COVID Impact on Restaurant Technology

As we all know, COVID-19 has changed the restaurant industry forever. According to the National Restaurant Association, the industry is one million workers, or 8%, short of reaching its pre-pandemic levels. According to Blackbox Intelligence, full service restaurants are now operating with 6.2 fewer back-of-house staff and 2.8 fewer front-of-house staff.  Limited-service restaurants are also under labor pressure, and a handful of Chick-fil-A and McDonald's units have had to close their dining rooms due to insufficient staffing.  And while the reasons for workers leaving the restaurant industry are debated and varied, one thing is clear, in order for restaurant operators to survive and thrive, they must get more ROI and efficiency from their existing teams because replacing people is not as easy as it used to be and it is more expensive than ever with wages rising 7.8% in the last year alone.

Solving with Software 

In order to cope with the new normal, restaurants have turned to software to manage new revenue streams, ensure compliance, and maximize  output from their teams.  A new report from J.P. Morgan and payment provider FreedomPay, revealed that, pre-Covid, nearly two-thirds of C-level leaders said their top challenge was making tech investments that would minimize risk. But the pandemic changed all that. With a surge in takeout and delivery, coupled with mandatory safety regulations for in-restaurant visits, they quickly had to park their once held conservative approach to technology investment.

The aforementioned report, based on interviews with 50 executives and IT leaders across retail and hospitality both before and during the pandemic, found that priorities shifted to rapidly deploying digital features to meet consumers’ changing needs. The report shows that restaurants made a huge technological leap in 2020. Tools that were only slowly  growing in adoption, like curbside delivery and online ordering suddenly became crucial for survival. The result was effectively years’ worth of technological progress in a matter of months—and in some cases, days. As Fred LeFranc, founding partner of restaurant advisory company Results Thru Strategy commented, the pandemic was a “once-in-a-century kind of event”. When it comes to adopting technology, “They [restaurants] had no choice… We’ve reached a tipping point.” 

Restaurants invested in a variety of software tools in order to increase their operational efficiency and grow sales. Third Party Delivery platforms increased order volume, Marketing and Loyalty software to keep customers coming back, POS systems that would integrate with digital ordering, Scheduling tools, QR Codes, Operational Checklist Tools, the list goes on-and-on. And while on the surface, these software investments promised to make game changing improvements to revenue and operational efficiency, in reality, the software bloat made incremental improvements at best. Restaurant enterprises found themselves struggling with software stacks that didn’t speak to one another nor provided the actionable insights that they needed.

Too much Data, not enough Action

The accelerated investment in technology has been a double edged sword. While having specialized software for each part of the business (from ordering, marketing, scheduling, etc) has been a boon for the individual contributor, the instrumentation of each part of the business has spawned a whole new problem: paralysis by analysis for the organization. The data that was meant to improve operational efficiency and increase productivity of teams has many companies struggling to make sense of it all.  

Restaurants now have the ability to track every metric that matters to their business. However, in most cases, the data is still manually dumped into Excel spreadsheets and managed by overworked Finance teams. Data is siloed in the organization and leaves the people who matter most, Operations, in the dark about what to do next. Furthermore, when there is too much data to analyze, how does an organization know what matters most?

Data dictates Decisions

Expo was built specifically to enable restaurants to get actionable information from their data. Expo’s first-in-class, AI-enabled solution sits on top of the entire restaurant software stack - aggregating and normalizing data across the company and generating insights in a simple and consumable way. Expo keeps your entire company, from Executive to Regional Supervisor to General Manager, updated in real time with the metrics that matter most to the business. Your frontline teams are armed with information that enables them to make fast decisions to serve more customers, keep them happier and drive more revenue. And with the power of AI, your teams don’t need a data analyst to interpret the data for them, Expo does it all for you.

A Return on Investment from your Investments

Expo ensures that you are getting a return on your most precious resources: your data, your people, and your time. COVID has changed the way that restaurants work, and in order to stay competitive, your teams must be armed with more than just data, but with actionable, restaurant specific insights, that help them drive revenues, lower costs, and retain employees. Expo is the fastest way to get the most ROI from your software and people investments.