Restaurant Technology: 10 Tools to Consider in 2023
March 29, 2023
75% of independent restaurant owners plan to adopt new technology in 2023. Here are ten tools to keep in mind.
Use of restaurant technology in the hospitality industry has become widespread in the past decade. Reports show that 56% of independent restaurants currently use tech to manage some aspect of their business, and 75% of owners say they plan to adopt new technology in 2023 to combat rising costs, operational complexity, and labor management.
The right technology helps restaurant owners and operators become more effective and efficient — everything from ranking higher in search results to creating new streams of revenue to automating email marketing and loyalty programs.
What is Restaurant Technology?
The term “restaurant technology” encapsulates a wide range of products: from POS systems to online ordering to reservation software. However, at its core, restaurant technology is any tool that helps a restaurant drive more revenue, operate more efficiently, or build a closer relationship with guests.
“We use technology in every possible way to make our business the healthiest it can be and to maximize our operational efficiency, " said Sean Feeney of Fini Pizza in Brooklyn, New York. “Most importantly, we use technology to make guests happier and drive our hospitality in a way that makes everyone feel like a friend of ours, whether it is your second visit or 500th experience with us.”
What Technology Do Restaurants Need?
Your technology needs can vary depending on what type of restaurant you’re running. For example, bakeries and food trucks might not need reservations but would benefit from a website. Or, a fine dining establishment could do well to invest in a private events management software that may not be as helpful for a coffee shop.
Choosing technology tools is especially important for new restaurants. Centralizing your technology provider is advantageous rather than using one company for your website, another for merchandising, and a third for gift cards.
“I knew we needed a reservations platform, online ordering & catering, and a place to host the website. And I was not going to go through four different platforms. I wanted everything in one place,” said Gabe Ribeiro of Five Corners in Newark, New Jersey.
And while new restaurants have certain considerations to keep in mind when setting up their technology platforms for the first time, established concepts also need to keep tech centered in their guest experience. Data from December 2022 shows that 80% of consumers prefer frequenting restaurants with technology experiences.
10 Key Restaurant Technology Solutions
There’s a lot of restaurant software available on the market covering reservations, food costing, POS, online ordering, and more. And integrations have helped thread together a somewhat fragmented technology landscape.
With so many choices available, what tools should you be focused on implementing next? Below, we’ve outlined ten essential tools that should be on your radar in 2023.
1. POS System
A POS system is often the first technology investment for a restaurant because it’s a central part of daily operations. With this tool, hardware and software work as closely as your front and back of house to keep everything in sync. A good POS will allow you to manage your dine-in, online, takeout, and third-party orders all through one system. You’ll be able to create and update menu items and categories; customize orders and make modifications for diners; course out orders and fire when desired; track sales; and work offline if your internet connection is down.
Additionally, your POS should let you take dine-in orders from anywhere in your restaurant, including server stations, behind the bar, counters, and tableside. Look for a system that accepts many different types of payment — from credit and debit cards to checks, cash, and contactless payment — and enables you to split the bill the way your guests desire, whether by guest, item, or custom amount.
Restaurant websites are essential for creating a powerful online presence. And customers expect to see your digital footprint — 77% of diners check restaurant websites before visiting.
Rachael Crew, Marketing Director at Young Joni in Minneapolis, Minnesota, compares a restaurant’s website to a guest’s first interaction with a host.
“It's like a virtual host, and if it's not accurate, if it's not loading correctly, if it doesn't make sense, then we've done ourselves a disservice,” said Crew.
Guests are looking for specific information on your website, namely five key items: menu details, your location, how to place an online order, how to make a reservation, and contact information. Quick action buttons for online ordering and reservations (like in the visual example above) increase conversions, connect guests with restaurants faster, and drive more revenue. Mobile-friendliness is a non-negotiable in your design — both from an SEO perspective and also from a user navigation viewpoint.
Finding the right technology partner for your website is crucial, especially if you want to be able to easily change information, update menus, and add promotions quickly. Working with a hospitality-focused company, like BentoBox, means that the website features that matter most to restaurateurs (and diners) are built into the product.
3. Direct Online Ordering
A direct online ordering system gives better control over the guest experience and puts a restaurant’s brand front-and-center. It also puts ownership of customer data — like past order history, frequency, name, and email address — in the hands of restaurants rather than third-party ordering platforms.
