Today, consumers expect a high level of service and a seamless digital experience from every interaction they have with a business — whether that’s a restaurant, hotel, rideshare app, or retailer. Of course, diners are looking for great food, but when there are dozens of options with strong ratings in their area, it’s convenience and going above-and-beyond to delight the customer that helps restaurants stand out.
Restaurant technology helps business operators deliver these top-notch experiences that keep guests coming back time and time again, without taking away from the unique dishes and flavors they offer.
The latest smart restaurant technology offers modern alternatives to outdated or inefficient practices in daily operations — helping restaurants to engage and delight prospective customers and diners.
Restaurant technologies at a glance
Here are some of the most popular types of restaurant technology tools that business owners in the food and beverage industry are adding to their tech stack:
Point of sale software
Integrated online ordering platforms
Kitchen display systems
Automated payroll tools
Employee scheduling apps
Inventory management systems
Email marketing platforms
Customer relationship management software (CRMs)
Restaurant reservation systems
Restaurant phone answering systems
Self-serve ordering kiosks
Restaurant analytics platforms
We'll dive deeper into how each technology helps restaurants streamline operations later in this article.
How restaurant technology helps business owners
By implementing restaurant technology tools, restaurateurs can cut down on the number of staff hours required to complete many time-consuming tasks, freeing them up to invest more in big-ticket items, training and development, food, and upgrades.
When Hattie B’s, a Nashville-based hot chicken restaurant, implemented DoorDash Drive (offering delivery from their own website by tapping into DoorDash’s network of Dashers) and DoorDash Marketplace (offering pickup and delivery on the DoorDash app), they saw up to 15% higher revenue, and a 25-30% increase in average check size.
Here are a few more ways that implementing the right restaurant technology tools can boost sales and improve the customer experience.
Better team and customer communication
Restaurants can integrate both dine-in and online orders into one cohesive management system so kitchen staff can rely on one system instead of multiple printers and tablets. Not only is this easier on staff, but it also ensures consistently delicious food and accurate orders for your customers.
The result? Your staff has more time for important tasks like tending to customers, turning over tables, and preparing orders for delivery.
Improved customer experience and brand loyalty
Incorporating new restaurant technology helps operators to better understand customer preferences and desires — while boosting their brand and increasing revenue.
One easy and efficient way to get to know your customers more deeply is with digital loyalty programs, a fresh update to traditional programs that have been around for decades. More and more tech-savvy restaurant owners are making the transition from plastic membership cards and keychain tags to digital loyalty apps that customers can access directly from their smartphone.
Digital loyalty programs appeal to customers because they can earn rewards every time they dine in or order takeout. At the same time, they benefit restaurants through the collection and sharing of data. For example, restaurants can learn which dishes are the most popular and adjust accordingly through menu customization.
Tighter data security
Data breaches can be a major problem for any restaurant, but with the right type of software, you can greatly reduce the threat of potential data thieves.
One way to avoid becoming a target is to use malware software that protects against data pirating. This will allow you to securely store credit cards, employee information, and banking transactions within encrypted, cloud-based programs.
We advise consulting with your provider to find out how you can maximize data security for optimal safeguarding against threats.
More sustainable business operations
Sustainability is smarter for your business due to the reduction of expenses — companies spend more than $120B every year on paper documents — and the boost to your reputation as environmentally friendly. By incorporating sustainable business practices into your everyday operations, you can reduce food waste, source supplies from local organic farmers, and even transition to a paperless system — helping the environment and improving your restaurant experience.
Here are a few ways to improve sustainability in restaurant operations:
Implement a forecasting software to better predict how much food needs to be prepared for each shift.
Reduce food waste caused by over-ordering or over-prepping.
Use restaurant software to streamline the ordering of supplies; it maintains a list of vendors that align with your restaurant's sustainable values and practices.
Invest in human resources software that can digitize day-to-day operations such as recruiting, training practices, onboarding, schedule management, and more.
24/7 access to new customers and business management tools
The beauty of having a website with an email subscriber form, automated chat tools, and online reservations means that you are always open for business. You can bring new diners into your ecosystem at any time of the day, then keep your restaurant top of mind through social media, email marketing, and advertising.
