Embracing the future of work in your restaurant

Friday, September 30, 2022

You probably aren’t sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to read another article about the shifts 2020 forced upon all of us. You’re done with mentions of Zoom fatigue, sanity-saving sourdough and supply chain jokes.

And you have to be tired of hearing about “the future of work” and how remote work is quickly becoming a new norm. If you’re a restaurateur, you had a front row seat to the chaos of the pandemic.

You know firsthand that’s not an option for you and your crew. So we won’t dwell on any of that. But the future of work is affecting and transforming the restaurant industry.

That’s right — work isn’t just changing in offices and corporations. We’re in the middle of a big shift in how businesses think about staffing, employee satisfaction, customer support, day-to-day operations and more, and restaurants are no exception. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that keeping your doors open through a pandemic, hiring crisis, recession threats and supply chain disruptions requires entrepreneurs to always be a step ahead.

We’re going to dive into some features that are now all but critical to running your restaurant in the roaring 2020’s, and preparing it for whatever the future may throw at it.

We’re in the middle of a big shift in how businesses think about staffing, employee satisfaction, customer support, day-to-day operations and more, and restaurants are no exception.

Cloud is king

What does in the cloud mean, anyway? When data or technology is in the cloud, it’s stored over the internet, instead of on a physical device in front of you — like a computer or server. You can access that data from anywhere, as long as you’re connected to the internet.

Software is often one of two forms: cloud-based or server-based (also called “on premise”). The downside to on-premise software is in the name: you literally have to be on premise – connected to the servers right in front of you – to run any part of your business that requires access to data. And think about just how much data that is: sales reports, inventory tracking, schedules, payroll, customers, orders, accounting, taxes…unless you’re doing most of your restaurant business operations by hand (please don’t!), it’s pretty difficult to get just about anything done outside of your restaurant’s four walls when you’re reliant on servers (and we don’t mean the waitstaff kind).

Checking phone

And that’s just in reference to back-office work — if you’re currently using an on-premise restaurant point of sale system and want to host any sort of off-site pop-up, you would be forced to find an entirely new system that allows you to take orders and payments on the road.

You can see why cloud restaurant tech is a good option under normal circumstances, but it’s become even more important, and will likely soon be a non-negotiable.

Consider these scenarios:

Problem: Current circumstances have negatively impacted your restaurant’s foot traffic (maybe you’re based in a once-bustling-but-no-longer financial district, or near a college campus that empties in the summer). You want to test some new locations via temporary pop-ups.

Solution: A cloud point of sale with mobile functionality lets you take orders and process payments from anywhere — be it a physical restaurant, food truck or farmers market.

Problem: You’re the owner or regional manager of multiple restaurants, and you still have your hands in a lot of the day-to-day operations. You spend hours each week driving between locations to get office tasks done and check in on your staff.

Solution: Cloud technology lets you be everywhere at once. View everyone’s sales and inventory, create schedules, process payroll and run real-time reports on any device. You have full visibility of all locations and can keep restaurant operations running smoothly – even when you’re away from home base.

Problem: One of your locations is in a popular – but remote – vacation town. Internet outages are not uncommon, which causes extreme stress for staff and frustration for customers during busy periods.

Solution: Many cloud restaurant POS systems and payment processors have an offline mode that lets you continue taking orders and processing payments in the case of an outage. Payments and data sync as soon as the internet returns.

Problem: You change your menu items seasonally – maybe even monthly – and you’re forced to make those changes on each location’s POS system manually, one by one.

Solution: Handle menu management from a single point of truth and make updates reflect across all locations.

Problem: You’re forced to close your restaurant to dine-in guests — takeout or delivery only. But server-based point of sale systems don’t integrate with popular delivery services. Which brings us to…

Solution: Integrated delivery services

Even after COVID-induced lockdowns eased, the demand for delivery did not. Online food ordering has grown 300% faster than dine-in since 2014. It now accounts for roughly 40% of the total restaurant sales, and – amazingly – online food delivery revenue is projected to reach $339 billion this year.

Statistics

We’re beyond the age of delivery guys only earning their tips through pizza and Chinese food orders. Consumer expectations have changed — they want everything from a steak dinner and wine to a late-night ice cream pint dropped at their doorstep. We can blame part of that on some diners’ continued wariness of crowded indoor spaces – fair enough – but a lot of that shift is driven by our craving for convenience and customization. As consumers, we’ve tasted the delicious flavor of convenience and we’re not going back.

We hate to even go there, but – if nothing else – it’s important to have delivery technology already set up in the case of another lockdown. 2020 forced restaurateurs to scramble, and many found themselves either taking and deploying orders manually – delaying the process and annoying customers – or rushing to find a partner that ended up hitting them with unexpected service and processing fees in an already challenging time.

Before we jump into delivery integrations, know that there’s nothing wrong with doing delivery in-house. If you have the staff to support it, you can use a POS solution like Heartland Restaurant – with free online ordering built in. Easily take and dispatch orders, plus keep them balanced with dine-in orders, so you can give customers an accurate time estimate and avoid overwhelming the kitchen (more on this later).

If you have the staff to support it, you can use a POS solution like Heartland Restaurant – with free online ordering built in.

