The restaurant industry used to operate with very minimal technology: everything was done by hand, and staff mainly stored information in their heads. But now that consumers are embracing technology in all aspects of their lives, hospitality is quickly becoming just as tech-enabled as any other industry – so much so that it can be difficult to navigate all of the different options available.
To streamline your decision making, we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the 16 most important restaurant industry technologies to look into. Below, you’ll find out what they do and some of the best vendors to use across many areas of your restaurant, including:
- Restaurant customer relationship management (CRM) systems
- Point of sale (POS) systems
- Reservation platforms
- Table management systems
- Waitlist management solutions
- Payment processors
- Contactless order and pay systems
- Direct online ordering platforms
- Third-party online ordering solutions
- Kitchen display systems (KDS)
- Restaurant inventory management platforms
- Accounts payable automation software
- Employee scheduling software
- Restaurant marketing solutions
- Event management systems
1. Restaurant Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System
A restaurant CRM is the centralized hub that all of your other restaurant industry technology plugs into. A CRM is a guest engagement tool that helps you track customer data, like contact information, reservation and order history, visit frequency, dietary preferences, birthdays, and more. The best systems on the market help you collect more than 100 data points on each of your guests. A CRM uses this data to build guest profiles that inform your service and marketing efforts so you can personalize experiences at scale, leading to deeper guest loyalty.
Solutions: SevenRooms, Salesforce, HubSpot
2. Point of Sale (POS) System
A POS is the home for your restaurant’s sales transactions. Think of it as a digital cash register that can do so much more than just process orders. Your POS is where you input orders, process payments, keep track of inventory, view sales reports, and much more.
Pro tip: There are many POS systems on the market, but not all of them are built with the needs of restaurateurs in mind. Look for a POS that focuses on serving the restaurant industry, and that offers a cloud-based solution that makes it easy to connect your POS system (and the data it stores) with the rest of your tech stack.
Solutions: Toast, TouchBistro, Lightspeed
3. Reservation Platform
Reservation software makes it easy for guests to book tables for dining at your restaurant and for your restaurant to manage those reservations. When your reservation platform integrates with your CRM, reservation notes and requests are automatically linked to the guest’s profile in your CRM so you can more easily tailor the guest’s dining experience. These systems can also send automated reservation reminders via SMS or email, which frees up restaurant staff’s time to spend with guests.
There are two types of reservations platforms: direct and third-party.
With a direct platform, like SevenRooms, you own the guest experience. You don’t pay a commission fee for the reservations your customers book directly via your website or owned channels. Plus, you have complete control over your brand and the experience your guests have through that touchpoint, so you can collect more data, offer a seamless experience from start to finish, and power personalized interactions to build meaningful, lasting customer relationships.
Third-party reservation platforms, like Yelp or Zomato, have consumer networks that drive reservations for restaurants. However, because their brand is the focus of the booking experience, restaurants are unable to ensure their guests have a good booking experience. They miss out on building deeper guest connections from that first interaction. When a guest books through a third-party, restaurants have little recourse when guest data is not shared with them. Third-parties may expose a restaurant to foodies who visit their websites, but they also promote competing restaurants at the same time. Ultimately, they prevent restaurants from building direct relationships with guests.
Solutions: SevenRooms, Yelp, Zomato
4. Table Management System
A table management system helps you find the optimal table for every party that makes a reservation or walks into your restaurant. By giving you a complete view of your restaurant’s floorplan, this tool helps keep staff on the same page so they know who’s seated where, which tables are available, and which guests are paying and will soon be getting up to leave. It is usually found at the host stand of a restaurant on an iPad or tablet, as the host manages seating assignments for guests upon arrival.
Best-in-class table management systems use algorithms that test thousands of seating combinations to make sure you assign your customers to the table that will maximize profits across your floorplan. This restaurant industry technology can also be integrated with your reservation, waitlist, POS, CRM, and marketing tools, leveraging all the data at its disposal to streamline operations and keep your restaurant running like a well-oiled machine.
With a table management system, you can also easily rearrange your floorplan to add new dining spaces, adjust tables for social distancing, or update table combinations for special occasions, like Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day.
Solutions: SevenRooms, CAKE, Eat
5. Waitlist Management Software
Waitlist management software helps restaurants to manage walk-ins and let customers add themselves to a virtual waitlist online. Guests can look up your waitlist time online before they come to your restaurant. They can join the list from anywhere by going to your website, scanning a QR code on-site, visiting social media channels, or calling your restaurant.
Solutions: SevenRooms, Waitwhile, NextME
6. Payment Processor
Unless you plan on only accepting cash at your restaurant, you’ll need a card reader to process card and mobile payments quickly. Look for a card reader that lets you accept the latest payment technologies – magnetic stripes, chips, contactless cards, and mobile payments like Apple Pay or Google Pay. If your restaurant offers online ordering for delivery and pickup, make sure your payment processor also enables you to take online payments via the internet.
Pro tip: For best results, choose a card reader that integrates with your POS.
