to be indispensable, packages like these can cost anywhere from one hundred dollars to ten thousand dollars. Good research is necessary before deciding to make a purchase.
Busy restaurants often need to use some form of paging system to communicate with their guests when a table becomes available. Many restaurant staff will still write down names on a list and call the party when a table is ready. Modern restaurant owners may decide to implement restaurant pagers at the host station, which are arguably less intrusive and more streamlined than calling out names. Pagers also give customers the freedom to wait outside or by the bar area without confusing the host. There are several paging technologies that restaurants can use to alert patrons that their table is ready. The following list represents a handful of those technologies:
- Coaster Pager
Basic pager technology includes the handheld pager, often called the “coaster pager” because of its size and resemblance to a drink coaster. When the guest’s table is ready, the host enters the appropriate pager number into the pager system keypad, and this will cause the pager to vibrate and blink. It is good to keep in mind that conventional pagers like this can limit the distance customers can wander while waiting.
- Paddle Pager
The paddle coaster works just like the typical coaster pager but it has a plastic tab attached for advertisement space. Many restaurants will use this space to advertise their name and slogan, or perhaps a special promotion.
- Cell Phone Paging
Some restaurants are opting to take a more modern approach by paging customers via their cell phones. The restaurant host or hostess takes the guest’s cell phone number and enters it into the paging system keypad. When the table is ready, the paging system sends a call or text to the phone with an automated message instructing that the guest to report back to be seated. This can be a convenient way to alert guests who want to roam farther than conventional pagers will allow. The downside to this though is that it can take longer for these customers to return.
Technology for Creating Ambience
Ambience is important for any restaurant, but full-service, fine dining restaurants in particular rely on providing a memorable and pleasant atmosphere for their guests. This includes two major aspects: temperature and music.
Restaurants need to conform to local health codes and maintain a functional heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system inside the building. This is important for both the kitchen as well as the dining room. The temperature, although a fairly simple variable to control, can make or break a guest’s restaurant experience. Install a programmable thermostat to maintain a consistent, moderate setting so guests can stay comfortable.
Restaurant owners have a world of options when it comes to lighting their dining space. Create the atmosphere you want with different colors, brightness and types of light. It is also fairly simple to take advantage of energy-efficient lighting technology in the restaurant. In fact, switching from incandescent to compact fluorescent lights can save as much as $30 per bulb over its lifetime.
For a variety of restaurants, music can add to the overall feel of the dining experience. You will need to decide whether you want to use satellite radio technology and an expensive sound system in your restaurant, or simply tune in to a local FM station and install some speakers. Before you buy, research music systems online and ask other restaurant owners what they use. Music systems for full-service restaurants can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so be sure consider what would be appropriate for your restaurant concept, as well as whether or not you will require professional installation.
Restaurant owners are tapping into the possibilities of the internet technology to promote their establishments, market to different crowds and even offer different options for ordering food or making a reservation. From social media websites to online reviews, the internet is a major player in technological advances affecting restaurants today.
Restaurant owners can create profiles, websites and blogs to promote their restaurants on the internet, effectively marketing their concepts to a world of potential guests. Restaurants may use social media websites such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter.
To many restaurant owners, Zagat ratings have become a thing of the past. Restaurants now hope for good reviews on sites like Yelp.com and GrubHub.com for increased traffic. These websites encourage the public to review restaurants with ratings and comments, and potential patrons access these reviews and make dining decisions based on the rating. Hence, online reviews can deliver great advantages for restaurants with good reviews, or unfortunate shortcomings for those with low ratings.
Pizza Chain on Facebook. Papa John’s pizza chain created a Facebook profile, offering a store locator, email specials and free pizzas to anyone who signs up as a “fan” on Facebook.