Restaurant operators can now manage their business from anywhere, 24/7. Virtual access to back-office operations gives you and your employees the ability to order supplies, create schedules, and manage inventory counts — all from the convenience of a smart device.
The data stored in your POS and other systems can give real insights into what needs to be improved in daily operations — the key to giving you a competitive advantage.
Wider digital presence and potential service area
Almost a quarter (24%) of consumers turn to a delivery marketplace like DoorDash to decide where to eat. No time like the present to embrace an intuitive online ordering platform, and in turn improve your restaurant operations.
Increased digital ordering opportunities create a more convenient and efficient experience for your guests. Dine-in guests can order from an app, tablet, or kiosk in-store, and off-premise customers can place a pickup or delivery order from the comfort of home.
What goes into a restaurant tech stack?
For your restaurant to operate smoothly and deliver a 5-star experience, you’ll need to invest in an integrated restaurant tech stack that covers everything from back-end operations to customer-facing reservations and support.
Back-end restaurant operations technology solutions
Inventory management software
Staffing and scheduling tools
Kitchen display systems
Payroll and HR tools
Accounting and bookkeeping software
A content management system to host your website
Email marketing platforms
Social media marketing tools
Automated phone systems
Restaurant analytics platform
Customer-facing restaurant technology apps
Online ordering platform
On-demand delivery service
Point of sale software
Self-serve ordering or kiosks
Digital loyalty program or rewards program
Remember — all of your restaurant technology tools should integrate with one another to avoid duplicate work or manual data processing.
Let’s get into the details of what to look for in restaurant technology solutions.
12 types of restaurant technology to boost your efficiency and bottom line
1. Point of sale system
A touchscreen point-of-sale (POS) system can optimize multiple restaurant workflows, replacing the physical location where the point of sale happens: the traditional cash register. Upon completion of the meal, the entire bill is automatically calculated and presented to the customer in an elegant and easy-to-use payment interface.
For some mobile POS systems, the waitperson places the order through a convenient touchscreen device like the Toast Go 2, routing any food orders immediately to the kitchen, where the cooks can begin to prepare it, and any drink orders to the bar. Other systems can integrate with inventory management, subtracting the relevant ingredients in real-time, even generating notifications when an item is running low and needs to be reordered.
DoorDash integrates with Toast, Square, and many other POS systems, allowing pickup and delivery orders to flow directly to the kitchen and removing the need for an extra tablet.
2. Integrated online ordering
Key ingredients for a compelling online ordering platform include recognizable branding, appealing visual elements, ease of use, and — of course — a mobile-friendly format. Customers now turn to the internet to satisfy their next craving, preferring to order directly from the restaurant, or through an online marketplace.
Today, it’s easy for restaurants to add online ordering to their website and capture the sales potential of online traffic With DoorDash Storefront, you can create a seamless online ordering experience by adding delivery and pickup ordering to your existing website — easily converting website visitors into paying customers. It only takes a few minutes to set up and orders are commission-free.
3. Kitchen display system
Many restaurants have made the switch to kitchen display systems (KDS) because of the increased efficiency for the entire meal operation. With a display system, there’s no longer any way to lose tickets or mess up their order. Each order is entirely visible to multiple members of the staff, and stays free of the sauce and grease stains that are the scourge of paper tickets. Orders move through the system in an organized and predictable manner, and — since everything is digital — at the end of the night, there’s less paper to throw away.
4. Automated payroll tools
Automated payroll software saves restaurant management staff hours of their time when payroll day comes around. Top-rated payroll platforms, according to G2 reviews, like RUN by ADP, Paylocity, and Rippling include features like automatic tax calculations and deductions, quarterly or annual business reporting, and more.
By using automated, cloud-based payroll solutions, restaurateurs see better documentation, more accurate financials, faster payouts to employees, improved compliance, employee self-service features, and overall benefits to restaurant operations. And when considering that payroll errors can cost a 100-employee business more than $50,000 per year — trusted payroll software is a worthy investment.
