How is Technology Changing the Way Restaurants do Business?

New technology seems to emerge daily, so it’s no surprise that it is changing the way restaurants do business. During our recent Restaurant CFO Roundtable held in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bill Lindsey of Compeat Restaurant Management Systems spoke about restaurant industry trends and how new technology is paving a new road for restaurateurs.

Tech Spending Trends Upward
On average, restaurants are spending 2.5 percent of their revenue on technology, according to Hospitality Technology Magazine’s 2016 Restaurant Technology Study. Of the participants, 44 percent expect to increase their spending on technology by 1 to 5 percent from the prior year. When considering how to allocate dollars on technology, it’s important for restaurants to assess the costs and benefits of the various available software and hardware. For instance, restaurants need to decide whether it makes sense to purchase a particular software through licensing, or switch to a subscription service (Software as a Service). Also, should they purchase and manage a server or use cloud-based systems?  

Payment Technologies
From Apple Pay to phone apps, it has never been easier for consumers to spend money. Mobile wallets like Samsung Pay, Apple Pay and Android Pay store credit or debit card information securely along with loyalty cards, coupons and other rewards programs. These wallets use near-field communications (NFC) to interact with mobile wallet payment terminals to allow you to pay securely using your mobile device.

It’s important for restaurants to leverage these new technologies to meet customers’ hunger for convenience and security. Some restaurant chains have developed apps that can be connected to mobile wallets, allowing customers to order their coffee or meal through the app and pay for it, or to split checks between groups at a table. Not only can new payment terminals and systems reduce credit card fraud, apps that use mobile wallet also allow restaurateurs to transform their loyalty programs and customer experiences, as they can link to rewards programs and track customers’ locations to ensure their items are ready upon their arrival.

Beacons and Geo-Fencing
Beacons are small, cost-effective devices that use Bluetooth connections to communicate with mobile phones, and some restaurants are using these technologies to enhance their marketing strategies and improve customer experience. These devices can be used to engage and influence customers while they’re in restaurants or nearby. For instance, they can determine whether a guest is a repeat customer, allowing restaurants to tailor the payment process and dining experience accordingly based on individual preferences. Beacons can also identify customers who are nearby via a restaurant’s app and engage by sending coupons or special menu options.

Geo-fencing uses GPS from a mobile device to create a virtual barrier. Once a device has crossed the barrier, location-specific ads can be distributed to mobile devices to encourage potential customers to stop into the nearby location. This technology can also be used to notify a restaurant of the potential arrival time of the customer. In the case of a carryout order, the restaurant can be notified once the customer is within a certain distance, letting them know to begin the preparation process. This way, the food is fresh upon the customer’s arrival.

Finding Restaurants and Reservations
From review hunting on Yelp to making reservations on OpenTable, approximately 60 percent of consumers use mobile devices to assist with restaurant selection and reservations.

Some websites like Table8 allow you to purchase a hard-to-get reservation to an in-demand restaurant, as well as others like Table Savvy that can fill tables by offering the customer a discount. Knowing that customers often rely on technology to make dining decisions, it’s important for restaurants to embrace these opportunities to get in front of tech-savvy customers and effectively compete. 

Back of the House Technologies
Some restaurants are using technology to create efficiencies by integrating their inventory, labor scheduling and employee management software to help reduce prime costs. Ordering software, for example, can integrate with vendors’ software for purchase orders, as well as provide suggested orders, that allows employees to count what they have against what they need. Scheduling tools can assist with determining adequate staffing for a given guest count, as well as revenue forecasting.

New and emerging technology enables restaurants to meet customer demand for more customized experiences, while providing intel that restaurants can further leverage to understand their visitors. In a recent blog post, my colleague Kirstie Tiernan explores how restaurants can get the most out of customer data. 
While it’s difficult to predict upcoming trends in restaurant technology, we encourage restaurants to become familiar with today’s technologies and understand their impacts on the industry.

For more information about restaurant technology trends and key takeaways from our recent Restaurant CFO Roundtable in Cincinnati, contact Kari Maue at kmaue@bdo.com, or Floyd Roades, Tax Senior Manager at BDO, at froades@bdo.com.  

And be sure to keep up with the Restaurant Practice’s latest thoughts by subscribing to our blog on the Selections homepage here, and following us on Twitter at @BDORestaurant.     

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