A gloomy headline this Summer took some of the fun out of the sunshine: it said the number restaurants in the UK had fallen for the first time in eight years.
The decline was headed by some major chains including Byron and Carluccio’s; victims, experts said, of overexpansion.
Other restaurants have seen a tough year as food inflation hit 11%, Brexit uncertainty hit the value of the pound and minimum wage rises raised staffing costs.
But Britain still loves eating out and is looking for more and more ways to do it.
Commentator Gideon Smith says technology is creating new opportunities for customers to access their food choices.
“Advances in mobile ordering, delivery services, kiosks/pop up kiosks, order for the ‘pick-up’ or order to your table technology is going to become very popular in 2019 and beyond,” he predicts.
In other words, there’s plenty of hope for the UK restaurant business. However, with an unpredictable year now just around the corner, it’s a good idea to take stock of your operations – and maybe take a look at whether technology can help you create new options for your business, too.
Your 2019 restaurant management health check
Ask yourself these key questions to determine whether your restaurant management practices are in good shape to tackle the coming challenges:
- Are you familiar enough with your guests to offer a genuinely personal service?
- Can your diners easily book a table or order food easily online?
- Is your restaurant getting rave online reviews?
- Do you have a loyalty programme that really rewards customers?
- Do you always have enough staff available to give excellent customer service?
- Are you keeping on top of food waste and controlling supply costs?
- Can you see how your business is performing from end to end at all times?
- When you make business decisions, are they based on data?
- Is your forecasting working?
If you find you’ve answered no to many of these questions, you should be feeling uneasy – your business is taking some nasty risks.
In a difficult climate, well-run restaurants that keep costs down and provide excellent customer service alongside great food are the ones positioned to take advantage of evolving customers.
So how do you make sure your restaurant is one of them? We’ve identified 5 best practices you should start using now.
Know your diners
Restaurant guests are becoming more demanding, particularly get-me-it-now millennials, who love being offered personalised services online.
Restaurant management system captures important information about them that enables you to create a very personal service.
By knowing their preferences – for instance, for a particular table, or for vegan food – you cannot only cater more successfully for them, but you can also email out offers that you know they will enjoy.
Put the power at tableside
With labour becoming scarce and expensive, a restaurant management system helps you to identify the busy and slack periods so you roster efficiently.
In your restaurant and bar, servers can use handheld devices ranging from dedicated units to smartphones or tablets to take orders that are sent straight to the kitchen for immediate fulfilment.
They can take payments at tableside, too, reducing the waiting time for guests. The system also discourages staff fraud because it’s not easy to cheat.
It adds up to creating value for money when it comes to your staff, who spend less time running to the kitchen and more interacting with guests.
A restaurant management system even helps you monitor your online reputation by alerting you if a guest is posting a bad social media review. This gives your team the chance to put matters right quickly.
Food waste is tipped to be one of the hot issues for 2019, with chefs making major efforts to keep it to a minimum and to use up leftovers.
Apart from a moral issue, it’s also a matter of costs – uncontrolled waste can be a shocking drain on resources.
The green group Sustainable Brands studied a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand for a week, and found its kitchens were throwing away 70 tonnes of food a year.
Hopefully, you’re not in such a difficult position, but still – it pays to keep waste down.
A restaurant management system helps you identify menu best-sellers so you can make sound purchasing choices; it also helps identify your best suppliers.
Make way for mobile
Today’s diners – particularly the younger ones – are used to accessing every area of their lives online.
This is now a firm part of the hospitality industry too, and they’ll be looking to access reviews of your restaurant, reserve a table or place an order for pick-up on their phone in a jiffy.
It’s crucial that you have a restaurant management system that enables them to do these things – diners are increasingly unwilling to ring you, and online booking and ordering means your staff don’t have to spend time on the phone.
Keep your head in the cloud
The best restaurant management systems now offer cloud-based facilities, which provides many benefits, particularly for restaurant groups with a number of locations.
Cloud availability means you can access your system via your mobile device wherever you have an internet connection.
With real-time data at your fingertips, set out in comprehensive reports and forecasts, you get the full view of how your organisation is operating.
This data supports your decisions – there’s no guesswork required.
Your best practice armoury
We can’t really predict what will happen in 2019; with Brexit now closed, there’s still no firm view of how the UK economy – and consumers’ spending power – will be affected.
But one thing’s for sure. The restaurants who arm themselves with the best of technology and set best practices in place have the best chance of winning through the challenges ahead.