Restaurants aren’t just kitchens and dining rooms anymore. Modern dining is deeply intertwined with technology, from the host’s tablet to the server’s handheld device, the kitchen’s digital displays and the QR code payment system. Restaurants have had to evolve drastically over the last few years to catch up with orders, meet customers where they’re at and stay competitive.

Technology is meant to simplify everyday tasks but comes with some caveats. Restaurant owners must now navigate the complex software solutions landscape, weighing factors like scalability, ease of training, cost, security and compliance. The pressure to choose the right technology is immense—the wrong decision can lead to inefficiencies, frustrated staff and dissatisfied customers.

That’s where the request for proposal (RFP) process kicks in. A well-crafted RFP is a restaurant owner’s secret weapon. It provides a structured framework for defining the restaurant’s specific technology needs, evaluating potential solutions and selecting the best fit. By streamlining vendor selection and aligning with organizational priorities, restaurant operators can clearly outline requirements, desired outcomes and evaluation criteria to deliver maximum value to their customers.

Unlocking the secrets of restaurant tech procurement

Over half (52 percent) of restaurant operators intend to increase tech investments in 2024. But one survey found that nearly 3 in 5 companies regretted at least one of their software purchases from the last 12–18 months. The RFP process ensures the chosen technology aligns with the restaurant’s goals, budget and operational requirements. By providing a structured approach to evaluating vendors, an RFP reduces the risk of making a poor investment and sets the stage for successful implementation.

The restaurant tech RFP process involves collaboration among various stakeholders: restaurant owners and executives for strategic direction and decision-making; IT managers for technical requirements and to ensure compatibility; operations managers to offer insights into daily processes and define functional needs; and finance managers who evaluate financial viability and manage budgets.

Several scenarios may prompt a restaurant to issue an RFP for new technology, such as when existing technology becomes obsolete, unstable or unable to support the restaurant’s growing needs. An RFP can help identify modern, scalable solutions. Changes in industry regulations, such as data privacy or food safety laws, may require restaurants to upgrade technology. An RFP can help find appropriate solutions.

The 7-step restaurant tech selection process

Choosing restaurant technology can feel like a whirlwind, but with this structured approach, restaurant operators can breeze through the process.

  1. Define the restaurant’s business case and needs: Analyze the current tech stack, identify improvement areas and align tech goals with business objectives.
  2. Work with restaurant tech requirements: Identify and prioritize functional and non-functional requirements based on impact and urgency.
  3. Create and issue the RFP: Craft a clear RFP document with project scope, required capabilities and evaluation criteria; then issue it to potential vendors.
  4. Compare and evaluate vendors: Assess proposals against a structured evaluation framework, considering functionality, cost and cultural fit.
  5. Shortlist best-fit restaurant technology vendors: Use quantitative and qualitative assessments to narrow down best-fit vendors.
  6. Coordinate demos: Invite shortlisted vendors to demonstrate their solutions using realistic test scenarios and gather end-user feedback.
  7. Select the right vendor: Make the final decision based on technical capabilities, vendor track record and alignment with long-term goals. Negotiate the contract terms, including pricing, service level agreements (SLAs) and implementation timelines.

By following these steps, restaurant operators can confidently navigate the complex landscape of technology procurement.

Streamlining the RFP process

Adopting a streamlined RFP process can lead to greater efficiency, collaboration, and success in technology procurement. Centralizing RFx (a term for various procurement processes aimed at sourcing goods or services) increases organization and efficiency. With the help of AI-powered insights, businesses can source the best-fit software up to three times faster. The process promotes enhanced stakeholder collaboration, reducing delays caused by miscommunication and conflicting priorities. Additionally, a streamlined RFP process enables faster tech adoption, reducing timelines for sourcing, evaluating and implementing tech. By minimizing biases in software selection, the RFP process encourages more objective decision-making.

Dewey’s Pizza, a national pizza chain, faced challenges in its tech procurement process due to inefficiencies and delays caused by reliance on spreadsheets and lengthy meetings. By adopting a streamlined RFP process with a centralized platform, AI-powered recommendations and efficient requirements gathering and management, Dewey’s Pizza improved stakeholder collaboration, identified best-fit solutions faster and eliminated the need for cumbersome spreadsheets and meetings. This improved process allowed the company to make informed, data-driven decisions, implement new technology solutions more quickly and provide a better experience for customers and staff.

The right software can make or break a business. By following a structured RFP process and leveraging streamlined tools and techniques, restaurant operators can make better decisions that leave guests wanting more and competitors in the dust.

Olive Technologies CEO and co-founder Chris Heard started his entrepreneurial journey in England when he launched a portable cocktail bartending service, “Bars in Action.” In 2009, after working briefly in insurance sales, Chris moved to Vancouver and helped to grow local startup Mobify where he worked first as the head of business development and then as Sr. account executive. He later joined several other tech companies including Yottaa and Fuze as a sales director. In 2018, he co-founded Olive Technologies with a mission to provide enterprises with a faster, more efficient, less biased strategy for buying and adopting the right technology for their business needs.

Story, Technology