AI, Apps & Technology: Where Do They Fit Into Your Business Strategy?

AI, Apps & Technology: Where Do They Fit Into Your Business Strategy?

From delivery drones and burger flipping robots…to AI powered drive thru service, phone answering technologies, and online reservations…to integrated inventory, ordering and point of service systems, food delivery apps and more, restaurants are being bombarded with a variety of technology solutions that they purportedly need to survive and thrive. While new and emerging technologies will no doubt play a role in the future of restaurants and how they operate, before rushing forward it may be in your best interest to take a step back by clarifying your business strategy and plans, and then considering which solutions can help you meet your goals.

What type of restaurant do you own? What are your short- and long-term growth goals and plans? Who are your customers, what are their demographics, and what do they expect when they visit or order from your establishment? What are the major brand attributes that drive your business success? How are your finances – profit margins, cash flow, cost of goods sold, inventory costs, and more? What are your biggest pain points? What are you hoping to improve? How do you measure success?

Having a clearly defined strategy puts you in a better position to protect the assets and attributes that contribute to your current-day successes, while clarifying which types of technology may make the most sense for your business going forward.

Today, there are technology solutions for virtually every aspect of running a restaurant. In truth, not all of them are a good fit for every restaurant. For example, a fine dining establishment is going to have to make a call about whether clients expect a live person answering a phone to take a reservation or a chatbot sending them a link. A casual dining establishment is going to have to determine whether adding a mobile food services platform is going to help or hurt margins. A quick serve restaurant may have to weigh the advantages of AI drive thru verses potential impact on on-site dining.

Once you have a clear strategy and goals, it’s easier to determine where AI and technology may fit and can add the most value.

When it comes to inventory, purchasing, and supply chain, AI solutions can analyze historical data on sales, customers, and more to more accurately forecast demand and supply, helping reduce waste from over-ordering and food spoilage. Some solutions can help track shipments so you can quickly respond to delays. Others can track upcoming menu promotions, ingredient levels, and expiration dates. There are also solutions that use real-time data for dynamic menu pricing that responds to price fluctuations and market conditions.

When it comes to labor, technology solutions – like drive thru AI, self-ordering kiosks, and online reservations or ordering – are available to free staff up to focus on value-added activities (i.e., customer service or food preparation). Other types of systems help managers make appropriate staffing decisions and monitor performance.

When it comes to customer service, solutions are available to immediately answer customer questions; make recommendations; handle reservations; facilitate easy, quick payments; and streamline ordering.

As for marketing, AI tools and solutions can help you analyze social media data to understand how customers feel about your restaurant, what customers are looking for so you can customize campaigns, and address concerns quickly. You can also use AI to help create content and images for a variety of channels (website, email, social media etc.).

There are also tools to help monitor, log, and automate food safety compliance-related tasks like temperature and cleanliness. And if your brand and reputation, in whole or in part, links to environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities, there are solutions that can help track and monitor your performance in priority areas so you can share this information with customers who support your establishment because of aligned values.

Taking a cue from large chains, we’re seeing AI used to monitor inventory; predict purchasing needs; forecast demand; answer customer questions and complaints; account for weather, traffic and seasonal swings; manage scheduling; stay on top of equipment maintenance; take reservations; create, adjust and personalize menus and prices; make recommendations to customers; take orders; manage the entire drive thru encounter; pay from tableside; ID trends; create and execute marketing plans; and more.

Ultimately, if the AI and technology solutions you choose to invest in align with your brand and support your goals, your business can benefit. Staff can be freed up to focus on value-added activities. Managers can make more informed decisions about staffing, menus, pricing, and inventory. The customer experience can be enhanced and productivity increased, while waste and mistakes are minimized.

Moving forward requires an unwavering commitment on your part to protect client’s data, train staff, re-engineer processes, and ensure your technology investment enhance the key reasons customers visit or purchase from your establishment in the first place.

As you consider which technology solutions best support and align with your goals, brand, and business, we want you to know you can count on RBT CPAs for your accounting, tax, audit, and advisory needs. We’ve been proudly serving municipalities, businesses, non-profits, and individuals in the Hudson Valley for over 55 years. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call and find out how we can be Remarkably Better Together.


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