Technology has been evolving with the food industry for a long time, to the point where a restaurant can no longer stay competitive without it. In the past, a restaurant’s success depended on word of mouth, but today it relies on online reviews and social posts which give the business the opportunity to become globally renowned. Did you know that in addition to fueling notoriety, technology can also greatly improve restaurant operations?
Technology in Restaurants
Technology has revolutionized restaurant operations.
For example, mobile point of sale (POS) systems like Square, delivery applications like Uber Eats, and kiosks like those from Curbngo are user-friendly and built to improve both the user experience and operational efficiency. Not only do these tools enable restaurants to offer better, faster services but they also allow them to provide new services that they may not have been able to offer on their own. For instance, prior to delivery apps not many restaurants were able to offer delivery. Now with the help of this technology, they all can deliver and even expand to new areas outside of their neighborhoods. They share customers and drivers with all other restaurants, and they don’t have to worry about how to find those customers, or how to manage the drivers.
An unexpected additional benefit of these technologies is that they have helped the industry survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Just imagine if these technologies weren’t available when the pandemic started; the impact to restaurant businesses and the food industry caused by lockdowns would have been much greater.
Single Flow: The Restaurant Operations Answer to Technology-Related Growing Pains
This evolution of technology has also brought challenges to some restaurant owners. To serve more customers restaurants are signing up for more delivery platforms, but this can come with a high price tag during busy hours when multiple orders arrive at the same time through multiple online platforms. It makes it even more difficult when, at the same time, customers are ordering at the restaurant through the POS. Staff may have a hard time writing down and manually tracking orders, something that will impact performance and, as a result, the restaurant’s reviews.
In reality, this commotion is not a result of using the technology, but rather a mismanagement of the technology. With proper planning and the right approach, multiple ordering channels can easily be managed. One such approach is by creating a proper workflow, known as a “Single Flow,” in which all orders from all platforms seamlessly flow to the kitchen and back to the customer.
Single Flow Basics
Operational efficiency is the key to remaining competitive in any industry. This can only be achieved by establishing an efficient workflow that can easily be followed by all employees. The specifics of the flow differ from business-to-business, but its supporting principle is the same across all businesses: to operate as efficiently as possible by maintaining the desired cost and quality.
You can think of a single flow like the triangle diagram below. You can only provide the best customer experience when you are operating efficiently, maintaining product quality, and operating efficiently by utilizing the right technology.
What Does Single Flow Look Like for Restaurants?
A restaurant’s single flow looks like the circle below. It’s simple, streamlined, and starts and ends at the customer, with the focus being on the efficiency of the operation. The customer orders the food through a delivery platform like Uber Eats, on the restaurant’s website, or at the restaurant (dine-in or takeout). The ordering platform notifies the kitchen of the new order, then kitchen staff prepare and package the food, and hand it over to the person who delivers the food to the customer. This can be a food delivery driver or staff handing it to the customer in the restaurant.
The top portion of the graph (in green) requires less of the restaurant’s energy because the delivery platforms and their associated technologies are already providing the required efficiency for this phase.
The bottom portion of the graph is the operational center of a restaurant and where the efficiency focus should be, from streamlining order notifications reaching the kitchen staff to food preparation and packaging.
There are two ways to tackle conquering this portion of the Single Flow:
- Using an aggregator platform that combines all the delivery platforms and the POS into one single platform.
- Using one, or multiple, Star Micronics thermal printers.
Both options come with their own pros and cons but what’s common between the two is the need for a reliable and compatible printer.
A 3-inch wide, high-resolution (200+ dpi) order has to be available to the kitchen staff as soon as it’s made by the customer on a platform, whether the order originates on a delivery app or the restaurant’s POS. Once the restaurant gets busy, orders can get mixed up and even missed, making negative, damaging customer reviews more likely to occur. A Star Micronics thermal printer, like the TSP143III or a TSP654II equipped with CloudPRNT technology, can make a huge difference.
Option 1: Aggregators
There are many aggregators available in the market. They all offer different features, settings, and benefits, but one advantage they all have in common is the streamlining of order notifications to the kitchen. This is a huge plus for a high-traffic takeout restaurant.
These aggregators also offer their disadvantages. The most common disadvantage is their monthly fees. Depending on the features and technologies being offered, this can vary from $50 per month to $250 per month. Please note that if you choose to use an aggregator, you will still need to purchase a thermal printer to deliver orders to the kitchen.
Option 2: Thermal Printers
A simple, affordable single flow solution is the use of thermal printers. Some thermal printers, like those from Star Micronics, offer a variety of benefits like:
- High-quality and high-performance
- Integrations with virtually all well-known delivery platforms and POS software in North America
- A reliable Ethernet (LAN) interface which allows one Star Micronics printer to support unlimited applications/platforms as long as those applications/platforms support the LAN interface and the printer APIs. (For example, Shopify, Uber Eats, and Ritual support the TSP143IIILAN, so a restaurant with Shopify as its POS, and Ritual and Uber Eats as its ordering apps, would only need one TSP143IIILAN printer in its kitchen to print all orders from all these platforms without a need for an aggregator)
- Cloud printing technology, like CloudPRNT, enabling users to print directly through a cloud service
Order Preparation and Packaging
The two options mentioned above will take care of the notification portion of the single flow, but order preparation and packaging are also very important. If one of the two options above is implemented, then this part can easily be resolved by utilizing a printed receipt or label. For example, a liner-free label printed by the TSP654IISK printer can be used to adhere order information and modifications to the food from the prep line to the pickup counter. Better yet, it can be removed and reapplied without leaving any residue behind, further streamlining the process.
Using Technology to Boost Business
In conclusion, the right technology can make a huge difference in improving a business’s operational efficiency. The two options above (an aggregator or the use of thermal printers) are equally effective at delivering order notifications to a kitchen, but one might carry more weight compared to other based on a business’s needs. For instance, an aggregator offering menu management for a restaurant with multiple menus would likely be the most efficient option. Vice versa, a high-traffic, single-menu restaurant would likely benefit from multiple high-speed thermal printers more than anything else.
Minunat’s Smart Business Solutions
Looking for a solution provider to help you streamline your restaurant’s operations? Minunat can help. They are a business IT solution providers focused and specialized in POS and kiosk solutions for bars, restaurants, and cafes. Check out the Minunat website to find the right hardware for your application or contact them now for a free consultation for your business.
Ali Sadeghi is an engineer and entrepreneur with many years of experience in architecture and development of telecom technologies. He is currently the founder of Minunat, a provider of Point of Sale, Kiosks, and Web solutions for businesses in Canada. His focus is on streamlining and automating business workflows, with the best in class solution practices and hardware in the market.