5. Employee scheduling app
More than a quarter of managers report spending three to five hours weekly on employee scheduling — some saying they spend up to 12 hours every week on this task — and 50% are still using paper schedules. It’s time for an upgrade. Considering that missed shifts cost employers thousands of dollars per employee per year, investing in smart, automated scheduling systems is a win-win for employees and businesses.
Try a restaurant-specific solution like 7shifts, and consult with your employees to find out what they care most about in terms of app features.
6. Inventory management system
Inventory management, like employee scheduling and payroll, is another time-consuming task for restaurant operators. Digital inventory management systems for restaurants, like LINGA Inventory, automate and streamline tedious counting, ordering, and tracking tasks for restaurant teams, and help managers forecast future orders.
These smart tools provide real-time visibility into inventory counts, help optimize menu management for more efficient ingredient use, and reduce labor costs.
7. Email marketing platform
Email marketing is one of the most dependable, low-cost ways to generate business and engage customers — the latest estimate says every $1 businesses invest in email marketing generates a $40 ROI. Look at easy-to-use email tools for small businesses like MailChimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, or HubSpot.
Restaurants can use email marketing to share specials, send promotions, and highlight featured staff through a monthly or weekly newsletter. Be sure to incorporate your restaurant branding and follow email marketing best practices.
8. Customer Relationship Management platforms (CRMs)
A CRM, or customer relationship management platform, is where restaurant teams can manage all of their contacts, whether those are past, current, or prospective customers, vendors, or partners. Some options, like the HubSpot CRM also include more marketing and sales tools built-in. Many CRMs are free, and include helpful learning guides on how to maximize the use of your CRM to grow your business.
9. Digital restaurant reservation system
Rather than requiring staff to answer phones and manually enter information, digital reservation systems allow guests to input and update their own information online, and oftentimes earn points while they do it. Popular reservation systems like OpenTable and Resy integrate with POS systems, capturing customer information and reducing manual work. Many platforms also offer a table management system to help with understanding capacity and table turnover.
10. Restaurant phone answering system
When your team spends more time on the phone answering simple questions like “What are your hours?” or “Are you open?” you miss out on opportunities for standout in-person service and more human interactions. But it is important for restaurants to be accessible by phone — after all, that’s where large parties may reach out, or people looking to host special events.
Today, there are AI-powered restaurant phone answering systems like Slang.ai that incorporate your business’s branding and help answer questions before getting to your busy staff, saving businesses an average of 200+ hours each month. With smart tools that can recognize when a call needs to be urgently routed to a staff member, you’ll never miss a potential customer, or have to sacrifice any level of customer service.
11. Self-serve kiosks
Digital kiosks allow customers to scroll through photos of each dish at their own pace, and even compare them side by side, to find the exact one to fulfill their current cravings. As an added bonus, digital kiosks help alleviate the current labor shortage since there’s no need to interact with a staff member to place and purchase an order. Kiosks can also be programmed to upsell and cross-sell various dishes, bringing in larger revenues. Kiosk-maker GRUBBR’s CEO, Sam Zietz reports that self-service kiosks bring in an average of 12% to 22% more revenue for businesses.
12. Restaurant analytics platform
Today’s restaurateur is data-obsessed. What’s the most popular lunch item? Which day of the week does the restaurant generate the most sales? Restaurant analytics platforms allow you to capture all of the data points related to your business and analyze that information to generate insights to help you optimize for efficiency or growth.
DoorDash’s Merchant Portal is an easy way for operators to keep track of key metrics such as sales, net payouts, customer ratings, popular items, and more. Even more convenient, Business Manager is a mobile app that makes it easy to track orders, review performance metrics, and monitor Dasher locations, all from your phone. Operators are able to use these tools to access 24/7 support, mark items out of stock, update store hours, get analytics, and more.
How does your restaurant technology stack up?
As customer preferences and behavior continue to evolve, restaurateurs need to adapt by embracing technologies and solutions that can solve their day-to-day problems and deliver a better customer experience.
Today’s customer has high standards and expects options that cater to a digital lifestyle — one that involves unique and memorable dining experiences on and off-premises. DoorDash technology and tools can help you manage your business on DoorDash and make data-driven decisions about your next menu update, location, and more.
Learn more about how DoorDash can help you grow sales and reach more customers in the Product Guide for Restaurants.