Increase volume – this phrase will always remain top of mind for local business owners. Customer demand has sparked tech innovations in the food industry to do exactly that. Yet, there are still restaurant owners hesitant to put their trust in — The Cloud. As fast casual and sit-down restaurants implement systems to increase sales and pad their customer experience, they’re also gaining a competitive edge.

Studies show customers prefer to have technology integrated into their dining experience. As their day-to-day responsibilities increase, so does the value placed on convenience. The National Restaurant Association found that about 40 percent of adults prefer to look at menus online each month, and more than one in ten prefer to order food online.

So how can you gain a competitive edge using the latest food tech trends? Structure your strategy around the needs of your customers through service, streamlined operations, and an employee scheduling solution. Luckily many options aren’t too complex if you’re wanting to test the food tech waters before diving in. We’ve defined some concepts and brainstormed ideas for you below.

Look into customer-facing technology

This is a good place start because you’re likely to receive a quick ROI. defines customer-facing technology as the following, “Customer-facing services include hardware, software or technology with user interfaces (UI) or applications that directly interact with customers. However, a customer-facing system is more than an interface — it should add value to relationships with customers”. Customers expect service to be quick and customer-facing technology meets that need. According to a recent Industville study, about 1/3 of customers think tech can speed up the dining service.

Now, you’re probably wondering where to start. Think of an area of customer service that could use some improvement. For example, let’s say sloppy tickets are a common nuisance. Cooks can’t read the server’s hurried handwriting, the wrong dish gets prepared, customers have to wait longer for their meal, and food waste goes up. Why not trade that for digital menus? Improved order accuracy for the kitchen and reduced wait times for your customers. It’s a win-win.

Other customer-facing ideas to drive your customer service efforts:

  • Order ahead capabilities so customers know they won’t have to wait in line
  • Rewards programs that encourage customer loyalty using check-in offers
  • A proprietary mobile app to create opportunities for up-sell and customized service

Streamline your Back-of-House operations

Slow output and inconsistent food quality are modern day kitchen killers. BOH management systems automate the behind-the-scenes processes that cause those bottlenecks. David Belliveau, culinary director for Tampa, Fla.-based World of Beer Franchising Inc. notes the benefits, “A lot of the new equipment and technology also helps speed of service as well as consistency, which are both important. It’s plusses all the way around.”

With minimum wages set to increase this year, investing in BOH technology is a smart way to protect your bottom line. “Labor savings is such a huge thing right now,” says Ric Garcia, food and beverage manager for Island Restaurants in California, “everyone is trying to figure out how to do it with minimum wages going up.” Automating different aspects of your BOH operations cuts down the amount of labor needed to complete repetitive tasks.

Other BOH management solutions and benefits:

  • Digital prep lists and recipes for quality assurance
  • Online BOH training documents to automate workflows
  • Procurement systems to lower stock and reduce food waste

Schedule your employees with simple solutions

How much time do you spend shuffling scheduling paperwork every week? Confirming shift swaps via text message, replying to individual availability requests – there are better uses for your time. Without an easy employee scheduling solution, too much of your time is spent in paperwork mode.

Lonnie, owner of Pueblo, CO.-based GG’s BBQ highlights a scheduling problem unique to business owners, “Before Homebase I would buy time cards every 14 days. Every payroll would take approximately 4 hours to complete. I eventually found a software program that would calculate time worked, but would have to still go back and make sure it was adding the hours correctly,” he recalls.

Many of our customers appreciate the flexibility of the software. Homebase is a user-friendly employee scheduling application, saving you time while managing your team. First, any web enabled device can be turned into a time clock. This means you can track time worked, including breaks and meal periods on any mobile device. You can review time worked at a glance and make edits before exporting schedules for payroll. Your employee time sheets are then consolidated into the cloud.

We understand the employee coverage you need varies from day to day. When building your schedule in Homebase, you can assign roles and color code shifts. We provide even more customization with tracking for paid and unpaid breaks based on your state’s rules, and cash tip declarations totaled up on your timesheets. With this visual perspective, ensuring the proper shift coverage is simple, just give it a glance.

Here’s what Lonnie had to say about the transformation Homebase made for his local business:

“I found Homebase through my POS system 2 years ago and decided to give it a chance. A shot in the dark. What did it do for us? Immediately, it saved me 3 hours and 15 minutes every time period, rather than working with a pile of papers for each employee’s availability. When I go to map out hours, Homebase puts everything right in front of me. Shift requests are there, availability is there, it’s just phenomenal.”

Homebase offers you a timeclock, timesheets, and employee scheduling. All for free. And with our premium plans starting at only $9.95 per month, you can reduce headaches with SMS shift alerts and overtime reporting.

Get started with your risk-free Homebase account here.