Which tech tools are right for your pizzeria? We weigh costs and benefits to help you decide.
By Michelle Brisebois
When singer Adele released her much-anticipated music video, Hello, there was the expected buzz about the song and the production. What wasn’t expected was the chatter about the fact she called her long-lost love on a flip cellphone. Good heavens! Flip phones haven’t been in vogue for 10 years. It’s a reminder of how quickly technology becomes obsolete.
Investing in technological tools can be seductive because there are so many solutions with so many bells and whistles. It’s important to look at those bells and whistles with a discriminating eye and ask, “So what?”
Return on investment, or ROI, is about gauging how quickly you make back the money you spent to upgrade your systems. There are no rule books to help businesses choose where to invest their technology dollars, and what’s a good spend for one restaurant may not be for another. Expensive solutions may not have as much impact as less expensive options, so you’ll need to look at the cost not only for the technology but also for the labour required to manage it.
To help narrow the field for you, we’ve compiled a list of common tech tools and a high-level cost-benefit review.
Today’s POS systems allow operators to integrate various parts of their business with their sales to offer a wealth of business intelligence. It’s great to get excited about the prospect of graphing your sales related to any number of other factors, but if you aren’t a data wonk who loves analysis, then your concerns will be much more practical. When looking at a new POS system, find out which other similar businesses use the same system. Ask for references from operators already using the system so you can speak to someone who’s worked through the glitches. What is the failure rate of the system per month? What kind of tech support is offered and is there support during your hours of operation? Restaurants aren’t nine-to-five operations so make sure the support isn’t nine-to-five.
Advantages: Customer experience is enhanced and you have an easy way to look at business trends to grow your top and bottom lines.
Cost-benefit: A POS system is a significant investment with a typical lifespan of five to seven years, but if the system will allow you to cut costs by even just three per cent per year, you could pay back the new system within three years just from cost savings. If the new system allows you to grow by a few percentage points, payback is even faster.
Call it “cash register 2.0” but mobile devices such as handheld card readers and tablets are increasingly replacing the notepad tableside when servers take a diner’s order. The technology offers instant communication from table to kitchen and can even facilitate tableside payment with the credit card staying within view of the customer at all times. Drinks are being prepared while the server is still at the table and the starters are in process too. A second drink is more likely since the customer received the first one quickly, and errors from re-entering orders after recording them on a notepad (or by memory) tableside should decrease. Make sure the guest experience is still warm and welcoming. The device is a tool rather than the main focus.
Advantages: Customer experience is enhanced and you can increase the average cheque and turn more tables by increasing the speed of service.
Cost-benefit: If an average table is worth $50 and that increases to $55 (from that second drink), and you can turn just two or three more tables an evening, then you could add hundreds of dollars to your revenue each week. If order errors decrease then food costs will as well.
Tap and pay/mobile wallet
Credit and debit cards have been commonplace for many years now but a technology known as near-field communication, or NFC, allows a customer to simply “tap” the card on an electronic reader and make a payment without having to insert a card, punch in a security code or wait for a connection. Digital wallets such as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay allow the user to scan their smartphone or wristwatch to make the payment. ApplePay has just launched in Canada and trend watchers feel the Canadian market is poised to have this payment system take off. IDC (International Data Corporation) Canada reports about 44 per cent of the total smartphone market in Canada consists of iPhones. Canada also has a thriving tap-and-go payments infrastructure. In October 2015, Moneris reported 85 per cent of its merchants would be able to accept Apple Pay and that for the first two quarters of 2015 between 10 and 20 per cent of all domestic transactions on its systems took place via contactless methods.
Advantages: Customer experience is enhanced through speed of transaction and increased security because digital wallets are more secure than tap-and-pay cards. More flexibility in payment capabilities makes you merchant of choice for customers who prefer a wider array of payment options. Nirvana will come as digital loyalty cards integrate with the digital wallet, allowing you to push offers quickly and in a targeted manner.
Cost-benefit: For the price of a new terminal to take NFC payments, you can be in the game with relatively few costs. Mobile payment is a few years away from being mainstream. IDC Canada analyst Robert Smyth believes getting to a point where half of payments are made by mobile device is a few years away yet. “When looking at what is needed, what progress has been made and where we are today, 2019 still looks like a reasonable date if you are looking at over 50 per cent of online and POS payments being made using mobile devices as being mainstream,” he confirms.
Website refresh, search optimization and mobile friendly
Your website doesn’t need to be complicated but it does need to make it easy for customers to see your menu. Try to avoid having the menu as a PDF that the customer must download. A PDF may be easier for you and your web developer but it’s not easier for the consumer. A menu integrated into the site design will show it to best advantage. According to research by Chadwick Martin Bailey, 80 per cent of consumers think it’s important to see a menu before they dine at a restaurant. As of April 2015, Google algorithms were changed to favour mobile-friendly websites. Should your website not be mobile friendly or responsive, it will start to fall in the search rankings. Any website that doesn’t show up on the first page of search results stands very little chance of being viewed.
Advantages: Customer experience is enhanced and you acquire more customers by being at the top of the search results.
Cost-benefit: Websites are the new Yellow Pages. Whatever budget you have traditionally allocated to flyers, phone book ads and other media can largely be reallocated to website development and maintenance.
Your own app
Apps are small software programs that have a very narrow focus and therefore can have a specialized purpose. You can push special offers, communicate new menu items and offer a streamlined online ordering experience. Before setting out to create your own app, it would be a good idea to look at the apps already offered under the heading of “pizza” in the iTunes App Store.
Advantages: Customer experience is enhanced and you control the interaction with your brand holistically.
Cost-benefit: Development costs vary depending on how complicated an app you want. You need to develop different apps for different mobile platforms to capture all of the market. How many of your customers will really download the app and use it regularly? Apps are becoming like loyalty cards – many businesses have one and they are cluttering the customers’ smartphone screens. Research suggests apps are typically downloaded and discarded quickly. A report by AppsFlyer indicates most apps are not retained for even one full day: 29.1 per cent of apps downloaded by Android users were kept for at least a day while 25.5 per cent of apps downloaded to iOS-based devices were kept for less than a day. Thirty days after download, only 3.3 per cent of Android apps and 3.2 per cent of iOS apps were still being actively used. You may be wiser to tag onto industry apps like DoorDash and UberEATS instead.
Take a critical eye to technological investments, but do invest. Every new solution gives you opportunity to grow. To stand still is to be passed by those who keep in stride with consumers craving flexibility and ease in their business transactions. As Einstein pointed out, “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there will be no hope for it.”
Michelle Brisebois is a marketing professional with experience in the food, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. She specializes in brand strategies.