Business and Operations
Tools of the Trade
The Pizza Chef: Tech glitches, breakdowns and the unforeseen
Technology is a great tool. Many of us operators have come to rely on so many pieces of it that some of its integration is truly second nature. And, every few months it seems as though there is another tool available to add and integrate, but only if it’s right and good for your operation.
I don’t know about you, but every week I receive no less than a half-dozen of pitches for some new gadget or widget or software POS for my pizzeria. This one will text your customers every week, this one will activate lost customers, this one will reward your customers, this one claims it can do all that and then some. Most of them promise big things, and easy integration. Reality often shows up differently. It can be a bit overwhelming, discerning one from the other, and then weighing the pros and cons of a newly launched tech and how it might fit into your concept’s existing systems and clientele preferences.
I’d like to speak about the other side of all this tech. The dark side: the glitches, the breakdowns and the unforeseen. As good as the best of the best is, no matter what fabulous pitch you’ve been given, every veteran pizzeria owner-operator will tell you that at some point, there will be a glitch, an unforeseen event and/or a full breakdown. Notice I said “every veteran pizzeria operator will tell you,” not every salesperson. Remember that. It might be a software issue, or it may be a hardware issue, and sometimes, it’s a perfect storm of both. And it’s not just for our industry: every industry that uses tech has these same issues.
For instance, in the last week, the order-entry software that our province uses for ordering beer and liquor was working fine, except the add-on software that is necessary to use the order-entry application had recently gone through an upgrade, and that wasn’t working properly with the order-entry software. But you only knew that for sure after about an hour or so of troubleshooting, reinstalling the add-on software, adjusting settings, and then still a no-go. If you needed to place an order for alcohol on the weekend, well, that was too bad for you, since the order desk is only available Monday through Friday. I called Monday morning to place a manual-entry order, and was told I’d get my usual confirmation email. I didn’t. I called again on a Thursday afternoon to confirm my order would be delivered the following day, and the phone system kicked me to a voicemail message saying the office was closed and that I needed to phone during regular 9-4 business hours. It was 1:45 p.m.
There are many issues that arise from a simple glitch: one component of one part of your operation has undergone an upgrade, and then suddenly nothing else can communicate with it. