Smart ISVs are helping their restaurant clients stay competitive by delivering applications that help them respond to new trends and changing consumer demands. There’s no shortage of information on why restaurants need to make customer experiences more convenient, why they need to keep up with the rapid growth of online ordering, or why it’s vital to manage online reviews.
But there are a few crucial things occurring in the restaurant industry that may not be on your radar. ISVs also need to help restaurants overcome challenges that arise when they start to do things too well.
Gregg Brunnick, director of product management & technical services, Business Systems Division, Epson America, points out that the changes restaurants are making to deliver the experiences their customers want and to stay competitive are creating two, somewhat unanticipated, challenges:
1. Online ordering success is leading to in-store workflow problems.
“Online ordering is creating significant opportunities,” says Brunnick, “but it also changes workflows and potentially creates short-term headaches.”
For example, a café that accepts orders online may not give walk-in customers the proper amount of attention. “If twenty people are in line, and someone walks in, sees the line, and places an order on the café’s app, that person could jump to second or third in line, bypassing people who have been waiting longer then they have,“ Brunnick explains. He says in that café, the problem could eventually self-correct by everyone just placing their orders through the app.
But similar problems can exist in table service restaurants that add online ordering for pickup or delivery. People who arrive at the restaurant could experience a 45-minute wait, while delivery customers could have their orders at their doors in 20 minutes. “In the restaurant, the wait time depends on how fast servers can turn tables — but the kitchen may not be operating based on the number of available servers, which can make the wait longer,” Brunnick says.
The disparity between service in the restaurant and online orders can be so different that it could lead to bad reviews and lost customer loyalty. Brunnick says one of his favorite restaurants actually turns online ordering off depending on restaurant demand.
“Restaurants are going to have to find a way to deal with an infinite queue, that’s truly first in, first out. Restaurants need stronger capabilities to manager orders,” he says. It may involve simplifying menus so the kitchen can more easily keep up during peak demand or using artificial intelligence (AI) to understand demand and adapt online menus. He adds, “This may also be an opportunity for the restaurant to offer different items on different menus — and urge customers to try all the menus and services that the restaurant offers.”
2. Managers are still spending time on inventory and purchase orders.
Brunnick says technology for the manufacturing vertical has ordering down to a science. He asks, “Why not use modern-day logistics to provide this automation to restaurants?”
He says the point of sale (POS) system knows what the restaurant is selling. In addition, data analytics can generate patterns of what customers are purchasing at different times throughout the day or week.
Brunnick points out it will take more than predictive analytics — it will require prescriptive analytics to use all available data, such as usage, shelf life, ordering lead time, to efficiently automate orders. Restaurants will also benefit if the system places the order, saving time and resources.
“Ordering shouldn’t involve a manager going to a cooler with a clipboard and checking to see if quantities are low,” he comments. Even if the application you have developed inventory and ordering, it may be time to reconsider what it uses to trigger a PO and whether it requires a manager to intervene in the process.
Delivering New Capabilities Doesn’t Necessarily Mean the Job is Done
Restaurants are successfully implementing systems that allow their customers to engage with them digitally, but when those processes are running like clockwork, it may become obvious that other areas of the operation need refinement to keep up.
Maintain open communication with your clients so you can understand how the changes they are implementing are working for their businesses — and whether they need new strategies or new tools to make them work the way they had intended.