Or, seamlessly connect your restaurant point of sale with a third-party delivery service, like DoorDash, Grubhub or Uber Eats. Having one of these at your beck and call means you can offer delivery any time of day, without having to guess whether you’ll need an in-house driver. (Of course, sales data should help make these staffing decisions, but in a time of so much flux, we know to expect the unexpected.)

Consider this: Dinner may have traditionally been your peak meal, but with more and more people working from home and on the hunt for fresh takeout to spice up their monotonous home-office routine, suddenly you have a lunch rush. No drivers available? Your customers can reach you through their delivery apps instead.

The other great thing about delivery apps is their value as a marketing tool — you can get discovered by diners who are browsing the apps for whatever is quick, nearby and/or will satisfy their cravings.

Chefs cooking

Pace your kitchen with order balancing

OK, so, customers want the option of getting their meals through multiple channels, got it. This means, though, that it can be tricky for the kitchen to get a clear picture of traffic. With an increase in delivery, takeout and curbside orders, your not-crowded restaurant can be deceiving. You don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver (literally) – or cause chaos in the kitchen – so you need an order balancing system.

Order balancing controls the volume on online orders so your kitchen isn’t flooded with tickets. So if 20 customers order burgers at 6 PM on Friday, order balancing staggers the orders based on the kitchen’s current capacity, giving each customer a different pickup time. Plus, a modern kitchen display system keeps things clean and clear for cooks. Happy customers and a no-stress staff? Sounds like a win-win.

Ordering food

Diversify your payment options

Have we mentioned that consumers like options? And to make things trickier, different generations want totally different options — like Gen Z doesn’t even list credit cards as one of their top three preferred payment methods.

It’s more than how they pay though — consumers even want options for where and when to pay. Two forms on the rise:

Scan to pay

Customers can pay with their phones by scanning a QR code on their receipt. They enter their own payment information (or use a digital wallet like ApplePay) through a secure gateway and never have to hand over their credit card. Heartland’s Scan to Pay feature – already built into Heartland Restaurant – lets diners easily and privately add a tip through its tip calculator, eliminating any awkward interactions with their servers. That’s contactless payments at its finest.

Pay at table

A little more server interaction, a little less customer effort goes into tableside payments. This requires a mobile POS with a mobile card reader, which lets servers and guests complete transactions in one seamless interaction at their table — no more dropping the check, waiting, taking the payment, returning the receipt and so on.

Payment flexibility can help meet your customer needs and help you do more with less. These options optimize and speed up the whole dining process, turning more tables and reducing staff steps. They’re also especially helpful when you’re shorthanded. Or even if you are fully staffed, mobile and tableside payment processing reduce crowding at the point of sale.

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Give receipt printers a break: Mobile payments and email receipts reduce paper usage, making them an eco-friendly option. Learn more about how restaurant owners can run a more sustainable small business.

Taking order

Put your staff’s sanity first

It’s no secret that staffing has been a challenge recently. Employee turnover is at a historic high, and many are struggling to get enough people on payroll in the first place. Simply put, it’s more important than ever to create a healthy work environment and keep your team happy, from the day they start onboarding.

Technology can play a huge part in that. Show that you value them with features that make their days easier:

  • Intuitive screens and settings that are easy to set up and train employees on while onboarding

  • Modern, reliable POS hardware and POS terminals that don’t glitch halfway through a transaction

  • Flexible tip management that gives you options for tip outs, tip pooling and convenient server banking

  • Offline mode to keep things moving and customers calm during outages

  • Quick, contactless payments

  • Language options

Phone app time

Empower your people: Give employees a convenient way to request shift swaps or time off, view schedules, time clock punches and PTO balance from anywhere. Learn more about integrated employee scheduling tools.

Your staff won’t be the only beneficiary: These features save time all around, which is key when you have less staff. Plus, the happier your employees, the happier your customers. Remember: they can sense stress, which can put a damper on their experience (and your server’s tip).

Ordering with the phone

Use a guest app to enhance the customer experience

Put guests’ dining experience in their own hands — literally. Apple and Android guest apps – like Heartland Guest – let customers do things like book reservations, order takeout, collect coupons, view loyalty program points and – maybe most valuable for all parties involved – skip the line by getting on the waitlist virtually. That, along with easy reservation booking, can also help reduce crowds in your waiting area — something that is sure to put many customers at ease.

Restaurant app

Diners who use restaurants’ mobile apps order twice as often as diners who do not.

Computer menu

Where do we go from here? How to choose the best restaurant POS system

Future-proofing your restaurant means being ready for whatever comes next through automating, integrating and optimizing restaurant management.

It is possible to do this in an affordable way. The answer lies in cloud-based restaurant POS software that can grow and evolve with your needs (and whatever other curveballs are thrown your way). Heartland Restaurant’s robust reporting, inventory management features, customer and employee management tools and more help both quick-service restaurants and full-service restaurants grow profitably. The tools allow restaurant owners to seamlessly connect front- and back-of-house opps, meet customers wherever they want to dine and keep things moving during service interruptions — whether that interruption is a WiFi blip or global pandemic.


Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us.