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Technology In Restaurants, What Can You Afford and What Can You Not Afford to Miss?Steve Brooks, Director of Purchasing, IT, and Beverage Development, Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill & Margarita Bar

While my main role is purchasing at Tumbleweed, I also head up Information Technology and Beverage Development. The first half of my career was in operations. I think this gives me a unique perspective on restaurant technology.

Many advancements have occurred, but not all of these changes have a ROI for the independents and small chains. Many others have an immediate ROI. When evaluating ROI the average sales per unit will play into your decision vs. your competitors. If you are doing four million per year per unit, you can afford more technology than the independent or small chain at 1 to 2 million per year.

I have always wanted to add remote thermometers to all coolers, freezers and walk-ins with automated HAACP sheets, but with the cost being in the hundreds per month can our small chain afford it? 

BYOD can allow the guest to pay their check, reorder drinks, place their order in advance or communicate with their staff

We are looking at being a test store for a startup, but established companies are out of our price range. What savings and ROI will this bring? Will it reduce labor? It may, but not enough to pay for it?The real benefit is the proactive alert when the temperature gets out of range. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can alert the manager, Area Director, owner or call the repair company so food stays safe. This is where remote technology with AI can have a huge value. For restaurants that cannot afford it in all coolers maybe they start with critical spots like the walk-in and automate HAACP sheets with a thermometer that takes this data to the cloud for all levels to see. 

A second area of technology involves digital sales. Online ordering or delivery companies. This technology drives sales and incorporating the sales automatically to your POS is essential. The ROI for sales is easy to see. With digital sales you may build 10-30 percent more sales. Without it you will fall behind. ROI would be easy to show if you did this or are about to. There are many companies that do not integrate digital sales into their POS. Orders may be inaccurate or they may not get rung in at all. Many companies can help tie the delivery companies’ sales to your POS if you are missing out on this.

Enhancing the guest experience with apps that the guest can use at the restaurant is a third area you can incorporate technology. It started as devices on the table that cost more, but it is evolving into Bring your own device (BYOD). BYOD can allow the guest to pay their check, reorder drinks, place their order in advance or communicate with their staff. We are working on a project that involves this currently. This is a low cost technology that should have ROI and should enhance guest experiences.

Finally security has evolved in the last decade. Storage is limitless for the price, managers and owners can view at any time and new AI technology can highlight video where staff could be stealing. Every time the staff opens the cash drawer without a sale can be recorded and highlighted. And if a guest falls there is technology to highlight and bookmark this with an immediate alert. I have heard technology that points out that there are unsafe spots like water on the floor. If there is a problem someone can dream up a proactive solution.

While not everyone can afford all technology that is available, pick out the ones that fit your business and help enhance your guests’ experience and the companies ROI. Pick the one that make your company relevant. You want your company trending for the right reasons.

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