Restaurant Technology – Adapting to the New Normal Through Innovation
COVID-19 will likely render long-term economic impacts, leaving dynamic industries like food service to adjust to the “new normal”. Restaurant technology plays an important role in this adjustment, as food service establishments strive to adopt an innovative mindset to meet the curve.
A Shift in the Normality of Food Service
Various businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving many decision makers to adjust their views on organizational crisis control. While simply surviving during an economic downturn might be a more immediate focus, long-term adjustment/planning is essential for resilience.
The restaurant industry has certainly adjusted to the new normality brought about by this crisis. Curbside pickup, delivery from high-end restaurants, and expedited online ordering are just a few shifts we’ve seen recently. However, successful organizations recognize the extended implications facing the industry, and are focused on adopting new technologies and processes to bring enhanced value to their customer base.
Key Insights from the 2020 Restaurant Technology Study
At the March 2020 MURTEC Conference in Las Vegas Nevada, Smartbridge sponsored Hospitality Technology’s 22nd addition of the Restaurant Technology Study, which encompassed various insights into the digital trends and drivers impacting the food service industry.
Off-the-heels of the 2020 study, Hospitality Tech. recently hosted a webinar on the new normality facing the restaurant industry, examining the current realities already taking place and those still to come. Among these hosts was Smartbridge’s own CEO, Sri Raju, who shared detailed insights on how quick service restaurants (QSRs) are especially having to adjust to meet the new demand.
A Shift to Digital and Off-Premise Ordering
As non-essential workers continue to self-quarantine, digital and off-premise ordering has become the new normal for both QSRs and dine-in establishments. At the same time, delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash have seen a rapid increase in activity to meet growing delivery demand. In general, restaurants are placing greater importance on balancing optimal customer service with expedited user experience, all through enhanced safety measures.
Raju says that this shift in operations isn’t short lived, and will sustain even once restaurant operations default back to normal operations and schedules. “In a recent conversation with a client, their CIO stated they were actively changing their technological systems and processes to adapt to the new wave of off-premise ordering. The temporary systems and processes currently set in place will become the new mainstream through technological changes.”
Jesse Dundon, CEO of Hathaway, adds to this point – “Everyone is going to be competing for the same customers during this recovery period, which will have long-term impacts on the organization. Restaurant technology deployments needs to happen now within these businesses, they can’t afford to wait 4-5 weeks to do so.”
A Focus on Digital Transformation and Automation
Right now, restaurants are focusing on short-term goals rather than long-term, looking to sustain business for the coming weeks rather than months or years. The new normal is forcing these organizations to not only onboard new technologies and digital processes, but do so in a way that has extended implications. Automation is one of these technologies that’s becoming vital to food service industries, especially now with a depleted human workforce keeping businesses afloat. Decision makers are recognizing that automation-driven technologies are often crisis-proof since they require little to no human interaction, and are looking for avenues of implementation within their business.
“Right now, multiple workers are separated from their jobs, both in the restaurant and corporate environment of these organizations. When this pandemic ends, it’s no guarantee all of them will return to work as usual. You will see technologies like Robotic Process Automation not only impacting repetitive tasks in the restaurant, but also those within corporate functions such as finance and human resources.” – Raju
Transforming Payment Processing
One of the more practical aspects restaurants are having to adjust to during this time is payment processing. Though this may be overlooked at the surface, how restaurants process payments, retain/use data and reduce operational costs is a pillar in the new normality of restaurant operations. John Mansfield, SVP of Business Development for FreedomPay, makes some practical points on what this will look like:
Restaurants must adjust their buying behavior in tandem with consumers through an omni-channel approach.
A focus needs to be made on driving down operational cost by seeking/accepting different forms of technological payment, such as QR codes.
Doubling down on understanding loyalty data by integrating a true business intelligence platform. Avoid being data rich and insight poor.
New Required Skills for the Human Workforce
It goes without saying that a sizable adoption of restaurant technology will significantly affect skill requirements for food service workers. Businesses are trying to be more agile now more than ever, and this involves placing new training/skill requirements on front and back-of-house restaurant employees. This is not only to onboard employees with new technological adoptions, but to keep up with the new innovative pace of the food service industry as a whole.
Team members on the restaurant floor will need to work more in tandem with IT support, adopting a more critical thinking view to daily operations. At the same time, IT staff will have to take a holistic approach to new implementations to ensure innovation matches with practicality.
“In 2012-2013, restaurant operations seemed to move very slowly pertaining to modernization. In times like these, what we’re seeing is a call-to-arms for modernized skill sets and processes within these restaurants. Within innovation IT efforts, people within those areas need to be critical thinkers. They have to fail fast through rapid idealization, and implement those technologies that do work well within the organization.” – Raju
Adopting new restaurant technology isn’t a temporary implementation to sustain short-term goals. When done properly, it can serve as a base to long-term growth, competitive separation and enhanced value to your customer base.
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