There are many parts of a sit-down or quick-service restaurant that help it run smoothly. Staying up to date with the latest technological improvements and trends can keep an establishment going strong for years to come.

Within the last five years, there have been significant strides made in both the front and back of house that make life easier for staff and customers. Whether it’s advanced commercial equipment or upgraded digital systems, every restaurant should consider adding these key innovations in the near future.

1. Smart Kitchen Equipment

Some of the latest commercial kitchen equipment feature some form of WiFi connectivity and interactive touchscreens. While those features might seem like window dressing, they’re designed to help reduce downtime, maintenance and training.

There are fryers with built-in hardware with wireless connectivity, making it possible to pull real-time data and make remote software updates in no time. This means kitchen staff can continue to fry everything from chicken wings to onion rings with absolute precision.

Touchscreen interfaces also make day-to-day use easy. A fryer display can show error codes, but it can also provide helpful troubleshooting steps and resolutions to cut down on service calls. An oven touchscreen can alert users when a micro boiler needs to be cleaned, ensuring the unit receives routine maintenance and stays at peak performance.

With easy-to-operate equipment, leadership won’t have to spend hours or days training new staff members. Employees only have to learn which buttons to press and simply follow the instructions displayed on the touchscreen.

2. Energy-Efficient Equipment

As technology improves, so does energy efficiency. Whether it’s commercial ovens or refrigerators, many of the latest models are designed to reduce power and water consumption. The U.S. ENERGY STAR program allows restaurant owners and managers find energy-efficient foodservice equipment, ranging from large cooking and cooling units to small ice and coffee machines.

On the market today are a wide range of fryers, steamers, griddles and convection ovens with energy-efficient heat recovery systems or boilerless design, which can consume less than 1.5 gallons of water per hour during heavy usage. This not only saves on water costs and consumption, but it also cuts down on electrical bills and use.

On the cold side, there has been a big push recently toward R290 refrigerant. R290 is a refrigerant-grade, ecofriendly propane that has a low environmental impact and isn’t harmful to the ozone. Many commercial refrigeration units run on R290 refrigerant.

Aside from equipment, there are many other ways to make a commercial kitchen energy efficient. Start by changing out older incandescent light bulbs with LED or CFL options throughout a space. Also, updating pre-rinse spray valves or opting for low-pressure sinks and dishwashers can reduce the amount of wasted water in a facility.

3. Enhanced POS System

While having the latest equipment in the kitchen is helpful, new technology is beneficial in the front of the house as well. If necessary, consider upgrading the point-of-sale system. The newest POS platforms not only process customer transactions, but they also improve the customer experience and streamline business operations.

When selecting a new POS system, find a solution that makes the ordering and payment process as quick as possible. For instance, a cloud-based POS that runs off a Samsung Android operating system, letting servers or cashiers take orders and payments right from their tablets. There are similar setups for an iPad that include options for splitting checks and e-receipts. Email or text receipts are a great ways to garner information and send personalized promo offers and messaging.

For an extra charge, some fully integrated platforms include everything from inventory management and sales reporting to online ordering and employee performance. Tracking this data helps give insight into sales, trends, employee activity and expenses. That way, a restaurant can better serve customers and identify ways to save money and maximize revenue.

4. Digital Menu Boards & Self-Ordering Kiosks

Along the same lines as digital POS systems, new menus can streamline the ordering process, especially in fast food and quick-service restaurants. Aside from listing items and prices, digital menu boards can include ingredients and nutritional info to help customers make an informed decisions. Perhaps their biggest benefit is the ability to make changes quickly, allowing restaurant owners the ability to swap out featured items to upsell and add any new food or beverages with ease. Unlike paper or poster menus, an establishment doesn’t have to spend time or money whenever an update is needed.

Another advantage of digital menus is that they also help reduce perceived wait times. Dedicate some of the menu board with content that keeps customers engaged while they wait. For example, the space can feature animated slides that include trivia, news or community messages. Remember to include content that encourages patrons to sign up for rewards programs or follow social media channels.

Also, think about adding some smaller menu boards that double as self-ordering kiosks. These kiosks help cut down lines and ordering times, and they let customers control their experience and explore the menu options. When patrons use the ordering kiosk, consider adding some upsell prompts. For instance, a prompt might ask users if they want to add a beverage and side to make an order into a meal.

Matt Gentile is a Content Specialist with Parts Town, a market-leading distributor of genuine OEM foodservice equipment parts. Parts Town has the most in-stock parts on the planet to help repair commercial kitchen equipment for chain restaurants, institutions, independent restaurants and more.
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