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Building the Restaurant of the Future

By Elsa Klein

From spiking demand for faster, easier service, to rising food and labor costs forcing restaurants to find better efficiencies in the kitchen, now is the time to consider what you can do to prepare your brand for the future. 

Leveraging technology solutions is at the forefront of every leading QSR, helping them curate better user experiences and hit higher profits. Here’s what’s happening right now with restaurant innovation – and what you can do to set yourself up for success down the line.

Under the hood of today’s most successful restaurants

There are a few core elements of great service that underpin all the world’s leading QSRs – and they have been around as long as the industry has been standing. To succeed, no matter how excellent your marketing, your business must prioritize the basics first, including:

  • Top-quality food
  • Product consistency
  • Efficient operations, both in the kitchen and the front of house

After ensuring that your day-to-day quality and management is in order, then it’s important to develop your service to suit the current market trends, and find more innovative ways to connect and engage your customers. Businesses that lead this space now are leveraging their technology platforms to offer:

  • Better consumer experiences, with unique and memorable digital touchpoints
  • Branding that’s consciously designed and communicated at every level of the experience
  • Valuable personalization, no matter what channel the customer uses to order and receive their food
  • Superior staff experiences, ensuring that every employee is being appreciated, supported, and encouraged to engage positively with customers

Staying ahead of the curve is about incorporating all these aspects of modern service, and using the digital tools available to develop a lasting impact with every brand interaction.

How Technology Helps Build the Restaurant of the Future

It’s no longer enough for restaurants to just offer a good experience or a delicious menu. The future of customer ordering is quickly becoming a multi-channel platform – from interactions on digital apps to online ordering systems, self-ordering kiosks, and automated drive-thru windows. If restaurants want to keep up, they need to lean on new technologies and embrace the market-wide transition towards omnichannel hospitality experiences.

Develop deeper knowledge of your users and your offers

Beyond just the surface-level guest experience, restaurant technology allows businesses to leverage analytics functions and improve their operations based on data-driven insights.

“The underlying power of tech,” explains John Laporte, president of TASK Group North America, “is what it can show you from an operational perspective. At every level of a restaurant business, technology helps brands navigate their relationship with customers and maximize their impact.”

Analyzing and using your transactional data and customer data helps you understand the touchpoints and digital experiences that matter most to your users, making it easier to put a plan into place about where to invest next and how to ensure future engagement across multiple channels.

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Enhance your Digital Experiences

It’s no secret that the demand for quick, quality food service is growing rapidly around the world. Most Americans now eat out five to six times a week, demonstrating just how popular quick-service meals are becoming.

Along with this uptick is a gravitation towards alternative ordering options – including delivery, drive-thru, online platforms, and apps, especially among younger generations. To make sure that these ordering channels provide a consistent and engaging customer experience, restaurants must turn their focus on making these digital systems as smooth and streamlined as possible. From better personalization to intuitively designed loyalty programs and apps, customers now expect a range of high-quality and easy-to-use service options from their trusted brands.

Streamline Restaurant Operations

Restaurant inventory management capabilities give businesses 360-degree, real-time visibility into their operations and their efficiency. From proactive inventory forecast reports to automated kitchen management, this technology is the foundation of developing a hyper-efficient and connected system. 

“Technology is offering this industry total integration. It’s the opportunity to see how every element of your operations is working together, and gives you the knowledge you need to make the right changes,” says John.

Enhance your brand and marketing opportunities

From digital signage to menu engineering to real-time special offers, technology offers businesses the chance to build their brand into every interaction across their ecosystem. Creating a world-class digital experience through a range of touchpoints should actively promote a brand’s identity in a way that customers will come to recognize and enjoy.

A few ways to take branding even further using digital tools include:

  • Personalized campaigns
  • Loyalty programs and apps
  • Specialized offers based on various demographic or external factors

The best experiences should make interacting with your digital interfaces more enjoyable while simultaneously promoting your key messaging. That way, your identity becomes part of the wider customer experience that your guests grow to love. 

Improves Staff Efficiency

Managing workflow effectively has long been the hallmark of a great QSR. The faster and easier your kitchen can prepare food and serve customers, the better it will be for your overall experience – and for your margins.

Technology helps optimize everything behind the scenes, including:

  • Staff scheduling and training plans
  • Tracking inventory and stock
  • Monitoring staff time, payment, and processes
  • Ordering at the counter with intuitive systems

The result is combining all these elements is having a well-oiled system that makes life easier for your employees. Reduced stress, clear accountability frameworks, and fewer day-to-day responsibilities make the experience far more rewarding and simpler, especially for new or less-experienced staff. This may also help curb staff churn, streamline the costs of training, and significantly cut down on mistakes, wrong orders, and food waste.

How to Bring the “Restaurant of the Future” to Life

Transitioning into a technology-driven restaurant doesn’t happen overnight. Taking advantage of all the integrated digital tools that are available, and learning how to use them to their full potential is a process that requires expert implementation, ongoing support from your technology provider, and sometimes considerable upfront investment. Here are the three primary stages you should consider first.

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Lay out your business goals before embarking on a digital transformation journey

Just like any major transition, it’s important to be clear about what your intended outcomes are, and how your investment will help you achieve them. Most restaurant businesses have the goal of increasing profits – but they don’t take the time to consider what aspects of their operations need to change to start seeing results.

Start defining your specific goals by asking these questions:

  • How does your vision tie into your overall business strategy?
  • What needs to happen to reduce overheads? How will this influence your customer experience?
  • Who will be responsible for implementing each part of the strategy and how will they be held accountable?

Only after clearly defining and road-mapping your business goals and objectives should you then consider how a new technology stack will fit in with your brand’s vision.

Think beyond point technology solutions

“What businesses often fail to see from the onset, is that starting clean with a new digital system is almost always the best way to start,” says John. “Fragmented pieces of technology from multiple vendors is not sustainable and it will create data silos down the line.”

Instead, businesses should ensure that they invest in a single solution tech stack. Focusing on integration, and scalability will set brands up to grow effectively and carry accurate data with them. 

Thinking past just the next step is also crucial. Especially larger franchises and enterprises must consider what they will need years in advance, and set themselves up to have a digital system that can handle growth and future adjustments without needing to start again from scratch. Having a breathable, adaptable system that considers the bigger picture is absolutely essential.

Partner with your digital champion

Choosing the right technology partnership is the difference between a business ready to grow and develop, and one that will lag in a year’s time. Think about your digital champion as both your software architect and the builder who will shape your journey. They are responsible for moving your brand in a cohesive, scalable direction and ensure that your transition into the Cloud is seamless and secure.

Sustainable and long-term success for your restaurant is all about leveraging your technology in a way that benefits your customer experience, streamlines your staff experience, and helps you make smarter, data-based decisions for your operations, your offerings, and your branding. To be a successful restaurant of the future, you need to work with people who understand your business and who can effectively navigate the constant shifts in technology, customer demand, and industry-wide growth.