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How can technology help restaurants scale-up?

You might have started out in a food truck, or running a country pub; people seem to like your concept – you’ve done well, got a bit of investment, and have been able to open up a few more sites. Whether they are all fairly near one another, across town, or across the country, it will soon get rather exhausting going from one to the other constantly. And you have got your trusted GMs running the show in each site, but you want the warts and all version of your sites’ performance… The only way to have real visibility and control over performance, costs, revenue and people once you have too many sites to be in them all, is if you harness the power of technology.

Technology is an upfront investment. It takes time and people – and therefore money –  to set up, time to get the right data in and clean, usable data out. What is the tipping point – when should you invest, and what are the potential benefits?

Technology is a broad term. We looked at all the technology that you may need when starting a restaurant here. You wouldn’t have invested in all of them, but you probably have your people system, and a POS system set up. What next depends on your particular needs, and what you want to get out of it.

Considerations for scaling up your operations

P&L, food margin, labour margin, consumables cost, wastage  – to name a few! Up to now, your GM or head chef has given you an overview of these KPIs, perhaps with some basic excel calculations backing them up. But putting these reports together is time consuming, and not always accurate.

Investing in systems that are connected to one another and that you can view reports and analytics from will make your life so much simpler. Most of these can be viewed on mobile, and tailored to your specific needs. You can use workforce management, inventory management, recipe creators – all connecting to your POS.  A guest places an order, which goes through to your kitchen, the ingredients come out of your stock, the cost is totted up against the revenue – and you have a much clearer view of profitability. You will know whether you had too many staff on a particular shift, or whether service was slow and you therefore need to consider hiring another chef. Connected systems and good reporting will help you make key strategic decisions for your business.

Depending on your business model – ie whether you have the same menu across all your sites, like a chain, or whether all sites are unique and not necessarily near each other – you may need different suppliers to cater for different menu styles, and chefs. If your suppliers are all set up in a supplier management system, so that each site can see the suppliers available to them, alongside prices and delivery timeframes for the products you have agreed, it will streamline the process, save time and effort for all involved.

An integrated approach to supplier & stock management may also mean you can negotiate group deals and benefit from discounted prices. Most suppliers will have a scale depending on volume – 2p on a kilo of potatoes will make all the difference to a burger & chips restaurant. If you are going to negotiate group deals, you need all your chefs to order from the same suppliers – which usually means a system set up to make this as easy as possible. 

Centralised systems that can provide an overview of stock across all sites can also be helpful if you run out of burger buns at 6pm on a Friday night. Much easier to call up a sister site for a few trays than trying to reach your supplier at that time. Without a system telling you who has what, you can spend hours chasing your tail and calling round different sites.

Conclusion

Investing in a good restaurant management system – a broad term that covers the technology discussed above – is a necessary step if you want to scale up and keep an oversight of your businesses. Not only will it help streamline ordering, stock control, menu management and cost control, but the reporting and analytics functions will help you make strategic decisions about your business using a data driven approach. It is an investment worth making as soon as you have several sites, particularly if you find yourself trying to be in too many places at once. It will take an upfront investment, time to install, and training for your staff, but we believe you will reap the rewards in the long run with powerful information and labour efficiency.

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