Restaurants are filled with people and equipment. Until recently, neither had traditionally been technology driven - that's why they were in restaurants. But as David M. Perry wrote for Pacific Standard Magazine, "The Internet of Restaurants" is coming for your info. If that is true -and I believe it is - what are we to do when faced with technology shortcuts and economizers but also the idea of giving up all of that data to the company we climb into bed with. Will restaurant tech end up saving me time but costing me money - or vice versa. How well prepared for the on-boarding and maintenance of new systems are you?
How do we assess the value of technology when placed against the backdrop of data breaches, privacy questions, guest and staff autonomy and the most precious commodity we expend - Time? Like most of the issues facing Restaurants in 2017 and beyond, there are no easy answers. The key is finding the technology that fits each restaurant's particular level of need, and what desired outcomes have been identified.
Some are calling this the perfect time for the ascendance of tech in restaurants - a golden age. Others find it to be overwhelming. The noise and clutter of endless sales calls. Pitches are being thrown for everything from POS systems without terminals to Reservation Systems that only charge flat fees and have built-in guest retention programs. What are the answers and what does the future look like?
The answers are sure to be a reflection of the restaurant itself. By that I mean, they will be a reflection of what the restaurant deems important. This will be based on many factors but it will almost always be interwoven in the culture of each business. For some organizations, the important item will be the handwritten notes that are on the table based on the history of the guest in their reservation systems. For some, the important thing will be inventory management and control, automated ordering. For others, it will be the lowest cost threshold which can give new operations a foothold to get started and a chance to compete.
The future most likely does hold great promise for our industry, but it is still early and especially for the independent operators whom want to spend more time with guests and staff and less time in front of screens and dashboards. The first step is identifying what information you want, where it resides, how it can be mined - and last - when collated, does it give you useful data. On the hardware side, there are currently several vendors introducing equipment that will not only keep track of usage and maintenance needs, but will order product for you. Is this helpful? again it depends on the business needs, but the no matter what, "The Internet of Restaurants" is coming, and getting ahead of it is of paramount importance.