A beginner’s guide to all the tech restaurateurs have to juggle these days

A beginner’s guide to all the tech restaurateurs have to juggle these days

May 22, 2020, 03:10 PM UTC

10 out of 10 restaurateurs agree that they got into the food & beverage industry because they love choosing, installing, and training on new restaurant technology. Can you believe that?

Hopefully not, because it’s a stat we just made up. Unless you’re some kind of spreadsheet-loving masochist, you probably got into this business for a totally normal reason, like “a passion for heirloom beets” or “being clinically incapable of getting out of bed before 10am.” 

But if you’re reading this, you already know: the path to sustainable restaurant success these days almost always runs straight through an ever-expanding quagmire of hardware and software. 

If you’re one of those precious few cash-only spots that has a lockbox for an accounting system, and your version of “customer-retention management” is just remembering which beer your regulars prefer with their shots, well… uh, congratulations. Continue living the dream.

But for the rest of you: restaurant technology can be a dizzying expanse of buzzwords and functionalities that grinds you down and makes you rue the day you opened your doors. That sucks!

To make your life ever so slightly easier, we’ve compiled this running list of typical restaurant technologies that you, the modern restaurateur, will probably encounter on the job (if you haven’t already.)

Tech Map

3rd Party Delivery Applications

Type: Software

Example providers: DoorDash, Caviar, Uber Eats

What is it?: The platform by which your customers order your food for delivery. The software coordinates a delivery person to run between your restaurant and their address. 

Customer Feedback Platforms

Type: Software and hardware

Example providers: POSist, Sprout Social, Netbase

What is it?: A way for you to gather positive and negative critiques from your customers about their experience. This can include “social listening” services, in-real-life digital surveys at POS, and more!

Financial Management

Type: Software

Example providers: Restaurant365, TouchBistro, FreshBooks

What is it?: A program that tracks your profit & loss (P&L) and gives you close insight on where you’re having success or falling short. 

Food and Beverage Preparation Automation

Type: Hardware

Example providers: Creator, Briggo, Spyce

What is it?: A robot that can pour a latte or plate a burger for customers—or even just chop a bunch of onions on the line without reducing your sous chef to tears.

Loyalty and Reward Programs

Type: Software and hardware

Example providers: Belly, Punchh, PosIQ

What is it?: Like one of those ratty punchcards people used to keep in their wallets to get their 10th whatever free, but… not ratty, or a punchcard, because it’s either mobile or linked directly to payment. 

Marketing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

Type: Software

Example providers: Toast, ShopKeep, UpServe

What is it?: A system to collect and organize important personal information about your guests (birthdays, allergies, etc.) so you can better market to them and personalize their experiences when they come in.

Point of Sale (POS) Platforms

Type: Software and hardware

Example providers: Square, Revel, Toast

What is it?: The modern cash register and card processor. Some companies offer integrated, purpose-built hardware and software, while others are software only, allowing you to choose your own devices. 

Reservation Platforms

Type: Software

Example providers: OpenTable, Resy, Tock

What is it?: A way for would-be customers to view and select available seatings without the hassle (for them, or you) of getting on the phone. 

Restaurant Management Systems:

Type: Software

Example providers: Humm Systems, Restaurant365, xtraChef

What is it?: A big, integrated program that does a lot of the functions of individual solutions on this list: payroll, POS, reservations, CRM, etc. Often used by operators across multiple locations. 

Smartphone Payments

Type: Hardware and software

Example providers: Google Wallet, ApplePay, Samsung Pay

What is it?: A way for customers to securely transact with your POS without swiping a card or using cash. It can also refer to handheld POS devices used to process card payments tableside. 

Staffing

Type: Software

Example providers: Pared, 7shifts, Jitjatjo

What is it?: A platform (usually a mobile app) that connects restaurant operators with vetted, qualified candidates to staff temporary FOH and BOH openings.  

Table-Top Devices

Type: Hardware

Example providers: Presto, Ziosk, Skytab

What is it?: A tablet mounted to tables that customers can use for a variety of functions, from requesting drink refills, to ordering dessert, to delivering feedback on their visit.

Wait List Management

Type: Software

Example providers: Resy, TablesReady, WaitWhile

What is it?: A program that replaces the chaos of the old “names on a clipboard” method and spits out more accurate estimates to help avoid cranky customers.

White-Label Delivery Software Management

Type: Software

Example providers: OnFleet, Sapaad, OnnaWay

What is it?: If your restaurant does a lot of delivery (especially catering!), these platforms often offer a more favorable cost structure than 3rd-party delivery services, and give you more control over the food from kitchen to customer.