COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way restaurants operate. The lockdown accelerated the adoption of online ordering and delivery tech as dining rooms closed and people were stuck at home. It has also brought contactless ordering and payment to the fore, especially as restaurants prepare to reopen with new sanitation and distancing measures in place.
As restaurants turn to digital solutions to cope with this rapid change, the challenge for restaurant owners is in uniting the tech and getting the different systems to talk to each other for maximum efficiency.
Let’s take a closer look at the modern restaurant tech stack, from the biggest all-encompassing systems to the niche providers who rely on close integrations with other tech platforms, to give you a clearer picture of the tech you need to run your business.
You probably already have a POS system in place. It’s not optional in the digital age. The question is how much can it do? Is it limited to taking payments and orders, or does it also provide inventory management, a reservations system, kitchen and shift management tools?
The biggest players in the POS world, the likes of Revel, Square, Micros, and NCR Aloha, turn the sales terminal into an all-purpose software hub for the restaurant, and some even provide ordering and payment hardware too. As time goes on and the upstarts, such as Lightspeed, ICR Touch, and TouchBistro, among many others, try to compete and grow, filling more specific niches and providing integrations with other task-specific systems.
The POS is the heart of the restaurant’s tech stack as it needs to talk to every other system. So this is an important choice as you will need to ensure the right integrations are available, with whichever POS provider you use.
Third-party delivery platforms are growing like crazy, especially post COVID-19. It’s becoming increasingly important to have a system in place to handle delivery orders and manage the driver or customer pick-up process. Implementing the right system can save on staff costs and help you manage orders so that the kitchen runs as efficiently as possible.
The biggest delivery players are familiar names these days: Doordash, Postmates, Uber Eats, and Grubhub. They provide restaurants with a sales platform and take the burden of delivery off your hands. The problem for restaurants is integrating multiple partners into your operations. It can end up being a nightmare with staff having to juggle multiple tablets and re-punch every order into the POS.
Aggregators help restaurants by providing a way to use multiple delivery services from one platform. Deliverect is a leader in the space, offering seamless integration with the biggest delivery partners into your existing systems so that all orders go directly to the POS and are sent to the kitchen in a consistent format.
Another headache of using multiple third-party delivery partners is having to run menu changes by them and log-in to multiple accounts to edit your menu on all the platforms, even to make the smallest change. Deliverect allows you to make changes from one central dashboard which are then fed out to all your delivery partners.
If you are planning on gaining the maximum exposure by using multiple third-party delivery partners, an aggregator like Deliverect is the best way to make your operations efficient and ultimately profitable.
Inventory management systems aim to remove the tedious labor of manually managing restaurant stock and ordering. The systems automate many of the processes traditionally managed by staff, to eliminate human error, reduce waste, and prevent over-ordering.
They save you time by automating a lot of the processes and use suggestive ordering to help you plan better and reduce food waste and save money.
It makes a lot of sense to have your inventory management system linked to your POS if it’s not already provided under the same system. This allows seamless movement of data from front to back-of-house and gives you a clearer and more complete picture of stock levels, costs, and ordering needs.
POS providers offer good inventory management tools, but you might consider an integration with a more powerful, task-specific tech platform if you have specific needs and values. For example, a recipe costing service like XtraChef, or environmentally aware sourcing partners like FoodMaven.
Online reservations are increasingly becoming the norm for restaurants. Customers expect to be able to view available reservation slots and make a booking directly without waiting for a response to an email or picking up the phone.
Digital reservations systems tend to have great features for the restaurant front-of-house staff like visual interfaces that can help with table and waitlist management during service. The software is usually available on tablets, syncs up with the POS system, and enables staff to add reservation notes and guest details to help the servers provide the best possible experience for guests.
Owning customer data is super important and your reservation system will help you collect as much information as possible. For example, knowing a customer’s favorite drink when they arrive or knowing their food allergies in advance. It is also key to building loyalty. You can target your best customers with personalized offers. For example, sending an email offering free Champagne if they dine-in on their birthday.
Some of the biggest players, like Sevenrooms, Opentable, and TableUp, focus on improving the customer experience and helping restaurants utilize customer data for marketing purposes. So they tend to include a CRM (customer relationship management system) and other marketing features to help you use the data to maximum effect.
There are also specialists like Tock, which is seen as a prestige platform for high-end restaurants where guests typically pay for a tasting menu in advance and customer service must be spot-on. And Tripleseat which focuses on event bookings and management.
There are a host of auxiliary tools to help restaurants set up their own ordering apps and delivery systems, including Flipdish, Innovorder, and Slerp. Big nationwide chains like Starbucks, Domino’s, and Dunkin are all using mobile order-ahead tech to give customers a super convenient experience via their mobile devices.
During Covid-19, the idea of mobile ordering from the table when dining in is becoming more relevant. Customers can order straight from their phones through an ordering app by scanning a QR code at the table. This means the entire ordering and payment process can be done through the app, eliminating much of the contact of a traditional restaurant ordering process, ie. handling physical menus, speaking to wait staff, and paying via a terminal or by cash.
It’s crucial in the digital age to use all the data you can to improve upon your systems and processes. The main players we have been discussing tend to either offer their own analytics and reporting or integrate with third-party providers that provide this capability seamlessly.
The main providers we’ve mentioned, like the biggest POS providers, reservations systems, and delivery aggregators like Deliverect all offer built-in analytics and reporting tools specific to their area of operations.
As we’ve mentioned throughout, integrations are key to putting together a viable restaurant tech stack. With so much incredible technology transforming the way restaurants are run, there’s no one system that can do everything, so you will have to use integrations to some extent.
Looking at which systems have integrations in place, you can decide which are best suited to your restaurant’s needs and which will work together best with your existing systems.
The good news is, for most tech companies, it is in their interests to integrate with the other top players, and the only thing stopping them is the work that goes into this. So moving forward, you will see more and better integrations between the top players in the industry.
Integrations also help you cope with an uncertain future and the new tech it will undoubtedly bring, the likes of robotic kitchens, more AI in every aspect, and last-mile drone delivery.
As we’ve seen in each aspect of your restaurant, the right tech gives you better data management, frees staff from tedious work, and makes your operations generally more efficient.
Looked at through the current COVID-19 lens, the benefits of putting the right tech stack in place are huge. Contactless ordering and payment are going to be the ‘new normal’, food delivery is continuing to expand, and customers are generally getting more and more comfortable with a fully digital restaurant experience.
Not only do you offer your staff and your customers more convenience and a better experience, but the biggest bonus with an integrated tech stack is also the access to customer data. With the right tech in place, you can really own customer data and use it to build loyalty, offer personalized offers and experiences, analyze trends, and improve every aspect of the customer journey.
Freelance B2B Food & Restaurant Tech Writer
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