Sponsored by KanPak.
As technology advances ever more rapidly, restaurant operators are looking for ways to embrace new tools while still prioritizing function and efficiency in their kitchens. Figuring out which hot-new-thing warrants investment and which trends will hold the test of time can be a challenge for restaurateurs wanting to stay current without breaking the bank.
To improve operations and increase efficiency, many popular brands are integrating more automated systems and “smart” equipment into their front and back of house, incorporating technologies that assist with energy management, temperature control, inventory maintenance, sanitation, point of sale, customer loyalty, and even employee training. However, industry leaders warn against using tech for tech’s sake.
According to Art McFerran, vice president and general manager of the dispenser group at KanPak, there are three reasons that restaurant operators should implement certain technology solutions: to increase the speed of service for customers, simplify equipment use for employees, and collect transaction data to a remotely-accessible and secure storage location.
“There’s a misconception that if you adopt smart solutions without a strategy, they just work,” McFerran says. “That’s not the case. Technology needs to be planned and tested, then implemented and made available for employees to practice on.”
Two of the biggest smart equipment and technology trends for 2020 will be mobile pay integration across the cloud and the use of QR codes, as well as automation and artificial intelligence. But those solutions are of little use to restaurants if operators and managers fail to properly train employees on how to use them.
It is therefore critical to not only maintain and reinforce training for current front and back of house staff, but to also create a strategic plan for onboarding new personnel and updating workers as the technology improves and changes.
“There is one quick-service chain that is way ahead of the curve on this, especially with respect to knowledge-based training,” McFerran says. “The brand communicates effectively, clearly, and consistently with its operators, and that shows in their individual stores, for example, by how quickly you can pick up a meal from a mobile order.”
Equipment that connects to the cloud provides operators with increased monitoring capability and remote access to kitchen systems, including refrigerators, exhaust, inventory, POS, and digital menuboards.
“There’s a misconception that if you adopt smart solutions without a strategy, they just work.”
Automated and cloud-connected systems also provide better communication between multiple units of a brand. Being able to monitor cooking equipment using remote technology, for example, ensures that restaurateurs can respond to problems as they arise—and also means they can provide updated messaging for employees and customers, such as new recipes, menu items, or limited-time offers (LTOs).
Several successful brands have introduced new training programs which incorporate touchscreen tablets into the kitchen. This technology provides employees with the ability to immediately reference recipes and training tools, without leaving their real-life workspace. In addition, chefs can communicate more quickly with staff if food offerings need to be changed.
In addition, some operators are implementing automated platforms in order to combat rising labor costs. One-touch cooking and user-friendly controls, for example, are helping to mitigate high turnover in the foodservice industry, and help to ensure consistency in every dish.
Advancements in technology are responding to critical challenge areas for quick-service restaurants, providing increased capability for operators and kitchen staff to produce quality products. Customers’ increasing demand for consistency requires brands to introduce systems that ensure continuity between chain locations and in turn necessitate an improved focus on employee training within those systems.
But the key is to match technology solutions with the individual needs of your restaurant or brand, McFerran says: “We need to properly implement smart equipment for the right applications.”
By Erin McPherson