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Automated vs non-automated restaurant – pros and cons

The digital transformation in the restaurant brings great advantages and improvements for the company. Yet it shouldn’t be considered as a panacea for every pain existing that can be encountered by the company. 

Automated restaurant

The Covid pandemic has delivered an unwitnessed boost for the demand for restaurant technologies. But the trend of digitizing the workflows in the HoReCa industry was seen before. This text focuses on the key differences in operations of the digitized and non-digitized restaurants showing both pros and cons of each approach. As Ordering Stack we help in automation, we offer multichannel ordering system, with order process management with Kitchen Display System, self-service ordering kiosks, and POS integration. And much more, here you can check all features.

According to the data gathered by FinancesOnline, the restaurants are seeing the benefits of enriching their workflows with the technology. On average, restaurants use up to three tech vendors to manage and support their back-office operations. Also, in 2019, just before the pandemic ignited, 51% of diners ordered directly from the restaurant website, 38% used an online ordering integrator and 29% used an app. 

And all this was here before the pandemic has changed the rules and the customers were used to dine on-site. 

The impact of the restaurant tech

Yet digitizing all the processes is far from easy, with a great need to approach the change carefully. The tech impacts all key areas of the restaurant operations, including: 

Customer relationships 

Leveraging the power of digital technologies can bring interesting twists to customer relationships. Modern customer relationships are based on multiple factors, including the overall branding and online opinions among others. 

Pros: 

  • Faster delivery – using sophisticated digital ordering systems like Ordering Stack, enables the company to process the orders in a faster and significantly more efficient way. The system can schedule the orders to make them appear most conveniently and effectively. Also, it can be integrated with the KDS system, that manages the kitchen staff to work in a particular way, to make the best use of the kitchen appliances and deliver the orders as fast as possible by bundling them and splitting particular parts to be prepared earlier – for example notifying the grill master earlier, to ensure that the burgers are delivered on time. 
  • More flexibility – digital systems provide the users with more ways to interact with the brand. Ordering via social media, website, or integrator services are just a few examples of how the customer can order the food or have contact with the restaurant. Increasing the convenience of contact has a great influence on relationships.

Cons:

  • No human-human interaction – According to the study conducted by the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, up to 80% of US adults reported symptoms of depression during the COVID-19 outbreak. Also, 65% reported a significant increase in loneliness since the pandemic outbreak. While the technology can ensure the faster delivery of food and better fit to the customers’ needs, the need for a little chit-chat with the staff will remain no matter how sophisticated the tech will be. 

Sales 

The technology in the restaurant business (and all the other industries) brings the measurability and optimization known from e-commerce to other market segments. By that, it is possible to tweak the sales techniques and find the best combinations. But not only 

Pros:

  • Menus – the digital version of the menu can be fully interactive, providing the users with images and videos of the food they will get. As the other side of the coin, the digital menu can also fit itself to the users’ needs and provide personalized content, especially if the user is registered and there is his purchasing history available. 
  • Up- and cross-selling – the digital system can also leverage the power of crosses- and up-selling techniques from e-commerce, like time-limited offers and pop-ups. These techniques can significantly boost a cart’s value. 

Cons:

  • No advisory – the machine without data is blind. Thus, when encountering a new client, the recommendation engine will do no better than a random recommendation. The human waiter has multiple other ways to ask about the customer’s preferences. 

Analytics

The big data revolution that has started by the end of the last century was in fact a prelude to the fourth industrial revolution, based on the analysis and insight harvesting, later supported by the AI. A traditional business like a restaurant appeared to be hard to measure and analyze in the way e-commerce is. But not anymore. 

Pros:

  • Good access to the quantitative data – the digital system for the restaurant can capture data from multiple points, including the POS system, the orders, and the kitchen workflows. Considering that, the restaurant gains the access to tremendous amounts of data to analyze and harvest insights. Also, modern systems like Ordering Stack have no trouble with capturing the multimodal data and spotting the correlations between particular elements of the whole system. 

Cons:

  • Data flood – apparently the data captured by the system can be both blessing and curse. To use the full potential of gathered information, the company needs to employ a skilled analyst who can interpret and process the flowing information. While it can be available, it is far from being legible. 
  • People are better at gathering qualitative data – all the data mentioned above refers to the quantitative approach, with thousands of data points gathered every hour. On the other hand, though, machines struggle with both gathering and processing the qualitative data, which gives the context to the gathered information. Thus, the human-human interaction provided by the waiter can be a key to understanding the data and should not be underestimated. 

Employee satisfaction

In the harsh post-COVID employment environment it is increasingly hard both to retain the employee and find a new one. Considering that, the digitization of the restaurant business can be a surprisingly smart strategy that aims to boost employee work satisfaction and keep them for longer. 

Pros:

  • Reducing the tedious and repetitive tasks – multiple tasks just need to be done while being boring and tedious. Collecting the orders or managing the menus in multiple integration services are just a few to name. A digital system like Ordering Stack can bring significant automation to these tasks and reduce the amount of unnecessary work. 
  • Better communication with the kitchen – the KDS system compatible with Ordering Stack is a great way to automate and streamline the communication between the kitchen and the ordering room. Instead of exchanging hand-written notes, the restaurant gets access to the automatic scheduler and a simple system to manage the whole order flow. 

Cons:

  • The staff needs to be trained and retrained to use the system – while the restaurant work seems pretty straightforward, using all digital systems can be surprisingly challenging. Thus, the staff needs to be trained in using the system as well as retrained if there was a significant change in it. This takes time and money and in an industry of a high employee churn like a restaurant, it can stack to surprisingly high values. 

Productivity

The prime goal of the technology is to deliver the productivity boost – it was true for the steam engine, the PC, and the machine learning innovations alike. The same goes for the tech in the restaurant. 

Pros: 

Order management – the restaurant tech is great in managing the inflow of the orders, automating the scheduling, and providing the staff with clear instructions on what and when to do to deliver the best results. 

Better staff allocation – without the restaurant tech, there is a need for a dedicated employee to process the orders, either by phone or by managing the tablet hell – you name it. Considering the workload of the typical restaurant and the core of the business, this allocation is suboptimal. 

Cons:

High initial costs – while affordable, restaurant tech is far from cheap. Implementing requires the assistance of a skilled tech partner, it takes time and the staff needs to be trained. Considering that, the initial costs are high.

Resource allocation

With the analytics and the productivity of the employees boosted, the restaurant tech has a great influence on the resource allocation, including the materials and human resources alike. 

Pros;

Ordering food and ingredients – by using analytics and storing the historical data, the owner can reduce the overstocking as well as avoid the understocking of the restaurant. 

Assigning more employees to tasks that require human labor – the automation provided by the restaurant software enables the employees to do the tasks that can be done by humans only and handle what’s possible to handle to the machines. 

Cons:

The machine is only as good as its operator – there is a great challenge in overtrusting the machines. These are only as good as the operator and owner and require maintenance, including the digital one. That means that if there are some hidden disturbances in data the machine processes, the whole result is tainted and it can silently hinder the company’s efficiency. 

Summary

The digital transformation in the restaurant brings great advantages and improvements for the company. Yet it shouldn’t be considered as a panacea for every pain existing that can be encountered by the company. 

If you wish to discuss the matter and talk about the ways your restaurant can benefit from using the Ordering Stack, don’t hesitate to contact us now!

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