While U.S. foodservice brands frequently expand into Canada, the reverse is less common. Why? The simple reason is: technology. Many Canadian restaurant brands hit an immediate wall when they attempt to adapt to the U.S.’ tech-forward approach to operations. Now, with consumer behavior increasingly shifting toward intuitive and automated restaurant experiences, Canadian brands are faced with the need for the support, flexibility and efficiency of the right technology suite in order to confidently and successfully expand into the U.S. restaurant market.
When Meltwich, the Ontario-based grilled cheese concept, began to gain traction in Canada, it became clear that the menu would also resonate in the American market. Unfortunately, a strong product offering alone doesn’t always spell success for brands looking to expand across the border; however, Meltwich had already made a strong investment in point-of-sale (POS) technology with Givex that was not only streamlining operations across the brand’s nearly 20 locations throughout Canada but also providing the brand with the flexibility to choose the products that best fit its needs.
When the pandemic hit and restaurants were forced to close all in-person dining, the ones that survived were largely those that were able to quickly pivot operations to online ordering in order to meet growing customer demand for off-premises orders, a transition that many restaurants struggled with. As third-party delivery became increasingly important, anything that could streamline operations was an enormous business perk. In addition to online ordering, many of the restaurants that were able to stay afloat did so by crafting compelling promotions and customer incentives as a way to help increase sales, leveraging data pulled from POS reports to guide promotion efforts.
Throughout the pandemic, Meltwich was able to use insight gained from its POS system and implement system-wide changes quickly rather than scrambling to catch up with the seemingly immediate shift in the restaurant landscape. As a result, Meltwich was able to maintain strong sales numbers, allowing the brand to continue its momentum to further propel the restaurant’s successful expansion into the U.S.
With the right POS system in place, brands can effectively manage every aspect of the business, from inventory to workflow. These efficiencies streamline labor costs, unit-level economics and operational accuracy, all of which are essential components of any large expansion or transition, especially to a new country.
Perfecting Off-Premises and Mobile Integration
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant landscape has changed in many ways, but perhaps the most significant shift is the rise in off-premises dining. Now more than ever, it’s essential for restaurants to have the capability to seamlessly integrate their POS system with delivery platforms in order to streamline the ordering process and eliminate common errors like double entry or missed orders.
When it comes to breaking into a new country, online ordering capabilities are an essential way for brands to tap into essential off-premises market shares. Meltwich was able to easily integrate its POS system with its delivery platform of choice, ensuring that the restaurant brand never missed a beat or lost out on a potential online order while avoiding the extra fees that are commonly associated with integrating a new provider into a POS system.
The Importance of Robust I.T. Support
By partnering with the right technology provider, restaurant brands can be confident that there will always be somebody on the phone to help solve the inevitable issues that arise. Since Meltwich is growing so quickly, it is important to have that well-rounded support team to help the brand make decisions on the fly and curb potential problems. Entering into a new country is challenging enough and the Givex partnership provides Meltwich with reliable and 24/7 tech support to ensure the team can focus on growth.
Leveraging Analytics for Data-Driven Decision Making
It is essential that restaurant brands have the ability to holistically analyze systemwide sales, identifying top-selling products and menu items while also recognizing slower items that could be placing a drag on the system. For example, Meltwich was able to use POS data to drill down into its top and bottom line items by trimming down the menu to better suit the American market. Products that resonate in Canada may not sell in America, and brands need to be able to analyze the numbers in order to set themselves up for success. The data collected should be presented in a simple, concise format that is both accurate and easy to understand. These analytics don’t only help with preparation—with regularly scheduled reports and access to real-time data, brands can also make immediate changes to their system when necessary and top level analytics allowed Meltwich to take the brand to the next level.
Better Prepared for The Future
Looking ahead, technology is only going to continue to revolutionize the restaurant world. Armed with intuitive data, streamlined services and increased flexibility, an innovative technology partner will ensure restaurant brands can properly prepare with the tools needed to enter into the competitive U.S. market.
Ryan Hillis is a foodservice executive with over a decade of experience as a top-performing sales professional. He has a unique ability to combine his business marketing and administration education with his professional experience to create successful business strategies that consistently drive revenue and results. His areas of expertise lie in rapid sales development, business planning & concept development, restaurant franchising, and restaurant consultancy. Ryan is currently the Vice-President of Revenue with Meltwich Hospitality Group Inc, an emerging and fast-growing grilled cheese restaurant concept, and a key member of the Group's management team.