Tech is now paramount for restaurants looking to remain at the top of their industry, according to an expert.
Restaurant Tech Live is a London-based exhibition that takes place at the end of September. Laura San Segundo is the marketing manager for the show, and wants to educate the restaurateurs of Europe.
“If you’re not up-to-date you’ll become old in the industry,” she tells BusinessCloud.
“No one wants to be old – you want to be up-to-date and at the top of the pyramid.
“We know this industry is growing a lot and tech is becoming part of our lives in everything we do.
“At this event we want everything restaurants can think of, and some things they haven’t yet thought of, under the same roof.”
Having an awareness of tech is important for any restaurant, says San Segundo, and there will be some key things that any business can use – if they make the most of it.
“Not everyone will use the same tech but to help people to talk about you, for example, you need social media.
“You can do it yourself by being on the computer or you can buy a program that will do it for you for a bit of money, but you will then have a lot of people talking about you and coming through your doors.”
The show was originally part of the Takeaway and Restaurant Innovation expo, which is in its fourth year.
San Segundo says that tech in restaurants now deserves its own exhibition, but the problem is getting the rest of the industry to realise that.
“They’re worried it’s expensive so they’re slow to adopt tech,” she explains. She suggests making small changes within your budget such as a new payment system, or looking to start-ups to find new, inexpensive ideas to innovate with.
“For example, contactless payment is something simple which started not very long ago, but already it’s almost everywhere and lots of customers get angry if you don’t have it.
“At the end of the day everything will be tech-based so if you’re scared make small changes to see how it changes your life and the life of your customers and go from there.
“One of the most important things about tech is the return on investment that you’ve got to have. You’ll spend something but you’ll save a lot of time.”
Across the pond in Washington DC, National Restaurant Association director of research communications Annika Stensson tells us what we already know: tech is on the rise.
In the last five years the number of restaurants using point-of-sale systems in the US has risen from 47 per cent in 2011 to 81 per cent today. In 2011 only 23 per cent of their restaurants offered online ordering, compared to 37 per cent today.
Although the association has seen restaurants using technology in a variety of ways, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, says Stensson.
“There are a variety of different areas in which technology helps operators,” she says.
“From back-of-the-house, like POS systems and staff scheduling, to front-of-the-house consumer-facing, like online ordering, smartphone apps, touch-screen ordering stations and mobile payment.
“A majority of restaurateurs agree technology can help increase sales, make them more productive and enhance customer service, but it’s important to pick the right solutions.”
Stensson agrees that it’s important to incorporate technology without interfering with the hallmark of the hospitality industry – customer service.
“This is the great thing about technology: it can help restaurant staff focus more on delivering a great experience for guests rather than order fulfillment process, for example.
“The human element of customer service is extremely important to consumers, even if they appreciate the convenience of technology.”
Technology in restaurants is here to stay, predicts Stensson, and by the sounds of it there’s something for everyone.
“With more and more products and services entering the market and consumers showing strong interest, we’re not likely to see the tech trend wane anytime soon – if ever,” says Stensson.
“There are some really innovative companies out there exploring everything from ordering chatbots to drone delivery, so there’s no shortage of ideas out there.”