7 Vital Steps in a Successful Restaurant Technology Rollout
Technology is always evolving, and adapting is critical to a restaurant’s success. For a restaurant to remain viable, the focus needs to turn to the driving force of success — consumer demand and expectations. Consumers want online waitlists, scheduling, loyalty programs, and consistency. Implementing these technologies is going to make your restaurant more competitive. However, rolling out new changes isn’t always a walk in the park. Ensure a smooth transition by following this restaurant technology rollout plan.
Step 1: Choose a Solution
Not every piece of new technology is right for every restaurant. While this may seem obvious, any technology solution you choose should correctly address the pain points your restaurant is experiencing. From quick service to fine dining, each solution is unique to your restaurant.
Once you’ve identified the type of technology that will help your success, you need to find the best company for the job. The business that provides your solution should have your best interest in mind. Part of that means having an implementation plan, access to training, great references, and experience providing the solution they’re implementing. If they don’t, you may be in for a long and frustrating implementation.
Step 2: Decide How You Define Success
Success for your restaurant can come from many places—like increasing customer loyalty, reducing staffing inconsistencies, or maximizing table turns. Ultimately they all manifest in your return on investment. Before you begin your project, outline what success looks like for your company, and make sure it lines up with your needs.. For example, if you own a fast-casual restaurant, success may be determined by order speed and communication. You might decide that a kitchen display system is the best solution for your restaurant. Developing this criterion helps your team:
- Measure progress
- Focus on the solution
- Make later adjustments
On this same note, identify any risks that come with the project and calculate them against the benefits of a successful restaurant technology rollout. Recognizing those potential risks will help you be more successful if there are any delays or hiccups during the process.
Step 3: Determine Who Key Stakeholders Are
Stakeholders are those to whom you need to deliver results. These stakeholders could be managers, hourly employees, your bank, or the executive suite; they’re the people who will be most affected by a restaurant technology rollout.
Once you identify these key representatives, you must communicate the effects and changes of the rollout clearly, so they can be prepared and communicate with their teams. Encourage open communication about the changes and define roles.
Step 4: Create a Timeline
You know the peak hours and time frames of your restaurant, so as you map out a timeline for implementation, keep this in mind. If you have a milestone to hit (for example, Father’s Day), your timeline should give you plenty of time to test and implement before that date. As you develop deadlines, make sure they won’t interfere with any big days you have planned for your business. For example, the table service restaurant IHOP would want to be conscious of deadlines around National Pancake Day.
Step 5: Present the Vision with Enthusiasm
You have a project, criteria for success, and a timeline for the project. Now, you have to communicate. From the initial announcement, you need to make four things clear:
- What tools will change?
- What processes will be updated?
- How will the adoption of this technology help employees perform better?
- What is the timeline your employees and stakeholders can expect?
Make sure you weave the “why” into each communication about this transition. Employees should be your strongest ambassadors for the technology, but to do that, you need to help them get excited by leading by example. If you own a quick-service restaurant, implementing technology that will shorten lines and nail order accuracy is pretty exciting news to employees. When it comes to implementation later, you’ll find that there are fewer roadblocks, because you’ve communicated the positives.
Step 6: Teach and Apply
Implementing your plan can be the biggest headache when rolling out the technology. You can make it easier by ensuring you delegate properly and plan for training and feedback.
First, choose an implementation team. This team will develop the plan, create feedback loops, and advocate for the implementation. The team should be made up of the following:
- An executive/corporate sponsor – This person from the c-suite will help with both internal support and buy-in. They should be adept at overcoming any issues that have to do with resources, budgets, or corporate-level sponsorship.
- Organizational administrator – This is the person who plans and organizes the implementation through all levels of the restaurant. They will set the direction and make sure both management and staff are working toward the same goals.
- Implementation support – These people will set up and configure any hardware or software and know the ins and outs of the solution. Going forward, they will be the go-to person for quick fixes with the product.
If you have multiple sites, you should also identify your training team. Designate specific employees as trainers, who will help onboard the rest of employees and be a go-to person for any issues or fixes. Provide ongoing training so that employees can achieve the full potential of the software you’ve been rolling out.
As you implement, create a feedback loop to identify areas of improvement you would like to see in the technology. This communication channel is especially crucial for more customizable and scalable solutions.
Step 7: Examine and Modify
Go back to step 2. What were your criteria for success? Are you achieving it? If you don’t analyze your data, you won’t know whether you’re running optimally or need to make improvements.. Today’s technology helps you effortlessly collect data—but the next step is to analyze it and make adjustments based on those analyses. Skipping this step means you may be missing out on more opportunity for success.
A restaurant technology rollout must take into account both who will use the solution and how they’ll do it. As Red Robin made the shift into using table management and reservation system in over 450 of their restaurants, their measurable improvement only came about because of a successful implementation plan. When your organization rolls out new technology, you’ll only achieve success with a plan in mind. With advancing technology and solutions always coming into the picture, the best time to begin planning the framework is now.
Learn more about the kinds of technology diners want to see in your restaurant in 2019. Check out our eGuide using the button below:
About the Author
Lee Leet worked as a consultant for a major quick service restaurant and was tasked with creating a state-of-the-art kitchen solution for their multi-brand concept. He saw opportunity there, quit his consulting job, and created his own company to build that system—when he completed it, that company even purchased it for use. His original mission was always to create innovative solutions that filled in the gaps for restaurants, and he founded QSR Automations to continue working toward that goal. Through iterations of kitchen automation, a guest management platform for restaurants, a consumer application that allows diners to find restaurants nearby, and so much more, we embrace the change that restaurateurs, diners, and other employees face every day.