Solutions: Stripe, Square, TouchBistro Payments
7. Contactless Order and Pay Solution
Online ordering and payment systems for dine-in guests have become a necessity since the onset of the pandemic. This restaurant industry technology lets you create a fully digital ordering experience for guests — including an online menu that can be used to place and pay for orders.
Contactless order and pay technology speeds up table turns because servers don’t have to go back and forth between a guest’s table and the POS multiple times to settle the check. Plus, with digital menus, restaurateurs can maximize revenue through item add-ons and upsells. The best mobile ordering and payment solutions are synced automatically with a restaurant’s CRM and guest profiles to provide a complete picture of every guest.
Solutions: SevenRooms, Bentobox, Presto
8. Direct Online Ordering Platform
Delivery and takeout have increased in popularity because of the pandemic, but according to the National Restaurant Association, their popularity will stick around for the long term.
Make it easy for your customers to place off-premise orders, and for your staff to manage them, by implementing a direct online ordering platform. The best online ordering solutions also come with integrated payments, so your restaurant can seamlessly collect card payments for orders placed online.
Unlike a third-party online ordering platform, a direct ordering solution is white-labeled with your branding and doesn’t display competitors’ menus next to yours. You also don’t have to pay hefty commission fees with a direct ordering platform, so your business can keep all of its hard-earned profits.
Solutions: SevenRooms, Bentobox, GloriaFood
9. Third-Party Online Ordering Platform
Many restaurants choose to work with third-party online ordering platforms even if they have a direct solution because third-party apps have name recognition and therefore help expose your restaurant to new customers.
After you acquire customers via third-party tools, use your marketing platform to convert those third-party customers into direct customers to build relationships and save on commission fees.
Solutions: DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats
10. Kitchen Display System (KDS)
A KDS, or kitchen display system, is a digital version of a ticket system for your back of house (BOH). When orders are placed via your POS, they appear on a screen in the kitchen. This cutting-edge restaurant industry technology lets you see how long tickets have been open to help your BOH team manage its time and ensure orders come out quickly.
Solutions: TouchBistro, Toast, Lightspeed
11. Restaurant Inventory Management System
This restaurant industry technology keeps track of inventory to help you order exactly what you need to avoid waste and under-ordering. A restaurant inventory management system can also help you simplify accounting and purchasing, and control food costs. It tracks each and every ingredient that is purchased and used within your restaurant.
Solutions: Restaurant365, MarketMan, Upserve
For more help on restaurant inventory management, check out our blog.
12. Accounts Payable (AP) Automation Software
Accounts payable software makes the financial side of running a restaurant easier by automating many tedious accounting tasks. It streamlines bill payments, invoice management, and spend management. It also has powerful reporting features that give you insights that power better business decisions.
Solutions: Plate IQ, xtraCHEF, Restaurant365
13. Employee Scheduling Software
Restaurant employee scheduling software helps you do so much more than just build shift schedules. It uses historical data, forecasting, and AI to automate scheduling to a high degree of accuracy. This helps to minimize understaffing and overspending on labor. Some solutions also come with team communication and timekeeping tools. This restaurant industry technology helps restaurant owners to manage employee schedules and assignments, keeping them in the loop in real-time
Solutions: 7shifts, Restaurant365, ZoomShift
14. Restaurant Marketing Solution
For restaurants, marketing is critical for keeping customers coming back. Restaurant marketing software can automate many of the tedious aspects of marketing.
It can leverage your restaurant’s CRM and guest data, to send automated emails based on guest spend and visit history. For example, you can configure your marketing software to automatically send a “we miss you” email to customers who haven’t returned in more than two months, offering them a free round of beers when they return. If they make a reservation via the link provided, the offer will automatically be applied to their guest profiles, so your team will know to provide beer on the house. Plus, this restaurant industry technology provides analytics to help you increase your open rate and see which parts of your emails customers click on.
You can also automate the collection of guest feedback by opting to send customers surveys after every meal. If a customer selects a low rating, you can send an automatic response to buy time before reaching out directly to recover the customer.
Another useful feature that restaurant marketing software offers is the ability to aggregate reviews from third-party platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor. When you can see all of your reviews in one place, you can more easily spot trends and make changes to your business. And because you can link reviews to guest profiles, you’ll know which guests you’ll need to butter up with a treat the next time they come in the door.
Solutions: SevenRooms, Eateria, Marketing 360
15. Event Management Software
If your restaurant hosts private or ticketed events and experiences, you’ll want to add event booking software to your must-have restaurant industry technology list. Event management software lets you sell tickets online, manage bookings, access insights about event sales and attendance, and more. Look for a system that also comes with digital tracking tools, a CRM integration, promoter tracking capabilities, and customizable branding.
Solutions: SevenRooms, Tripleseat, Perfect Venue
Restaurant Industry Technology Powers Businesses
Restaurant industry technology works best when data is shared between systems, so look for tools that integrate with each other, share information, and enhance each other’s capabilities. Or, look for many-in-one solutions that combine several powerful features in one tool, like the SevenRooms Guest Engagement and Retention Platform. It has everything you need to acquire, engage, and retain more guests.