Oleh Svet, Chief Delivery Officer at Computools .
The restaurant sector was among the most impacted during the Covid-19 pandemic as it faced strict social distance requirements, lengthy lockdowns and strict hygiene measures. These challenges, however, also forced owners to switch to digital solutions faster, speeding up what could have been a much longer process toward digitalization.
Digitalization and process automation have helped many restaurants not only emerge from the crisis but also to step into a new development phase in post-crisis times. In fact, automation has been shown to help restaurants save money, reduce storage costs and deliver the freshest and highest quality food.
In this article, I’ll look at how four digital technologies can help improve the way the hospitality industry does business and what those in the industry should know about implementation.
Previously, menus were only available in restaurants. During the pandemic, though, restaurants had to adhere to new hygiene rules and terms of engagement. Because of this, paper menus became rudimentary, and restaurants replaced paper menus with online versions. By combining UX/UI designers’ and restaurant art managers’ efforts, menus have become both more user friendly and accessible from anywhere via QR codes, Google Maps or the restaurant website.
To maximize customer engagement, restaurants need to optimize the menu for search engines using AWS S3, AWS CloudFront or another CDN. When the menu is also a lead generation point, users can also buy directly from the page, so search engines must see the page and rank it in search engine results. Take steps to increase traffic to this page, and promote it in search results.
Also, make sure the menu features a mobile version, a small file size and a high-loading speed. Consider performance tests, such as Lighthouse or PageInsight, to see how the online menu measures up in these regards.
When dining establishments were forced to close, they faced a previously unthinkable problem. Almost overnight, they needed to develop a delivery service. To do so, digital experts needed to attach a store module, which was only possible if a restaurant already had an online menu. Then, they needed to implement a payment and delivery system.
An in-house food delivery system is realistic to implement even if the restaurant has no fleet of its own or experience in this domain. There are several options to do so, depending on the restaurant’s situation:
1. Hire a staff of delivery drivers, either with their own cars or by buying service vehicles. This is likely most suitable for large chains that are confident in recouping operating costs.
2. Connect to one of the food delivery networks, which will give an additional advantage in the form of another source of orders. But this method can hinder the restaurant’s ability to market from its website, as the larger food delivery networks will likely feature more prominently online.
3. If there’s capacity, implement a delivery service like a cab service based on independent drivers.
Depending on the delivery service, it’s important to automate the kitchen, provide the correct packaging and to label bags so that the courier can conveniently deliver a specific package to a particular customer. This can be implemented through a delivery management module or the integration of third-party services.
Supply Chain Automation
Automated systems can perform routine tasks and collect statistics on orders and warehouse dynamics. With this data, developers can set up a system that automatically orders units from suppliers, adjusts inventory and optimizes inventory and food waste. The system then tracks the timing and availability of products so managers can adjust their usage.
That said, there are a few potential bottlenecks in restaurant business automation to be aware of:
1. Automation requires a fast, accurate and unified data entry system. Difficulties can arise here due to the working environment of the employees. They often work in an environment that is problematic for technology. For example, they may have dirty hands, which prevents accurate data entry. Creating an optimal UI and minimizing human interference using scanning is necessary.
2. To improve the UX when working with the warehouse, automation requires scanners, AI assistants and AR to help recognize items faster and understand what is stored and where to make better purchasing decisions.
3. Stocking can be automated with statistics, but it is important to consider factors such as shelf life, storage conditions and contingencies to reduce costs and decrease the likelihood of product wastage.
4. In order to fully succeed with supply chain automation, the team should be sure to continuously examine operational processes, interview personnel, survey production and warehouse facilities, and examine operational and quality control processes.
Static and dynamic costs—the cost of rent, depreciation, utilities, salaries, etc.—can be better understood using the data gathered by the automated system. Business intelligence (BI) helps restaurants make the most of this data. BI tools can help create visualized data of online orders to help develop effective policy that allows restaurants to make strategic decisions and adjust pricing and business direction. BI can also hint at metrics: The system can show that profits will drop when hiring employees and prompt managers before they send an offer to a job seeker.
A significant technical challenge with BI, however, can be integration with API vendors. Restaurants must ensure that any vendor’s technology can sync with their existing infrastructure. Alternatively, they may need to create a system where the human operator will execute orders if automatic integration is impossible.
For restaurants, digitalization can reduce a restaurant’s need for hands-on labor and decrease the risk of human error. By investigating various options and becoming aware of various roadblocks, restaurants should be able to continue to build on the success they found during the pandemic and increase service speed and staff proficiency.
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