Restaurant Technology: Choosing Your Kitchen Essentials
It’s sort of unfathomable to consider running a restaurant without technology. Sure, you could do it on paper and pencil, but why would you? In modern times, restaurants of every size and segment utilize various degrees of technology to automate their processes, track data and ultimately, run a more profitable business. There are factors to consider when implementing restaurant technology in your restaurant, like its specific features and operability with your restaurant. This guide aims to be a starting point in helping you consider the kinds of restaurant technology you need in your restaurant, specifically: the kitchen.
The kitchen, or back-of-house, is the overall powerhouse of your restaurant. It’s often hidden from customer view, high-traffic and rife with “hazards” of its environment. In this regard, you want to consider technology that can handle these kitchen rigors (like high temperatures or spills) and find intuitive technology that helps streamline your kitchen—not complicates it.
Here’s the software (i.e., the programs you need to have in your kitchen to run an optimal restaurant). The software, housed within kitchen hardware (discussed later), is the intangible programming that makes kitchen technology work. If your kitchen technology were a robot, the software would be its “brain.”
Kitchen Display System
A Kitchen Display System, or KDS, replaces paper tickets and printers, streamlining your processes to reduce ticket times, turn more tables and ultimately, help you generate more profit. When a guest rings an order through your point-of-sale, a KDS will display it on a screen for the kitchen staff. A good KDS will help you with food routing, integrate with your POS, and will track other data in your kitchen like your speed of service metrics. In turn, you can use this data to note chokepoints in your workflow and adjust from there. When you’ve got your speed of service down pat, your guests always receive their orders at the optimal time. Finally, look for a KDS with capacity management features, capable of throttling orders between dine-in and off-premise traffic. When your kitchen display system can integrate with other devices in your setup, you run a fully-connected restaurant.
Inventory Management System
This type of software often integrates with other technology in your restaurant to manage your standing resources. Inventory management systems will help restaurant owners plan their menus, track actual food usage, calculate COGS (cost of goods sold) and determine food costs. An inventory management system, combined with industry best practices, will curb waste, theft, and spoilage to help conserve expenses.
This software helps keep your guest experiences harmonious and your employee onboarding cost-effective and hassle-free. Mainly, it’s a digital recipe book your staff, seasoned and brand new can access at any time to ensure accurate food prep. These solutions, aimed at overall consistency, become extremely useful for multi-unit operators striving to maintain high food quality standards from one site to another. You can often find recipe viewers as appendages to other kitchen technology (like a KDS) so pay attention to your options there. Pay special attention recipe viewers with an intuitive interface (you don’t want to waste time fussing with persnickety software over the stove!) and high-resolution, color images.
This section encompasses the hardware you need in your kitchen, i.e., the tangible items and devices that house your software. If we go back to our “kitchen robot” analogy, the hardware is its body.
Kitchen Display Controller
The kitchen display controller is like a computer tower that assists your KDS. It’s the actual station that receives, organizes and processes the orders that come in. Think of it a bit like the mediator between the POS and your KDS. It receives the order and then pushes it to the screen. Different controllers have different capabilities in the kitchen, where some can run full motion video, while others just run a simpler, text version of your KDS. These preferences are up to you, but remember that a kitchen display supplemented by images, videos, and intuitive design will equip your staff with the prime resources they need in the heat of the moment.
Kitchen Display Bump Bar
Bump bars help order management and sequencing. When an order moves from one specific milestone to the next (like from the grill to the plate), it is “bumped.” Bump bars help you pass move an order from one station to the next and then clear them from the KDS once they’re out on the floor. Like the aforementioned kitchen display controllers, different bump bars feature different capabilities, customization levels, and other integration features. Look for a durable bump bar (find a specific “number of pushes” guarantee if you can) that can run at top performance in an extreme kitchen environment. That last thing you want to be doing is changing out a worn out bump bar every few months!
Mounting applies to any area of your restaurant where you’ve got screens. These are devices that hold your technology in place (literally), keeping wiring secure and out of sight. To be thorough, look into specific features of mounting, like the dimensions. Slimmer mounts keep your screens closer to the wall, providing a sleeker kitchen. Also, look for “quick release” features which allow you to swap out different monitors to different mounts easily.
For any technology mentioned above with touch screens, you’ll want to consider something lightweight, durable and with a proven track record. Touch screens protect your tech from extreme environments, while still keeping it useful to you. Remember, kitchens contain many wild cards. Look for something that will preserve your tech from spills!
In choosing what to bring into your business, look for kitchen technology solutions with robust data capabilities, durable set-ups, and features that integrate with your front-of-house and POS.
Want to get the scoop on everything restaurant tech, marketing, industry news, and more? We got you covered. Subscribe to our award-winning blog to get weekly updates on the most buzzworthy restaurant industry topics.
About the Author
Dylan Chadwick is a Content Marketing Specialist at QSR Automations. He graduated from Brigham Young University with an English degree and journalism focus and loves to write about technology. When left to his own devices, he enjoys loud music, adorable dogs and documentaries about the aforementioned.