What is digital transformation and why should you care

by Marylise Fabro

Fast changing technology landscape is affecting all industries, especially the restaurant industry. How to be prepared and embrace innovation...

Digital transformation - such big words, but what do they actually mean for the restaurant industry? You’ve heard the term applied before to other industries, and you enjoy its benefits on a daily basis. From banking online to buying your groceries or streaming a movie at home, you use the results of “digital transformation” regularly.

Each industry has found its own way of applying this digital transformation. Sometimes, it is to the benefit of the business owners, sometimes, it is required by customers, and sometimes, it’s an absolute necessity to stay competitive. Let’s explore some of those transformations and their impacts on our industry.

1 — Online everything:

At this point, anything that can be done online, is available online: menu, reservations, ordering, delivery services, waiting line, hours of operation, you name it. Most of those services have been offered for a while, but they are becoming a required commodity. If you don’t have them, you are leaving money on the table. Many affordable services are available nowadays: Hostme app for online reservations and waitlist; Imenu pro for menus; Grubhub for online ordering and delivery.

So, assess what you can do online and find technology partners to help you quickly get set up and running.

2 — AI — The future is here:

Almost. However, with AI and machine learning, you can now tailor your menu to your guests’ preferences and perhaps even allergies. If someone is allergic to fish, for instance, the menu would automatically be filtered to remove any items that could be problematic. This is just one example. Machine learning is also used on advertising platforms and in other applications geared to wow the customer.

3 — Point of Sale:

Many multiples of vendors are courting your business. Dozens of vendors claim to be able to help you. Just make sure you go with a POS system that has experience and customers in your industry. And ask them if they offer all the latest trends and services, such as iPay and PayByPhone.

4 — Digital supply chain

The digital supply chain helps you accurately predict demand forecasting, optimize inventory and reduce costs. Digital supply chain technologies provide nice reporting and analytics to streamline your operations and grow your revenue.

5 — Operating platform

The operating platform will help you with the scheduling of your employees. You can efficiently manage your workforce by communicating, forecasting demand and planning shifts ahead of time.

6 — Integration

All those fancy systems can talk to each other. The POS, the reservation system, the digital supply chain software. By linking everything together, it helps you get a complete picture of your operations and quickly identify and address pain points. When you select your vendors, make sure you address this question with them.

7 — Other various applications

Chatbot: We are seeing a rise in use of Chatbot (Guestfriends.com) systems to let guests make a reservation over text through an automated system.

Kiosk: AI-driven self-service kiosks reduce customer waiting time and enhance the customer ordering experience.

Loyalty program: Online programs or downloadable apps are the next generation of the loyalty card.

This is just a subset of the many different applications of digital transformation in the restaurant industry. But this list shows you how critical it is to pay attention.