How restaurants and bars can use technology to gain a competitive edge Featured

6:27pm EDT September 2, 2013
Kevin Conmy, regional vice president, Business Services, Comcast Business Kevin Conmy, regional vice president, Business Services, Comcast Business

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The restaurant and bar industry is highly competitive, and many owners struggle every day to stay in business. The right technology can help restaurants and bars gain an edge, while improving back-office operations and guest experience.

Recently, Comcast Business conducted a poll of LinkedIn members in the hospitality industry. Of the more than 700 respondents, 31 percent said technology was setting them up for success, the second-highest response.

Smart Business spoke with Kevin Conmy, regional vice president of business services at Comcast Business, about how technology and the Internet can be the keys to evolving a restaurant or bar from struggling to thriving.

What technology is driving new efficiencies for back-end operations?

Multiple generations often operate family-owned restaurants and bars. Older-generation owners may prefer traditional, paper-based methods to take customer orders, track time and inventory, and pay employees. However, these businesses often lose money without understanding why.

Fortunately, many software packages and systems are specifically designed to bring the business a level of automation and help operations run more smoothly. Owners can automatically re-order items when supplies get low with real-time inventory management systems, preventing shortages of key ingredients and minimizing over-ordering. They can order food and make supplier payments directly online, making accounts payable faster and easier. Online time cards and schedule management software can improve employee management and allow servers to log in to a secure site to see their schedules with updated changes. The system can deliver announcements to quickly communicate important information, such as menu changes, to the entire staff.

Technology also allows tablets and other mobile devices to send orders immediately to the kitchen. Orders move faster with fewer errors.

How can owners improve guest experiences?

Consumers today are constantly using their smartphones, tablets or laptops. They want a fast connection to watch videos, update social media accounts or do a live video chat right at the table. Restaurants and bars can differentiate themselves with fast wireless Internet service. Having a sign that says ‘We have Wi-Fi’ brings people in and keeps them coming back. To support this, you must have a high-capacity connection out to the Internet that supports the Wi-Fi network.

Technology is also transforming how guests order and pay with tableside touch-screens. One-click ordering leads to more food and drink orders. The bill payment delivers tips directly into a server’s account.

How does cloud technology help restaurant and bar owners?

Many of these technology solutions are stored and operated ‘in the cloud’ so owners simply pay for the service and log onto a website to access the software. Then, there is no need to upgrade software or keep a server on site. Plus, the system can be accessed from any Internet connection, allowing owners to keep eyes on their businesses whenever or wherever. They also don’t have to be technology experts to use these tools, freeing up more time to manage the restaurant or bar.

And with data stored elsewhere, owners don’t have to worry about losing information because of a technical issue, theft or fire/flood damage.

However, the key to cloud-based systems is access. Businesses need fast, reliable Internet access to get online, so cloud-based systems work quickly and reliably.

What are the first steps to getting started?

Restaurants and bars need to start planning now to shift to technology-based systems and amenities. First, stay ahead of the bandwidth curve by ensuring you have a fast enough Internet connection to meet your needs today and tomorrow. Once you have a high-speed network connection out to the Internet, you can purchase cloud-based software systems or Wi-Fi access points.

Business owners also might consider bundling Internet, phone and television with one provider, so there’s only one place to call for assistance, and one bill to pay.

To enjoy the benefits of these technology tools, restaurants and bars need to embrace them now, or risk being left behind.

Kevin Conmy is a regional vice president, Business Services, at Comcast Business. Reach him at (215) 642-6457 or kevin_conmy@cable.comcast.com.

Learn more about Comcast Business solutions or contact your local account executive.

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