Running a restaurant is hard work.
You’re in charge of handling inventory, planning out employee schedules, and making sure customers remain happy — all while keeping a steady eye on your bottom line.
Doing all of your tasks manually can be exhausting, not to mention time-consuming. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to lean on technology to take the weight off your shoulders.
We chatted with Topher Cunningham, events coordinator at Tampa, Florida-based cafe and bakery Pane Rustica, about a few of the must-have tech tools his eatery uses on a regular basis to improve efficiency and overall happiness.
Read on to see his favorites, as well as a few recommendations from us.
Want to listen to Topher’s full interview? Click play below!
How many times a day do your servers get the question, “Can we split checks?” Luckily there’s an easy solution for that: a mobile platform, like Split, that enhances the dining experience for your customers by connecting you to every mobile device. It allows diners to view, pay, and split their bill directly from their smartphones.
Here are a few additional benefits you’ll get with this technology:
- Asks your diners to rate their experience at the end of their meals, which gives you a better understanding of what’s happening at your restaurant
- Turns restaurant tables faster and increases productivity, since your staff doesn’t have to handle credit cards, split or process separate checks
- Integrates directly into your POS system, so you’re not required to handle any additional systems
- Provides your customers with a more interactive dining experience
A POS (point of sale) system is probably one of the most well-known pieces of technology across the restaurant industry.
An easy-to-use POS system will marry front-of-house and back-of-house operations, and provide restaurants with the following benefits:
- Acts as a secure credit card processor for customers
- Simplifies communications between the kitchen and staff — it sends orders through the computer, directly to the kitchen printer
- Tracks inventory, including food usage and the most popular menu items
- Acts as a time clock, so it can help prepare payroll
- Organizes a restaurant’s profit, including loss statements and sales tax
“We’ve had the same [POS] system since we pretty much opened and moved from our many locations to our larger location — we’ve had it for over a decade,” says Topher. “Recently, we’ve been shopping for a new system, something a little bit more technology forward.”
Online reservation system
Does your day often consist of juggling multiple phone calls and emails from customers asking to book a reservation at your restaurant? This can leave you little time to do other things. A simple solution? An online reservation system like OpenTable, Resy, or Yelp.
An online reservation system can provide your restaurant with plenty of benefits:
- Eliminates potential human errors made by busy staff taking reservations by phone
- Allows customers to make reservations at your restaurant 24/7 from anywhere
- Sends your customers an automatic email or text to remind them of their scheduled reservation
- Gives you insight into shift revenue and check averages
- Allows you to create email ads for potential diners, where you can highlight current special incentive offers
“We found OpenTable right off the bat and we’ve been using them ever since,” says Topher.
“Guests can use the OpenTable app or go on their computer and make a reservation in the main dining room without us having to interfere, and it’s always been just a great little tool. I have noticed a significant increase in web reservations within the past year and a half [since adopting OpenTable].”
Event management software
Events are an opportunity for your restaurant to bring in additional revenue. If you’re currently managing events through manual processes like spreadsheets and sticky notes, you’re not making the process as efficient as it could be. With the help of software, like Gather, you can streamline this process while booking more events in a manageable way.
Here are a few huge benefits that event management software can provide you:
- Stores all of your event lead information in one place, so you can respond to leads more efficiently
- Allows all of your team members to have access to one calendar that updates in real-time, so everyone is on the same page
- Protects your customer’s financial information, especially if it’s level-one PCI compliant software
- Comes with templates for emails, BEOs, contracts, and proposals so you don’t waste time on manual document creation
- Allows you to see how your program is tracking through custom reporting tools
“We’ve had Gather now since 2016,” says Topher. “It’s basically changed my life for the better — it’s an amazing program.” Pane Rustica hosts a variety of events, from in-house banquets to off-site catering, and he says he couldn’t do it without the help of Gather. His favorite part about our software? “I can even get [event] notifications on my Apple Watch.”
Marketing automation platform
Technology can be used to drastically improve the way your internal operations are run, but it can also help you get the word out about your restaurant. If you’re not currently advertising your restaurant, it could be worth looking into a marketing automation platform, like MailChimp or Constant Contact, to attract new customers to your eatery.
With a marketing automation platform, you can ramp up your restaurant’s marketing efforts by:
- Designing and sending out professional-looking emails that are on-brand
- Creating digital ads that help you find more fans on your social media channels
- Designing landing pages that create a clear call to action in your marketing messages
- Printing, stamping, and mailing postcards to people around the world
- Creating Google remarketing ads that help turn your website visitors into customers
“We’ll do email blasts for special occasion things, like during Thanksgiving or Christmas, with Constant Contact,” says Topher.
Employee scheduling software
Creating an employee schedule every week that works well with all of your restaurant staff can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Luckily, employee scheduling software, like HotSchedules or 7shifts, can help automate this process and bring more structure to your eatery.
These are just a few benefits of employee scheduling software:
- Gives you an overview of your employee schedule with filters based on location, specific shifts, roles, or employees
- Comes with a mobile app that allows employees to access their schedules and communicate with staff on the go
- Integrates with your POS system so you can generate projected labor and sales forecasts to reduce costs and maximize profit
- Streamlines the payroll process through time and attendance tools
Before adapting HotSchedules a few months ago, Topher says that all employee scheduling at Pane Rustica was done manually through Word and Excel.
“It’s been nice because HotSchedules lets the staff do their own shift trades, so all they need is approval from a manager. It can all be done through their phone, so that’s helpful from a moving-forward, futuristic kind of perspective,” he adds.
Inventory management software
While taking inventory may be one of your least favorite tasks, it’s crucial to helping your restaurant reduce waste and control food costs. Your inventory list tells you the amount of ingredients to order and when, and it’s tied closely to your bottom line. One way to make inventory tracking a little easier on you is to automate the process.
What are some benefits of an automated inventory system?
- Saves you up to 40 hours a month due to the fact that manually counting inventory can be a challenging and time-consuming process
- Calculates your restaurant’s costs and margins by tracking every ingredient on every plate
- Tells you which menu items are most popular with your customers so you know to always have certain ingredients in stock
- Integrates directly with your POS system and streamlines the restaurant management process
“[Technology] has the capacity to streamline what you have to do on a day-to-day basis and allows you to do things quicker, more efficiently, and cleanly,” says Topher. “The ease of communication [that technology provides] overall helps people be more productive. Efficiency is everything, work smarter not harder.”
His advice for restaurants that are hesitant to adopt new technology? “I’d say buckle in and welcome to the 21st century.”
Now that you know how technology can help improve the way your restaurant is run, request a demo of our event management software today.