Restaurant Technology: What to Invest In for Long-Term Growth
A decade ago, restaurant technology was optional.
Something only worth investing in if you were tech-savvy, or had extra funds lying around to spend on something cool and futuristic.
If restaurateurs want to keep their doors open, their guests happy, and their businesses growing in the long term, then restaurant technology is no longer a “nice to have.”
Restaurant technology is a must-have.
Why Should I Invest In Restaurant Technology?
At this point, you might be thinking, “Sure, restaurant tech is becoming more common, but it can’t be that necessary for success… can it?”
To answer your question, we could tell you that:
- 41% of restaurant revenue is generated through digital channels like mobile apps.
- 65% of consumers say they would be more willing to visit a restaurant if self-service kiosks were available.
- 44% of consumers order food from an app or website as many as 4 times a month.
But we’ll look at a mini case study instead, because – as they say – the proof is in the pudding.
(Or in this case, the Biscuits.)
Chad and Lauren Coulter, CEOs of Biscuit Belly, opened their first biscuit-filled location in 2018, launching the franchising process not long after in 2020.
Fast forward to 2023 — only 5 years after the first Biscuit Belly opened — and the brand has grown to 4 corporate locations and over 20 franchised units, with more franchises on the way.
When Chad Coulter was asked about his rapid success and growth, his secret wasn’t a stellar biscuit recipe or frying chicken crispier than the colonel’s.
It was investing in restaurant technology.
When Should I Invest In New Restaurant Technology?
So, now you know why you should invest in restaurant technology… but you need to know when to do it, too.
Luckily, the answer to this question is straightforward.
You should be investing in new restaurant technology if:
- Your current restaurant technology is outdated.
- It lacks features your guests want (e.g. NFC payments).
- It’s a few models behind, so you don’t even have the older “new” features.
- It doesn’t match your plans for scaling and growing your restaurant in the future.
- Your current restaurant technology isn’t meeting your needs anymore.
- It’s costing you too much to run/maintain.
- It’s too slow and can’t be updated to get faster.
- It doesn’t offer your restaurant any competitive advantage.
- You don’t have any restaurant technology.
Even if you fit these criteria, the “when” will vary from restaurant to restaurant and depends on a range of factors like your needs and your budget.
No matter where you fall on the tech spectrum, remember:
While things like food-making robots are incredibly cool, you don’t need the shiniest, fanciest, or most expensive restaurant tech to start seeing results.
What Types of Restaurant Technology Should I Be Looking At?
Whether you’re updating your old restaurant technology or starting from scratch, the number of restaurant tech options out there can be overwhelming.
That’s why we recommend narrowing your focus to a few types of restaurant technology that we know guests love, and restaurateurs see success with.
1. Online Ordering Systems
From 2017 to 2021, the market for food delivery almost tripled in the United States, with no signs of slowing down in the future.
But for restaurants, that skyrocketing delivery rate isn’t all good news. The use of third-party apps for online ordering increased by 10% from 2022 to 2023… which means that third-party fees, commissions, and additional costs for restaurant owners increased, too.
So, how do you get the best of both worlds?
You lean on the capabilities of restaurant technology and create a direct ordering system.
Direct ordering systems are a great way to reduce third-party fees and retain ownership of guest data and information by allowing your guests to order straight from your restaurant through your website – but the benefits don’t end there.
Adopting this type of restaurant technology can also free up staff from order-taking, automate upsells and extras, and offer personalized suggestions that make your guests feel seen. A win on literally every front (of-house).
→ Check out Craver’s online ordering solutions.
2. Mobile Apps
Considering over 300 million Americans have a smartphone in their hand at any given time, if apps aren’t your next restaurant technology investment, they should be.
Creating a dedicated mobile app is one of the best (and easiest) ways to meet your guests where they’re already at. As your future guest is doomscrolling through TikTok, it only takes a few swipes to switch apps, place an order, and head out the door… and they barely need to lift a thumb.
Another great benefit of investing in a mobile app is that the restaurant tech offers more than one solution. It enables easy, mobile-first ordering, and it opens up the possibility of creating a loyalty program for your restaurant.
Loyalty programs can keep guests engaged by offering rewards and incentives that keep them happy and, well… loyal. Plus, if we’ve learned anything from Domino’s or Starbucks' loyal fan bases, it’s that a mobile app can make a world of financial difference for restaurants, too.
→ Check out Craver’s custom-branded app solutions.
3. Self-Serve Kiosks
If you’re looking for restaurant technology that streamlines operations while upgrading ordering capabilities, a self-serve kiosk is a top-tier option.
Installing self-serve kiosks is a solid option for restaurateurs trying to reallocate labor. By letting guests place their own orders, you can free up staff from standing at a POS system, allowing them to do more important tasks like customer service (things a kiosk could never replace).
And, when you remove the “middle person” from the order-taking process, guests actually get their food much faster, since the kiosk sends their orders directly to the kitchen to start prepping.
Restaurant tech like kiosks are great for freeing up time… but they’re also exactly what guests want, anyway! 64% of in-person diners prefer digital ordering options like kiosks, so choosing this restaurant tech shows your guests that you hear them and want their experience to be a good one.
→ Check out Craver’s self-serve kiosk solutions.
Craver’s Checklist for Choosing Restaurant Technology
So, you’ve decided that you want to invest in restaurant technology — congrats!
But now you need to know how to pick the “right” solution, the one that meets you where you’re at now while prepping you for the future, too.
Here’s the thing about picking the “right” tech to meet those needs, though: There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to restaurant technology. Tons of restaurants, coffee shops, and QSRs have similar needs… but they’re never exactly the same.
Chad Coulter, CEO of Biscuit Belly, says to go for a “middle-to-high-tier piece of technology that is going to already have the features that you need right then and there, or that you're going to need in the near future."
In other words, the “right” restaurant technology for you is one that suits your needs, your wants, and your goals for the future.
With that insight in mind, here are the 3 requirements your new restaurant technology should satisfy before you decide it’s the one you should invest in.1. It satisfies your current needs.
- Start by asking yourself, “Does this restaurant technology solve the need I have right now?”
- Start by asking yourself, “Can this restaurant technology keep up with the specific goals I have for the future?”
- Start by asking yourself, “Does this restaurant technology have case studies and results to prove they can deliver?”
If any of the answers are “no,” then keep looking for a better fit.
But, if the answer to all three is “yes,” then the restaurant technology you’re considering definitely seems like the right one for you!
As the restaurant industry has shifted and embraced digital more than ever, the need for restaurant technology has shifted, too.
If you want to future-proof your restaurant while keeping your guests happy and your operations streamlined, restaurant technology is the way to go.
There’s no better time to start than right now.