By Jeff Zabin, Managing Editor
Technology can transform the restaurant-going experience in fundamental ways. But it can never replace actual restaurants. The impact of technology on brick-and-mortar retailers, on the other hand, has created an environment so bleak that nearly 7,000 stores in the United States closed this year from the loss of shoppers who migrated online.
While restaurants have seen marginal declines in traffic, they are mostly immune to the retail apocalypse. However, they do have other technology challenges – and opportunities – in common with retailers. Both require technologies to manage inventory, staff and operations, for example, and for payment processing and performance reporting.
While even the most advanced management and POS system will not save a vulnerable brick-and-mortar retailer from shuttering its doors, the ability to drive efficiency and effectiveness in unprecedented ways can make all the difference in the world for a restaurant.
In fact, according to research conducted by Starfleet Research, 78% of full-service restaurants, and 62% of quick service and fast casual restaurants, achieved “significant” or “dramatic” improvement in both operations and revenue performance after deploying a next-generation system.
These improvements are fueled by advanced ordering, payment processing, inventory control and labor management features along with sophisticated sales and marketing, guest relationship management and loyalty management capabilities. The more robust data analysis and reporting capabilities that many solutions now offer are also key factors.
Many restaurant operators have upgraded their POS capabilities over the past several years in response to the need to accept new payment methods, including chip credit cards and e-wallet apps like ApplePay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay and Google Wallet, as well as the need to comply with security requirements designed to protect against data theft. For some, these needs were ample reason to dispense with an antiquated solution they may have otherwise kept indefinitely, perhaps not realizing the range of benefits a next-generation system can deliver.
With the advent of cloud-based hosting, which has fast become the preferred deployment option, the most obvious of these benefits are faster speed, greater scalability and lower maintenance costs. The benefits also include mobile enablement— e.g., utilizing tablets for order and payment processing. In some restaurant categories, POS mobility can go a long way toward increasing revenue and also reducing overhead costs.
Consider the advantages that table service restaurants enjoy when servers can place orders directly from a tablet to the kitchen display rather than from a stationary terminal that may be a good distance away. Rather than having to wait in line to punch orders into a terminal, servers can spend that time interacting with guests and attending to other duties that enhance their dining experience. Faster order placement and pay-at-table processing, as well as more payment options, can remove some of the common barriers to guest satisfaction. These capabilities may also make it possible to turn tables faster and serve more guests than in the past.
Mobility, flexibility and customizability — along with some impressive improvements in user interfaces — are the hallmarks of next-generation restaurant POS and management solutions. For most restaurants, the return on investment can be measured in terms of cost reduction, which is largely a function of increased staff productivity and resource utilization.
It can also be measured in terms of revenue growth. This is largely a function of improved guest satisfaction and, in some cases, faster table turn times — and again, in certain venues, the ability to reach and serve a larger number of guests simultaneously. Additional selling points include the ability to improve financial performance with advanced inventory and labor management tools and better performance reporting capabilities.