There are many great industries, each with their own complexities, traditions and legacies. The HORECA (hotel, restaurant and catering) industry is one of those industries that used to operate steadily, until it was rocked by the pandemic and forced to change.
Not only the pandemic, but a number of events such as the elimination of GST input credits, highway bans and service charges have forced restaurateurs to seriously reflect on their current operations and seek ways to improve. The sad truth is that it is estimated that more than 40% of restaurants have been forced to close in the past two years. The gloom, however, has presented an opportunity for this industry to truly embrace technology.
Technology has given restaurants a unique opportunity to accelerate growth, cut costs, and do what they’ve always done better than ever. By connecting customers, suppliers and staff, technology has made business processes efficient, lean and agile.
Modernizing POS systems – birth of a ‘restaurant operating system’
Central to this transformation is the modernization of age-old POS (point of sale) software. What was once thought of as a simple billing machine has now become a fully-fledged restaurant operating system offering a host of features ranging from inventory management to online channel integrations.
Point-of-sale software has dramatically simplified back-of-house and front-of-house operations over the past year. Now, waiters no longer have to run around to take and place orders, the point of sale notifies the orders to the kitchen directly via a kitchen display system. Restaurants don’t have to refuse last-minute orders if they’re out of stock, the outlet automatically invalidates out-of-stock items from the menu. With a modern POS, restaurants can now focus on both reducing costs and increasing revenue by leveraging digital marketing, loyalty programs, and CRM.
The bottom line remains the most important factor to manage for restaurateurs, who can also reduce costs through efficient sourcing by leveraging supplier markets, creating more agile supply chains, managing inventory in time and by effectively managing employee payroll and attendance.
Finding a balance between on-site and online ordering
Today, POS systems are not only used to manage restaurant operations, but to power an omnichannel presence on food aggregators. Restaurateurs who stay ahead of the game typically manage their in-store and online operations from a single system.
For example, previously, whenever restaurant owners wanted to update their menu, they had to do it individually on Swiggy, Zomato and their other website, which was time consuming. Modern POS software has already solved this challenge by enabling real-time menu updates across multiple platforms. It’s a boost for aggregators, and better restaurant operations lead to a better experience for end customers, who will start ordering more often.
Restaurant owners now want to manage their entire business on a single screen. With just a few clicks, restaurateurs can manage their inventory, change visibility on online platforms, make menu changes, and leverage the power of analytics to make data-driven decisions. Integration with point-of-sale food aggregators has helped restaurants monitor and manage all of their orders from a single interface and ensured reduced revenue loss due to cancellations.
What does this mean for the end customer?
For customers, technology has helped bring convenience, confidence and speed. Food is prepared faster than ever with a very low probability of errors. Customers can now order food from a wider variety of restaurants than ever before. Additionally, customers no longer have to wait impatiently for their order as they can track it in real time on food apps and websites. Restaurants no longer prioritize orders that require delivery over restaurant customers. An outlet systematically tracks all orders and essentially encourages restaurants to fulfill each order in chronological order.
This is just the beginning. Technology is rapidly changing all facets of the restaurant industry as technology entrepreneurs continue to explore new solutions to further simplify restaurant operations. QR code-based ordering is now ubiquitous, while cloud (or dark/phantom) kitchen models have become a model of choice for those who don’t want to take so much financial risk.
For catering, however, at the center of all this transformation remains customer satisfaction. Tomorrow’s market leaders will be those who seamlessly integrate technology into their operations, ensuring the best possible experience for customers, whether they walk into their favorite establishment or place an order on their phone.
Ashish Saxena is the Managing Director of UrbanPiper