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Restaurant Technology Toolbox

Knowing Business Solutions Leads to Success

Restaurant Technology Toolbox

As a restaurant manager, you're expected to meet the daily challenges of running a restaurant head on and fight daily fires quickly and efficiently. The speed at which business occurs in a restaurant, along with the tight profit margins, means every move counts. Myriad technology solutions exist to reduce costs and streamline an operation. From back-of-the-house software that will manage purchasing, inventory, forecasting, recipes and menu planning to pagers, Web sites and two-way radios, it pays to know what resources are available to make your job easier -- and the restaurant more profitable.

Restaurant managers need to know what resources are available to help them reach upper executive status and efficiently handle the day-to-day business. Employers also expect candidates applying for the position to know how to analyze reports and data to make quick business decisions.

"There are three different areas of focus for technology in a restaurant environment," says Robert Grimes, chairman and chief executive officer at Accuvia, a tech consulting firm for the hospitality industry based in Potomac, Maryland. "There are point-of-sale systems that track items sold and volume. There are back-office solutions that monitor inventory, payroll and menu costing, among others. Finally, a restaurant manager has tools for marketing the business such as Web sites, e-marketing, loyalty programs and gift cards as well as reservations."

Managers can control the food and labor costs, Grimes says. As much as 60 percent of profits are tied to how well you manage workers and food. So when going into an interview, it's important you know what tools are available to increase your likelihood of success, he says.

For instance, some programs will tell a manager when to let people leave early during a slow shift to avoid profit losses. Some systems help managers oversee part-time workers to decrease overtime pay and account for underage employees, who may not be able to work in any position or have restricted hours.

Before interviewing for a management position, "do research on your prospective employer and what technology they use as well as major technology companies in the business to become more familiar with point-of-sale and back-office reports," Grimes advises. "That knowledge will help you win the job."

It's also important to understand different restaurants require different technology. For example, a quick-service chain restaurant may be more likely to have sales software that can provide 15-minute updates on employee performance. Larger restaurant companies may also use point-of-sale software that details what is being sold, how often and how to manage everything from training to shrinkage effectively. An independent restaurant may rely on handheld devices in the kitchen for determining how much a recipe will cost to make or credit card-processing equipment.

"Technology has been driven by chain restaurant operations during the past 10 years," says Doug Crisafulli, director of marketing at JTECH Communications in Boca Raton, Florida. The company is a leader in guest and server paging. "There are also independent restaurants or small chains with fewer than 10 units using paging solutions to get a faster return on investment."

Guest paging continues to be commonly used for table management in restaurants such as Chili's Grill & Bar, part of Dallas-based Brinker International, and Orlando-based Red Lobster. JTECH has also successfully partnered with Motorola to introduce two-way radios in a number of its clients' restaurants.

"Two-way radios between the host and busser are an inexpensive way to manage tables," Crisafulli says. "Restaurants are low-margin businesses. In an industry where there is potential for extensive shrinkage and high turnover with a transient labor force, systems make theft more difficult" and restaurants more profitable.

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