3 tech trends coming off the back burner


January 23, 2017

By Jeff Kiesel, CEO, Restaurant Technologies  |  Read the original article here on Fast Casual Online

While the industry was abuzz last year with talk of implementing technology trends, such as drone delivery, vocal-ordering systems and syncing equipment with the Internet of Thing turned, little action occurred. This year, however, brands will trade all the talking in for doing. While the majority of new technology is often found in the front of house, the real labor is saved where the dirty work takes place — the back of house. This could explain why restaurant operators are turning their attention to BOH technologies and creating efficiencies so early in 2017, the year of the modern kitchen. Modern kitchens not only serve up the ideal platform for offering customers a variety of food options but also provide employees with a safe, efficient workspace.

Here are three 2016 trends projected to convert from talk to action in 2017:

Monitoring labor costs

With the labor pool evaporating and retention rates lowering, labor continues to pose a serious challenge for fast casual restaurants. According to the National Restaurant Association 2016 Restaurant Operations Report, labor costs make up a third of sales in a typical restaurant, implying that any surge in these costs could significantly affect your bottom line.

In 2017, operators must find efficient ways to manage labor expenses through technology and information. It begins by giving your FOH and BOH workers the training and equipment they need to do their jobs well. Simplify and eliminate laborious manual tasks without sacrificing food quality by using technology. Reduce accidents and time-consuming jobs through an arrangement of innovative tools, such as an automated oil management system, robotic burger production and touch screen control panels.

With the right training and equipment in place, you must have the ability to analyze the data to make your operations more efficient. Be sure to identify trends. When does overtime tend to occur, and when do accidents tend to peak? Pair each data point with an improved strategy to increase efficiencies tied to decreased labor costs.

Operationalizing data

Data-driven decisions will remain a focus in 2017. Even though data has been the talk of the town, few brands are actually using it to their full advantage. Instead of watching your data come in from afar, turn it into power. First, extinguish the notion that big data is an overwhelming headache. Strides in technological developments have helped establishments of all sizes comprehend and utilize their data.

Open your mind to new ways of collecting data. Begin with your kitchen equipment. Visualize your kitchen as a complex operation that produces a bank of interesting information, such as the rate at which you use cooking oil. Any numbers you can collect provide an insight – what food requires more prep time, what temperatures optimize quality, etc. To put such information into action, identify a tool to gather, monitor and optimize the intelligence.

Ironically, IoT has had a fairly slow adoption in restaurants in 2016. IoT can provide restaurant operators considerable efficiencies with applications that are scalable by collecting data from devices and linking the information to a program where rules can be applied. Such an approach leads to actionable data. For example, tracking your oil usage or types of meals sold to anticipate food-prep decisions could help reduce food and oil waste, and pinpoint your customers' preferences. This year, access your data quality to accurately better manage, control and advance your operation.

Managing kitchen policies

The year 2016 was when policy took the driver's seat in the restaurant industry, and it will continue to play out again this year. Virtually every other headline highlighted the concerns of minimum wage, overtime pay, food safety and food waste. In fact, many states implemented minimum-wage increases even though federal overtime regulations have been placed on hold. Aside from the cost increases in paying employees, the industry was also faced with hefty food-safety protocols. In addition, right in the spotlight was the estimated average annual food waste amounting to 30 to 40 percent of the total food supply.

While these issues don't come with a silver-bullet solution, they can be managed with technology initiatives during the year of the modern kitchen. Online scheduling platforms linked to known busy and quiet time frames can greatly help manage BOH staff and reduce unnecessary overtime hours and pay. Additionally, automated technologies and equipment in the BOH designed to eliminate manual labor enable staff to more efficiently spend their time on the clock. This year, restaurants will need to keep closer tabs on their food supply chain and safety management to avoid costly recalls projected to increase.

Like many new year's declarations, we hope for the best but often fail to fully implement them. By monitoring labor costs, operationalizing data, and managing regulations and policies in the BOH, fast-casual operations will be better equipped to see a more streamlined, organized and modern operation to support staff, attract customers and allow for evolvement in the market. It's time to commit to the year of the smarter kitchen, for the inability to modernize your business could be its ultimate demise.

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