Everything you need to know about tools and tech for restaurants

Restaurants have historically been known to run on a patchwork of paper systems involving notebooks, back-of-the-napkin calculations, information owners and managers kept in their heads, hunches, and habits. Today, digital tools can streamline almost every aspect of running a restaurant business. They are high-tech, user-friendly, and mobile so you don’t have to be in the restaurant to stay on top of the business. 

Here’s an overview of popular tech tools you might want to consider to improve efficiency and make your life a little easier. 

Streamline the front of house

Keeping front-of-house activities humming like a well-oiled machine is important for every restaurant. These tech-powered tools can make everyone’s job a little bit easier. 

Online reservation system

Make the pen-powered reservation book a thing of the past by moving the reservation-making process online. A system like OpenTable lets you take reservations day and night, running the book even when you’re away from the restaurant. Better yet, you can send email and text confirmations without ever picking up the phone. Not only can you save money on labor by having fewer hosts on staff, but you can also keep employees focused on providing exceptional hospitality for guests—not dealing with phone calls during busy shifts. 

Restaurant floor plan creator

Designing an optimal restaurant floor plan is more complex than it may seem. You want to create a room that has a warm, appealing vibe for guests while it carves out space for all the logistical details that a restaurant needs. The layout must let servers quickly navigate the space and accommodate the maximum number of covers in various configurations during a service.

Today, you don’t need math skills and graph paper to do this job right. There are digital tools that can help you create a customized floor plan and even preview it in 3D before moving all that furniture around.

Pre-shift reporting

A successful service starts before the restaurant opens its doors. Use pre-shift reporting and digest emails, filled with important information about guests and reservations for the upcoming shift to prepare for the night or afternoon ahead. Front-of-house employees can review notes and details for every table, including any special events that are happening or guest requests. With OpenTable Pro, restaurants can access even richer data about guests, plus a graphic overview of the shift ahead.

Table management software

You can get more out of your dining room with the right software. Doing this digitally can make the night flow more seamlessly whether it’s filled with reservations or walk-ins. OpenTable lets you customize your floor plans and use flexible table inventory to serve more guests during any given shift. Take advantage of the software’s assignment recommendations to maximize seats. Systems today know when you should assign a party of 2 to a 2-top instead of a 4-top, ensuring the table will be available when a larger group comes along. It takes some of the guesswork out of things for your hosts.

Digital waitlist

Technology makes wait times less frustrating for guests. A digital waitlist keeps them up to date with real-time info about where they are in line, giving them a more accurate sense of how long they’ll be waiting. It also sets them free to roam the neighborhood until their table is ready. This also has the advantage of removing crowds from your entrance and waiting area. 

Online ordering and payment

According to QSR magazine, guests are choosing restaurants that require the fewest interactions with people. That sounds jarring at first, but many aspects of online ordering and payment allow hospitality professionals to have fewer but better interactions with guests.

Digital systems can streamline work, freeing up employees to tackle tasks other than taking orders over the phone. OpenTable allows restaurants to easily set up takeout, a welcome feature for people who can’t get a reservation right now or just want to have a quiet night at home with their favorite dishes. People also appreciate being able to place an order and pay for delivery online.

QR codes

Thanks to the pandemic, QR codes are here to stay. They provide many time-saving benefits to your staff. Guests can scan a square to check out the menu, which can buy a server more time in the middle of a busy shift. You can use OpenTable to create as many QR codes as you need: for your wine list, the day’s specials, as well as special diet menus, like gluten-free or vegan. 

Run a smooth back of house

All of the tools used by the front of house impact what’s happening in the kitchen. After all, how reservations are taken and the way the dining room is seated can make all the difference in the cooks’ night. Similarly, when the kitchen is in its groove, it creates a positive ripple effect throughout the restaurant. Here are some tools to consider to help keep the back of the house out of the weeds and the whole restaurant working in harmony. 

POS system

Modern POS systems can relieve many common back-of-the-house pain points. POS systems can also help improve accounting with digital records for sales and revenue, price per head, and average check amount.

Consider a cloud-based touchscreen POS system, which runs on handheld computers with built-in printers. This means simpler, speedier payment for guests. It eliminates the need for servers to run back to the station to print a check when the guest requests it, helping tables turn faster. 