The benefits of using a direct online ordering system are numerous, the biggest of which is getting back 20-30% of revenue per order that is lost to third-party online ordering services.
One of the biggest ways restaurants can drive more revenue from online ordering is through their website. Add an online ordering button to the main navigation bar of your website with a prominent call-to-action like “Online Ordering,” “Order Now,” or “Begin Your Order.” Pop-up alerts on your website homepage are also effective — three out of four guests on average will click to start their order from a pop-up on the website.
4. QR Codes
QR codes made a resurgence during the pandemic and became widespread for contactless ordering and payments. How does it work? On-premise diners scan the QR code with their mobile device to access a restaurant’s digital menu, create an order, and pay. On the restaurant’s end, this saves time and labor resources by taking dine-in orders and payments digitally.
Even if you decide to forgo contactless dining and return to servers taking orders tableside (as many restaurants have), you can still optimize the guest experience with tabletop QR codes that go to the menu on your restaurant’s website. With this approach, it’s easier to keep menus up-to-date in real-time without any printing. Plus, diners can start looking at the menu the minute they’re seated.
5. Online Merchandise Store & Gift Cards
Offering gift cards is a great way to both earn revenue and keep seats filled well into the future. Plus, BentoBox data shows that 44% of people will spend more than the gift card amount. Selling gift cards year round is an easy way to boost your sales numbers, although purchases typically spike during November and December. A strategic holiday promotional plan for gift cards that utilizes your website, social media channels, and email marketing will create more success.
Selling restaurant merchandise through an online store is another option to grow revenue. Items like t-shirts, hats, glassware, and cookbooks prove to be popular. But restaurants don’t need to become apparel retailers to do well in this space. You can start with provisions like meal kits to cook or assemble at home or pantry items like bottled sauces, preserves, dry goods, or spice rubs.
6. Reservation Software
Accepting restaurant reservations is nothing new. Historically, booking a table involved diners calling a restaurant to check availability and the host recording information with pen and paper.
A reservation software can help restaurants maximize table inventory, minimize human error, and reduce no-shows with automated confirmations. Many solutions also have waitlist management and table management built into the software as well.
There are benefits to direct reservation platforms that don’t charge cover fees because when guests book a reservation on your website, your restaurant keeps all the revenue. This is compared to third-party reservation marketplaces like OpenTable where restaurants pay $0.25 to $1.50 per reservation (depending on your plan and how diners found you online).
7. Event Ticketing
Restaurants that host events like charcuterie board classes, wine dinners, and cookie decorating should consider investing in event ticketing software. BentoBox offers a ticketed events solution specifically designed for hospitality experiences that can be directly part of your website. The back end allows for inventory and purchase limits, promo code creation, and guest list management. Plus, there are no service fees.
8. Online Catering Store
Maybe you’ve been wanting to find a better option than catering marketplaces (and ditch their high commission fees), or perhaps you’re completely new to the world of restaurant catering. Regardless of your situation, an online catering store is worth considering in 2023.
The average profit margin for catering is 7–8%, which is higher than the 3–5% range for most full service restaurants. Catering creates a strong cash flow by requiring guests to put a deposit down or pay in full before you order inventory. Lastly, it’s a way to improve brand awareness — people get a taste of your menu who might not have otherwise stepped foot in your restaurant.
Read more: The Best Restaurant Catering Systems in 2023
9. Private Events Management Software
Does your restaurant offer buyouts for rehearsal dinners, birthday parties, or corporate events? Technology is making private dining and private events easier than ever.
Instead of handling the process manually through a combination of forms, inboxes, and spreadsheets, restaurants can use a private events management software to accept inquiries, create proposals, sign contracts, and accept payments all through one system.
10. Loyalty Program
A restaurant’s success often depends on building repeat business and bringing back diners. What better way to do that than with a loyalty program? Loyalty programs are an essential part of your guest lifecycle and incentivize repeat orders and visits. They’re a great way to build diner retention and drive restaurant revenue.
With a personalized diner rewards program, customers can work towards a reward that unlocks and redeems itself once a milestone is hit. Restaurants can decide what that milestone is — whether it’s by orders placed or by dollars spent. Most loyalty programs also show diners a visual progress bar that lets them know the distance to the reward and what they’ll earn.
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