How Technology Will Change Your Restaurant Businesses

 Technological tools are making it easier for restaurant operators to control costs, train staff and ensure outstanding operations. Just a few decades ago, operating a chain of restaurants meant having a team of supervisors who might have three or four locations under their control, with regional vice presidents who would supervise the supervisors. At the store level, the general manager might receive support from an assistant manager, a kitchen manager and any number of shift leaders. For the supervisory team, running their locations typically meant making surprise inspection visits and having managers phone in daily sales, labor reports and weekly cost calculations. For the store management team, controlling operations meant filling out a pre-shift checklist to monitor issues such as refrigeration temperatures, dish machine sanitizer levels and the amount of inventory on hand. Schedules were made out by hand using manual calculations based on sales trends, and training new employees typically involved telling a new worker to “stand over here and watch how they do it.” Turnover rates for a single unit often exceeded 100 percent or more, meaning that a single location replaced its entire staff over the course of the year. That’s all changing. These days, cloud-based point-of-sale systems allow supervisors to access sales and cost information anywhere in the world from their laptops, receiving real-time text and/or email alerts if issues such as ticket times or inventory levels get out of line. Internet-of-Things sensors have replaced the pocket thermometer, notifying managers if steam table or refrigeration temperatures fall below a predetermined threshold or if an air conditioning unit is experiencing unexpected vibration. Digital menu boards allow the chain to update menu prices for the entire organization from the corporate headquarters with a few mouse clicks, while the POS can generate staffing schedules and push them out to employees via email or text message. Instead of placing orders at the counter or via a server, customers are placing their own orders by self-service kiosks. And training is no longer a haphazard affair. With a typical restaurant spending as much as $3,500 to hire and train a new employee (if they can find employees at all), operators need to do everything they can to ensure training programs are consistent from location to location and that those programs provide workers with the tools they need to succeed in their jobs. In many cases, that means delivering video-based training materials by tablet or mobile device. To help meet the challenge of training today’s workers, technology firm Multimedia Plus has introduced INCITE 5.0, the latest version of its INCITE mobile Associate Communications Platform. Already used by major brands in the retail space, INCITE can help restaurant operators train employees and improve communications via interactive, in-store mobile devices. In addition to providing a consistent training experience across an entire organization, the INCITE platform provides managers and executives with access to data-rich metrics including progress completing training materials and scores achieved on certifications. They can then measure that data against key performance indicators at levels ranging from individual employees to the entire organization. If an employee didn’t perform well on a training module, they can review it and retake the assessment. The platform can track completion dates for courses and prompt employees and managers when training deadlines are near. Staffing remains one of the biggest challenges facing the restaurant industry today, and effective, efficient training is a key way for operators to conquer that challenge. Meeting today’s digital native workers where they live, on mobile devices with information delivered in small, easily absorbed chunks, can help those operators improve sales, lower costs and set the stage for an outstanding customer experience.