How the Internet of Things can help your restaurant leap forward
Restaurant technology that makes an operation run more efficiently brings together pieces of information from multiple sources at the front and back of house to help improve the way we work. That’s where the Internet of Things (IoT), the range of interconnected devices that share information, stands to help operators manage through change and rely on data instead of guesswork to make decisions. The benefits can help restaurants take a major step forward now (though eventually, the information IoT technology provides may be required by health departments). According to Upserve, a connected restaurant can help operators remotely manage all equipment, troubleshoot problems and potentially avoid equipment failure. That means it can uphold your food safety standards by monitoring refrigeration (even shelf-by-shelf) round-the-clock and alerting you when a process or piece of equipment is out of compliance or when pathogens may be present. It can improve communication between your front- and back-of-house staff, manage orders more efficiently and make informed decisions about what dishes are and are not working on your menu. A smart oven with IoT technology can allow you to use one oven for different types of cooking and to monitor its operation remotely. Of course, not every operation is ready to make the best use of this kind of connectivity – Upserve suggests you ask yourself if you will act on the data provided, if you have the space for new kitchen equipment as needed, and if you understand the ways in which IoT can help increase your revenue. That said, you don’t need to make a substantial investment to take steps toward better connectivity – even a smartphone app that connects to sensors in an operation (Swift Sensors is one option) can help your restaurant save money, manage inventory better, minimize waste, monitor and improve energy usage and serve a consistent menu.
Boosting employee engagement through sustainability (but that’s not all)
It's no secret that consumers are demanding greater transparency and quality when it comes to the food they eat, its impact on their health and the environment, and the conditions in which it was produced. But a focus on sustainability could also make your restaurant a more appealing place to work at a time when staff retention is a significant challenge for many operators. That's according to the National Restaurant Association Sustainability Executive Study Group, which held its second annual meeting recently. At the session, business leaders focusing on sustainability efforts at Chick-fil-A, Darden Restaurants and other businesses made the connection between sustainability programs at work and employee engagement. A panel during the session reported that at companies with sustainability programs, 76 percent of employees agreed that their company was making a positive impact on the world (compared to 62 percent of employees at companies without sustainability programs). Further, 86 percent of employees from companies with sustainability programs said they are somewhat or very excited about their work, compared to 79 percent of employees at companies that don't take part in sustainability programs. (Of course, these operators aren’t only building sustainable operations to break the cycle of short-term employment in the restaurant industry – they are approaching employee engagement from different angles. Chick-fil-A, for one, has made headlines recently for its decision to give its hourly employees a $5 wage increase to between $17 and $18 an hour, as well as paid sick leave for all employees and paid time off for supervisors.)
Build a better beverage business
There are big profits in beverages right now -- from exotic new takes on coffee and tea to alcoholic drinks -- but do you give your beverage menu the same treatment you give your food menu? Typsy offered some suggestions to boost sales and customer engagement. For one, simplify your selection to avoid overwhelming guests (aim to limit your menu to 12 options per category) and use brief descriptive words, like "tangy" or "smooth," to paint a picture of each option and give each drink a creative title. Harness your POS data to determine your best-selling and most profitable drinks. In the category of beverages where you generate the most profits, increase your premium ingredients to help expand your margins. Finally, don't forget price psychology: place drink prices next to item descriptions (not off on their own) and price drinks so they end in $.95 or $.97 -- consumers perceive them as better deals than those priced on the dollar.
Safe summertime cookouts
The season for barbecues is upon us. If you’re cooking and serving outdoors, Foodsafety.gov advises you take extra precautions when it comes to preventing the spread of pathogens. For one, use your food thermometer to determine when meats are fully cooked. Beef, pork, lamb and veal must reach an internal temperature of 145˚F with a three-minute rest time. Ground meats need to reach 160˚F and poultry must reach 165˚F. Hot dogs are cooked when steaming hot. While food can be left out at room temperature for two hours, food sitting out in the sun should not be left for more than an hour.
Fashioned for food safety
Are your standards for staff dress threatening food safety at your restaurant? Insisting on having servers and kitchen staff keep uniforms clean, eliminating elements like neckties or vests that can accidentally brush up against food and cross-contaminate ingredients, having your staff wear shoes with a tread that prevent slips, trips and falls, and keeping their hair tied up and away from food can all help prevent food safety problems.
Instagram update brings guests a step closer to the dishes they view
Instagram has become the go-to social media platform for restaurants looking to showcase their latest dishes, offer promotions and build their audience. Now, the platform is making it easier for consumers to make plans to consume the mouth-watering dishes they see on the platform. Instagram, through its partnerships with OpenTable, GrubHub and Resy, is letting consumers order food for delivery or make reservations directly from the platform – they no longer have to call the restaurant or toggle over to its site to order delivery or book a table.
It’s the new drive-thru
Could this be the reinvention of the drive-thru? Chipotle has begun adding drive-thru lanes to some of its new locations – but guests can’t use them to place food orders. (Dunkin’ Donuts did the same at one of its locations this year.) CNBC reports that at Chipotle, the lanes are to serve guests who have placed orders via the chain’s mobile app and want the option of staying in their car when picking up their food. Those who place an order via mobile app can do so hours in advance and choose the time they’d like to pick up their order. Guests will receive a text when their order is ready and can park in dedicated spots outside if they arrive prior to that time. The challenge will be to monitor data to be able to anticipate when ordering rushes occur – and to schedule staff accordingly.
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