From Front-of-House to Back-of-House: The Menu of Restaurant Technology

Lauren Fram
Lauren Fram  |  October 26, 2018

Everyone occasionally loves an excuse not to cook. Whether that means going out to eat or ordering takeout, restaurants are a big part of many people’s lives.

But for those who own, operate or work in restaurants, restaurants are their entire lives. Technology affects everyone in this day and age, and restaurants can live or die based on the technology they implement. From restaurant management software to restaurant delivery and takeout software, technology can manage almost any aspect of a business.

With $799 billion in restaurant sales in 2017, the restaurant industry is big business. According to the same source, restaurant workers make up 10 percent of the total US workforce. One in 10 people working in the US works in a restaurant. That’s huge. Imagine the massive impact restaurant technology has had on these people’s day-to-day lives.

Restaurant Technology

Let’s take a look at the menu, shall we?

Putting the Tron in Gastronomy

Restaurant technology is a large and varied ecosystem. If you can imagine a software product that can help run a restaurant, it likely exists. In fact, according to Toast’s Restaurant Technology in 2017 report, 95 percent of restaurateurs agree that restaurant technology improves their business. Which restaurant technology? All of it, and there’s a lot! Pick your poison:

G2CR_B002_Restaurant_Tech_Blog_Diners-Vs-Restaurateurs_V2

Restaurant Reservations Software

~ The Appetizer ~

Restaurants need butts in seats to thrive. It sounds crass, but no butts, no business. Restaurant reservations software helps restaurants collect and organize reservations online, making the entire process easy for both diners and restaurant staff. Some platforms may even allow restaurants to create promotions to encourage diners to visit during typically slow days or times. (Who doesn’t love half-off appetizers on a Tuesday?)

Restaurant reservations software may integrate with restaurant management systems or restaurant POS software to make it even easier to organize reservations and guest profiles. Many restaurant reservations platforms offer web pages or widgets that can be added directly to a restaurant’s website, allowing diners to make their own reservations online.

Restaurant Management Software:

~ The Entrée ~

Restaurant management software is the workhorse of the restaurant tech ecosystem. It can do it all, from front of house to back of house and everything in between. Restaurant management systems may include point of sale (POS) features, accounting features, employee scheduling features, inventory management features, online ordering features and reservations and table management features.

For a restaurant owner or manager, restaurant management software can be a one-stop shop for all of one’s software needs. Smaller restaurants in particular can benefit from using restaurant management systems, because it saves them from buying multiple, separate software solutions.

Restaurant POS Software:

~ The Chef's Recommendation ~

Much like restaurant management systems, restaurant POS software is crucial to the smooth operation of a restaurant. At its most basic, POS software simply provides a means for servers to ring up diners. However, seating guests, placing orders, splitting checks, applying gift cards and more are all made easy by using restaurant POS software.

Today, many restaurant POS systems can run on mobile devices such as iPads and other tablets, providing the option for servers to place orders tableside rather than at stations. According to Toast’s Restaurant Technology in 2017 report, 61 percent of diners agree that server handheld tablets improve their dining experience. For restaurateurs, the most important restaurant POS features are ease of use, depth of reporting and inventory reporting, so they look for tools that include integrations for credit card processing, accounting and inventory management solutions.

Restaurant Delivery/Takeout Software:

~ The Dessert ~

For many restaurants, a healthy takeout business can be either a great boost to business or even a cornerstone. A s of the summer of 2017, online ordering made up 43 percent of all food delivery orders. Among millennials, 79 percent have ordered takeout via a website or app, which is 29 percent more than adults over the age of 45. And if those stats aren’t impressive enough, 34 percent of diners polled said they usually pay up to $50 when ordering food online, which is impressive when compared to the average per-person spend of $16–$30 in a full-service restaurant.

So, how does one add online ordering to one’s restaurant? Restaurant delivery/takeout software is a great place to start. It’s possible to find a restaurant management system or restaurant POS software that includes a delivery feature, but the easiest method is likely finding a dedicated tool or marketplace that will ensure potential customers can find your restaurant online. Many of these solutions can integrate with the software a restaurant is already using, so the addition is relatively seamless (no pun intended).

Restaurant Inventory Management & Purchasing Software:

~ The Specials ~

Inventory is by far a restaurant’s greatest expense as well as its greatest liability. Restaurants allocate 25 to 35 percent of their operating budgets to food, so food that spoils or simply goes unused because of an unusually slow week is lost money. Four to 10 percent of food purchased ends up discarded before ever seeing a guest, so do the math. Restaurant inventory management & purchasing software empowers restaurants to make informed food purchasing decisions and reduce food waste by maintaining real-time inventory information. Reporting helps restaurateurs see trends in their food usage and maintain records of recipes and the ingredients required. In a sometimes chaotic kitchen, tools that equip users to make smart decisions and save money can be incredibly powerful.

While this space may be small at the moment, it’s definitely a growing part of the restaurant tech ecosystem. Some restaurant management systems and restaurant POS software include inventory management features in their tools, but a dedicated solution is much more robust than a feature on a larger platform.

Restaurant Business Intelligence & Analytics Software:

Restaurants are notoriously difficult to keep afloat, partially because they are extremely complex businesses to run. There are so many daily metrics to keep track of, it can become overwhelming. Restaurant business intelligence & analytics software can help restaurateurs stay on top of their business and plan a path to success. According to Toast’s Restaurant Technology in 2017 report, 78 percent of restaurateurs check their sales data daily and value depth-of-sales reporting highly. While many restaurant management systems and restaurant POS software include reporting features, a dedicated, in-depth tool has the ability to provide even more insight by collecting data from all the software a restaurant uses and compiling comprehensive reports.

This is also a growing space in the restaurant tech sphere, and some products are even venturing into predictive analytics to provide even more forward-thinking tools for restaurateurs. Knowledge is power, as they say.

G2CR_B002_Restaurant_Tech_Blog_Restaurant-Tech-at-a-Glance_V2

The restaurant industry is huge, and that means there are many opportunities for technology to come in and optimize the space. While restaurant tech might conjure images of restaurants run by robots, that’s not something we need to worry about any time soon. In reality, restaurant tech mainly works behind the scenes to help restaurants run smoothly. And the space is only growing. Every restaurant is different, so the software solutions needed vary for each business.

More readings on the future of the restaurant industry

If you’re interested in the state of retail technology, check out The Traditional Storefront Is Dead: Long Live the Retail Technology King.

Lauren Fram
Author

Lauren Fram

Having lived on both the East and West Coasts, Lauren has settled in the happy medium of the Midwest. After nearly 13 years in Chicago, she has fully co-opted the Midwestern habit of saying "oop" when nearly bumping into things. In her free time she enjoys games of all sorts, and is particularly fond of board games and tabletop RPGs.