You can integrate OpenTable with many leading POS systems. When your reservation system and POS system work together, it can lead to insights that help you understand your guests, speed up operations, and keep closer track of revenue. Another benefit to integration is automatic table statusing, which lets the host know the status of every table without having to leave the host stand. This helps turn tables faster and seat guests more quickly from the waitlist.

Event management systems

In a restaurant that offers catering services, private parties, and events, it can get complicated to organize those special projects. A digital event management system can keep you on track and free you from using multiple tools like calendars, spreadsheets, and endless emails. They often provide utilities for selling tickets, getting the word out on social media, and checking guests in upon arrival. 

Manage your team and costs

A restaurant owner can wear a lot of hats, including those of human resources manager and accountant. Today, there’s a range of apps and software available to help with those important parts of your job.

Staff scheduler

Handling employee work schedules doesn’t have to be a headache for managers or employees. For a restaurant to run smoothly, a digital scheduler can help you communicate clearly with employees about their shifts. These mobile-friendly tools can usually handle time off and shift swap requests, on-call lists, and other types of scheduling communications. 

Staff performance tracking

Understand and compare the performance of staff members with OpenTable’s powerful relationship management tool. Get rich data at the click of a mouse to see who your top performers are, even if you have multiple restaurant locations. You can check each server’s average overall rating, check average, and cover average. It includes data from OpenTable reviews to show you what diners appreciate most in a server.

Payroll

The current generation of payroll software does a lot of number-crunching for you. First of all, they can help ensure payroll is met on time, which keeps morale high. They help manage payroll taxes. And they can also help you understand attendance patterns among your employees. These systems can run the gamut from inexpensive to costly, so do some research before committing to one to ensure a good fit for your business. 

Hiring tool

There’s no doubt about it: Recruitment and hiring are taking more time, resources, and energy these days. But there is help—OpenTable has partnered with Indeed and Culinary Agents to create a new hiring guide packed with tips and tools to help you find the talent you need.

Reporting

Sure, gut feelings will always play a role when it comes to business decisions. But data and metrics are important, too. OpenTable allows you to review and compare important stats, including seated guest activity, spend, and diner reviews. These reporting tools offer a revealing look at anonymous data points and trends across nearly 60,000 restaurants around the world. You can also compare your restaurant’s key metrics to others in your area.

Employee training software

Training new people can be both labor-intensive and time-consuming. When it’s time for employee promotions or people taking on new roles, there’s more teaching to do. That’s why online learning options and training software can be a big help. These tools also ensure consistency in training. Unlike human beings, computer software never skips a step or forgets to mention details. 

Menu engineering

How your menu is organized can have a surprisingly big impact on your revenue. Menu Cover Depot.cm reports that the right menu engineering can increase your profits by up to 15%. Consider using a menu engineering worksheet to get the most out of your menu.

Communicate with guests

Being in touch with guests builds trust and loyalty. There are many ways to keep them informed without relying on employees to send texts and make phone calls. 

Direct messaging

Sometimes guests have questions about their reservation before their visit or you want to get in touch with them. They may want to know if you can accommodate a particular diet or help them mark a special occasion. You can manage these communications and more right in OpenTable with Direct Messaging: ping guests after their meal if they left a scarf behind or provide some follow-up information about the wine they enjoyed.   

Automated email campaigns

Connecting with guests via their inbox can help you develop an ongoing relationship with them. These notes can be personalized based on what you’ve learned from their visits. For example, you can remind them to make reservations for upcoming birthdays and anniversaries or alert them to a special event that aligns with their interests. The details from guest profiles make it easy to tailor these messages so they are relevant—never spam.

Reputation management

For better or worse, online reviews matter. That’s why it’s important to use a reputation management tool to stay on top of guest feedback. You can see reviews from OpenTable, Facebook, and Google all in one place and respond to them. Some guests will return to a restaurant and write a more positive review after hearing from an owner or manager directly. You can also clearly see what the team is doing right. Positive reinforcement can make your employees even better at their jobs.  You may also notice some areas where improvement is needed. 

Changes in technology move fast, and getting the right tools in place can make a big difference to the success of your restaurant. Not every restaurant will want or need to implement every tool on this list, but it’s good to know what’s out there. Though new tools can be intimidating at first, many owners find that once they start using them, they wonder how they ever lived without them.

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