Problem Solving or Problem Creation: Using New Technology in Restaurants
Updated: Feb 14
Recently, I had a conversation with a very experienced and successful technology leader with restaurant industry experience. As we discussed industry opportunities and different technology solutions, it struck me that restaurant folks probably feel similarly.
Here’s what we discussed:
The large POS companies proved - for various internal reasons - to be unable to innovate in the industry and take advantage of their clear position of ownership and central role in the in-restaurant tech stack.
As a result, a host of opportunities were left open for other companies to address. For each of these areas - and there are many - at least a handful of tech start-up players have brought solutions to market: loyalty, inventory, labor scheduling, menu management, online ordering, etc.
While many cloud-based POS solutions have, arguably, out-positioned the legacy players in the industry and gained impressive market share, there remain functionality and integration challenges for peripheral applications such as CRM, loyalty, online ordering, etc.
The result is that operators are left with a patchwork quilt of different solutions with mismatched user interfaces to address restaurant end-to-end operating workflow. Platform-to-platform integrations are a burden from an organizational perspective which SSO alone does not resolve. More often than not, these solutions don’t allow data to flow effortlessly through the pipes that connect the systems (if they’re connected at all).
Each platform has licensing overhead that, when totalled, often more than offsets the incremental profit opportunity being targeted by each of the individual solutions. Typically, the solutions aren’t additive, but overlapping, in how they help drive ROI.
More importantly, those in the position to operate the restaurant are left flipping between various applications to do their job. They end up spending a disproportionate amount of time learning, updating, and reviewing information in each of the systems which limits their ability to actually affect change in the restaurant. And should they even attempt to create synergies between their multiple tech partners to cohesively improve business in a group conversation or planning session, it can feel more like herding cats than strategically aligning industry thought leaders.
What we’re missing in the industry is a strategically anchored restaurant operating platform that not only connects the flow of data coming into the restaurant - from order entry to inventory - but connects the data in an impactful and timely way to the actual work content needed to prepare food and serve consumers.
At Perfect Company, we spend our time thinking about how to leverage all of a restaurant’s operational metadata (e.g. menu, ingredients, cooking procedures, etc) in a simple-to-use workflow that makes it easy for crew members to do their job well and improve profitability.
Sure, almost any technology provider in the industry makes those claims. I’ve seen most of them as a client myself. The limitation I’ve seen over and over is that these solutions provide the data to the restaurant manager in a formatted report (maybe a gui) which is static and disconnected from where the activity occurs.
Success in achieving an improved outcome once you have these reports is mitigated by a number of considerations (like this subset):
Does the report highlight a specific, measurable key insight that you can act on?
Does the manager have the skill to use the report effectively?
Does the manager have the skill to coach their team on the change needed?
Does the manager or other team members have job aids or rigor that allows them to follow-up and ensure the new habit takes?
Is it really in the crew members ability (or their willingness) to change their behavior as requested?
Does the new behavior actually achieve the intended result or was it misguided?
Are the reports up-to-date as menus, promotions and equipment changes?
And this is just a sampling of the obstacles in between having the information and achieving a targeted outcome based on that information. At Perfect Company our workflow solutions focus on enabling continual improvement at the point of action. Our platform mobilizes data in the context of restaurant procedures as the work gets done. We leverage an intuitive user interface and connected equipment to trigger and track crew member activity. We use simple visual and auditory cues to elicit action that makes it easier for crew members to do their job well. The prep and production work happens as it was intended, driving better food costs, greater crew productivity and ultimately higher profits