Is your head in the cloud?
At the recent Foodservice Technology Conference (FSTEC) in California, Union Square Hospitality Group exec Maureen Cushing said in the not-so-distant future, the traditional POS would be obsolete, with personal devices replacing the legacy systems. If you’re committed to your desktop system, it’s understandable, considering the size of your initial investment and the time you have spent adapting your system to your restaurant’s needs. However, it’s important to understand its true costs: In the coming years, you will likely be paying more for less sophisticated technology. Restaurant Insider says costs for hardware, maintenance and tech support – along with the time required to create and manipulate reports – can quickly demonstrate that your legacy system is not giving you an adequate return on your investment. In fact, a study from Nucleus Research found that cloud-based systems can deliver 2.1 times the return on investment of desktop systems. If you’re considering making the switch to a cloud-based system, Restaurant Insider suggests you consider these benefits: Your up-front costs are kept to a minimum because there is no physical server hardware on your premises. Your monthly subscription fees will likely be lower, as they are spread across other subscribers. The systems are easily scalable as your business changes, and you can upgrade your plan quickly, without down time or additional tech support charges. Many systems can help you maintain your existing rewards program and promotions. Encrypted online storage will also provide added security and you won’t have to worry about hardware or software failure – or that your system will lose your data or fail to back it up. In a time when data breaches are reported in the news every week, some added security could give your guests some peace of mind too.
New research clarifies millennials’ food and beverage preferences
Millennials are a business marketer’s dream, and for good reason: They comprise one-quarter of the population, represent $10 trillion in lifetime buying power and freely share their views and buying habits on social media, so businesses can readily collect data on them and adapt easily, according to new data from CBD Marketing. A substantial new study from the firm researched more than 12.5 million social media posts from millennials. In the process, it solidified some important insights about the demographic. While the media often presents millennials as always on the go, these consumers don’t take shortcuts with food and beverage: They want fresh, healthy options that are not branded “diet” or “fat-free. When they cook, they use fresh ingredients from local sources. (While they appreciate convenience, they achieve it by purchasing food via delivery or other user-friendly distribution methods – not by cutting corners with ingredients.) Restaurants can support these guests by offering more sparkling water, kombucha, plant-based milks and other natural options on the beverage menu, and by making it easy for them to access healthy, fresh food that’s either pre-packaged for pick-up or available by delivery. Millennials’ appreciation for keeping things natural extends to your packaging too – ensure you use materials that are recyclable or use renewable resources, and spell that out on any to-go containers that leave your business.
OpenTable helps restaurants open up about allergies
Restaurants are gaining allies in their efforts to accommodate guests with food allergies. OpenTable recently launched a “Guest Share” feature that allows for the sharing of guest preferences – including food intolerances and sensitivities – across restaurant groups with multiple locations, Food & Wine reports. OpenTable had previously offered a similar feature for individual restaurants only. Sharing information across locations could help restaurant groups avoid the liability and bad publicity that may result from a guest’s allergic reaction. What’s more, restaurants are also using the data they collect to enhance their loyalty programs.
Show your celiac awareness
Celiac Disease affects approximately 3 million Americans, or 1 percent of the population, and many more Americans are eating gluten-free foods despite not having celiac disease. (Forbes reports that the number of Americans eating a gluten-free diet has tripled since 2009.) If you’d like to ensure your kitchen is safe for celiacs, the Gluten Intolerance Group and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness are two organizations that offer certification programs that can help you build trust with your gluten-sensitive guests. Once you know how to keep these guests safe, you have more freedom to get creative about accommodating their tastes. The executive chef of Posana Café, a Gluten Intolerance Group-certified farm-to-table restaurant in Asheville, N.C. that offers a 100 percent gluten-free menu, has said that his restaurant has is practically “a fantastyland for people with celiac disease” as a result of the accreditation process.
Preparing for a robotic future?
Robots are taking on a growing number of food preparation tasks, including preparing pizzas, flipping burgers, assembling salads and dispensing cappuccinos, according to recent reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and Silicon Valley is buzzing with investment and talk of potential effects to the labor force. Zume Pizza, Miso Robotics and Chowbotics are just three startups trying to transform how restaurants prepare food. In the process, they are taking aim at challenges that can drag restaurants down, like foodborne illness and inconsistencies in food preparation. Costs are currently keeping robots at bay in the kitchen – and it will likely take years for restaurants to adapt. Still, automation of kitchen tasks is becoming more prevalent. Execs in two restaurant technology companies suggest restaurants create programs that will retrain workers on new tasks, give them exposure to areas requiring a human touch (like customer service or delivery logistics) or create other safety nets as the nature of kitchen work begins to shift.
Tune up your business knowhow with Twitter chats
Looking to build your online community and gain some business insights in the process? Consider joining – or starting – some Twitter chats. They’re like a roundtable discussion or networking event, but conducted completely online. They’re helpful forums for people to share articles or tools of use to others in your business. Since the chats are public, they can help you get increased visibility for your brand and pick up some new followers too. Once you have a strong following, you can also start your own chats and use them to engage with your customers, answer questions or enhance your customer service.
Pre-ordering goes upscale
The convenience of pre-ordering technology and other restaurant tech is most often associated with quick-service or fast-casual brands. Upscale restaurants have been slower to adopt the change, but they may be missing an opportunity to connect with guests – and even those that don’t offer delivery can benefit. Modern Restaurant Management suggests upscale restaurants use order-ahead technology to create a stress-free customer experience that also builds excitement. For customers with pre-booked tables, an upscale restaurant can send a link to a secret website with a special menu available on that date, along with background about the food and those preparing it. They can use that initial contact to collect food preferences from guests, or even favorite food memories that can help them enhance the experiences they provide onsite. Finally, providing the option of pre-payment days in advance of the meal can help your guests focus on the food and ambience – not the bill that arrived at the end of the night.
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