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Thomas Godsey, Director of Information Technology, Torchy’s Tacos

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Technology has traditionally been a neglected area in restaurants, a necessary expense that is treated as a cost center, rather than a profit center. In recent years, that thinking has shifted due to several factors. New technologies such as delivery as a service have allowed restaurants to offer additional revenue streams that were notan option in past years. Additionally, a system that produces actionable data can enhance current revenue streams to raise profitsin areas that are traditionally hard to predict. It is an exciting time for hospitality technology. You can build a system that adds value and opportunity, increasing profits and customer satisfaction. We will discuss a few of the many possibilities in this article.

A fully integrated technology system is needed to take advantage of these possibilities. You may have heard that in life, communication is an important factor of any successful relationship. This is true of your restaurant systems as well. The point-of-sale system needs to communicate effectively with other systems in the restaurant. If it is connected to the inventory, labor scheduling, and financial systems, you can begin taking advantage of data to enhance the customer experience. An example would be using the point-of-sale connected to an inventory system to enhance and solidify actual versus theoretical food costs. If you substitute or remove an ingredient during a transaction, the ingredient should add back to inventory automatically. This may appear to be a small improvement, but it can add up to a larger gain. 

To remain competitive and viable, restaurants need a delivery strategy. From not advertising menu choices unsuited for travel or adjusting recipes specific to delivered food, technology gives the necessary level of control

Not only do you have more accurate food costs, but you also save the labor and time of performing inventory. For the customer, they can receive fresher food because the restaurant knows exactly how much food is available and can order more accurately. A win-win situation for the restaurant and the customer is the best solution of all.

Another area of opportunity is accurate financial information tied to an electronic logbook—asystem that managers utilize to record everything from inspections to weather/special events. Thiscombination can be utilized to enhance the restaurant experience, as well. A properly integrated system can give you the information needed to predict labor or stock the proper inventory. The system should have the ability to drill down andupdatethe restaurant on the predicted alterations in levels of business during certain events, weather, or days of the week, or that a certain product sells at a higher level during certain conditions. This can inform staffing needs, inventory levels, and even promotion opportunities. Everyone can probably guess that you may sell more soup on cold days, but what if you can link the exact increase in sales for every ten degrees of coolness? That’s cold cash in your pocket. None of this is possible without a fully integrated technology strategy that can provide actionable data intelligence.

We should also discuss the options now available regarding delivery. The advent of the gig economy has opened delivery opportunities for all restaurants. Food quality and costs have traditionally kept most restaurants out of food delivery business, but now there are mitigations to most, if not all objections. 

In the past, restaurants have been reluctant to deliver because their food did not travel well.  Current technology grants each restaurant the ability to limit the delivery radius. Plus, you can track drivers as they approach your restaurant to better know when the food should be prepped. This adds up to higher control of food quality. That, in conjunction with convenience, and availability has increased demand and adoption from the public. To remain competitive and viable, restaurants need a delivery strategy. From not advertising menu choices unsuited for travel or adjusting recipes specific to delivered food, technology gives the necessary level of control. An integrated system can use GPS technology to fire tickets when drivers are a certain distance from the restaurant that ensures the meal is delivered as fresh as possible. A barrier to some restaurant delivery is the fact that the delivery driver is the de facto “face” of the restaurant when delivering food. Maybe you don’t want your aunt’s cousin delivering your food and being the first impression of your restaurant. Current systems allow for identifying and rating excellent drivers (or the opposite), which ensures the food is delivered by professionals that represent your restaurant in a positive light to the customer. Delivery technology also allows you to work with multiple companies giving restaurants, as well as customers, multiple options to have food delivered. This provides better service and faster delivery, which are important factors for customer satisfaction.

We have more opportunities than ever before to use technology to increase quality and efficiency, giving customer’s a great and consistent experience. Used effectively, technology benefits everyone on both sides of the transaction. We have only discussed a few opportunities available to restaurants right now. In the next few years, the possibilities are going to increase in ways we may not even imagine at this point. All restaurants should be diligent in creating and updating a strategy to take advantage of current systems with an eye towards adding new systems as they become available and are proven viable. I am excited about the prospects of the future, and I hope you are as well.

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