Restaurant Technology That’s Changing the Status Quo
by Jillian Straw
There is constant change in the restaurant business. Trendy ingredients, guest expectations, and technology tools shift with the seasons.
However, the restaurant industry has undergone a particularly significant transformation in the past few years. Changes have been coming to restaurant operations for decades, but the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated many existing trends.
Staying ahead of these changes is key for your company’s success, especially as expenses for key areas like food and labor rise across the board. Luckily, many of these technology solutions offer new labor and operational efficiencies.
Let’s take a look at restaurant technology advancements that are challenging the status quo — and replacing old-school ways of doing things.
QR codes replacing paper menus
“Quick response” codes, commonly known as QR codes, experienced a moment in the sun during the pandemic. Customers can scan QR codes with their phone camera, offering a contactless way to receive information such as a menu. While QR codes already enjoyed popularity in many different areas, the socially-distanced demands of the pandemic made them inescapable.
However, the QR code benefits operators in other ways as well. Of course, without needing to print a paper menu, restaurants can save money. In addition, a digital menu allows for more flexibility, because kitchens can change menus easier and more frequently. In a time of inventory constraints, price fluctuations, and ingredient shortages, extra flexibility with menu development can help operators respond quickly to changing conditions.
Table side or phone payments replacing paper bills
The restaurant payment standard for decades has been that servers bring a bill, whisk away your card or cash, and process payment at a central kiosk or point of sale (POS) machine.
However, in recent years, table side payment machines have emerged, allowing servers to bring the POS machine to guests while they are seated. Guests are given peace of mind that their payment cards are safe, and servers can easily process payment in full view of the customer.
During the pandemic, phone payments began to gain steam as well. A QR code, usually located on a receipt, links to a POS interface and allows guests to pay quickly and easily on their phone.
These payment changes bring more contactless convenience and peace of mind for guests and may even prompt new labor efficiencies for servers.
Automated AP software replacing manual invoice coding
Manual invoice coding is a time-consuming, difficult process — and it’s also becoming something of the past. An automated accounts payable (AP) solution allows restaurant owners, operators, and managers to digitize, code, approve, and route invoices much more efficiently. With a digital system, when you receive invoices, whether paper, PDF, or email, you can upload the information in bulk. An automated solution will automatically capture header data and line-by-line details like product, quantity, and cost.
Once you have mapped these invoice items to your chart of accounts in your general ledger (GL), the solution will automatically apply that coding detail again, drastically cutting down the time you spend processing invoices.
If your vendors participate in the EDI system (“electronic data interchange”), used by some of the largest companies in the industry, you can also leverage super-fast connections. Instead of having a paper invoice at all, EDI facilitates a direct sync between vendor data and your invoice solution, removing the process of coding.
Replacing manual invoice coding can help save time for your team, and it also means you can count on the accuracy of the data about your food cost categories. Manual invoice processing requires a lot of different data entry and tracking by hand, which means it is prone to error. When you know your inventory is being coded correctly, through automation or a direct EDI connection, you can be more confident in your data.
Digitized invoice system replacing filing cabinets
Managing paper invoices manually can be a nightmare for tracking invoice data. Not only does it require a manual, time-consuming filing system like a filing cabinet, but it also means that data is difficult to access without combing through paperwork.
Digitized invoice information updates your system of record. First, with all data centralized onto one platform, you can’t misplace invoices.
Apart from secure storage, digitized invoices also provide new value for your operational decisions. Want to know how much you spent in a certain food category six months ago? Or learn more about a specific line item detail? Digitized document storage is searchable, allowing you to easily reference information for making operational decisions or reporting.
Digital invoice data also allows you to search your records from anywhere, even if you’re not in the restaurant — essential for multi-unit groups, or any company with some employees working from home.
Online or self-ordering replacing cashiers
For both at-home and in-person ordering, new technologies are changing how customers place food orders.
In a prior era, takeout orders would require your staff answering the phone to jot down an order. Phone calls occasionally led to miscommunications and mistakes, as well as potential issues securely processing card information over the phone. And there was nothing more frustrating than getting the busy signal while you were trying to order dinner!
Many restaurants shifted heavily to delivery or takeout during the COVID-19 pandemic. As demand spiked for takeout, phone ordering became infeasible for many restaurants.
Online ordering through a customer portal or a third-party app has now become standard in the industry. Online ordering is convenient for customers who may not have time to call, and it saves time for your front of house staff. Finally, an online menu also offers the opportunity to upsell that may not happen if customers are looking at a menu by themselves.
For in-person ordering, many restaurants, particularly quick serve restaurants (QSRs), are replacing cashiers and clerks with self-order kiosks. These digital ordering experiences are contactless, providing a socially-distanced guest experience, and restaurants can also optimize labor costs for front of house roles.
Approval workflows replacing in-person signatures
Previous invoice processes required obtaining approvals through different layers of your organization. Your AP department had to hunt down approvers for physical reviews and signatures.
Automated workflows are replacing that manual process. Your organization can set complex custom rules, based on any line item data like vendor, GL account, or minimum or maximum total. With advanced approval routing systems in place, you can not only save labor hours, but also limit any hold-ups in approvals or payment that come from a time-consuming process.
As many restaurants grapple with a labor shortage, finding areas to add in operational efficiencies is key. Backoffice automation, particularly for larger, multi-location or franchise operations, optimizes how your team spends their time. Frontline staff can focus on importing any paper invoices into the system, and remote backoffice operators can leverage streamlined centralized approval and routing.
Electronic payment solutions replacing paper checks
Paper checks, long standard in the industry, come with many issues. There is the cost of labor to process, print, and mail paper checks. It can be difficult to control the timing of your vendor cashing these checks, made all the more complicated with new mail uncertainties and delays.
Automated invoice processing means that your restaurant can leverage electronic payment. The electronic payment ecosystem offers many different ways to pay vendor invoices. A solution like Plate IQ’s VendorPay, for example, supports the most common payment options:
- If your vendor accepts ACH, you can deposit funds directly into their bank account.
- You can use credit cards or vCards to pay vendors directly. (Using the vCard? You may be able to earn cash back just for paying your invoices).
- If your vendor doesn’t accept ACH or online payment, Plate IQ can cut the check and mail it for you.
- Plate IQ also offers vendor connections through the platform. You can fully integrate and log into vendor-specific portals from your central dashboard.
Looking for an update?
Technology in the restaurant industry is always changing, and it can sometimes feel exhausting to keep up with the fast-paced change. Fortunately, many of the newest developments also offer opportunities to streamline your restaurant and improve operations.
As technology changes, your business practices should too. Plate IQ can help automate and streamline your invoice payment process. To see the time savings for yourself, scroll down and request to see a demo of Plate IQ.
Jillian Straw writes for Plate IQ, covering technology in the hospitality industry from a background in restaurants and operations management.
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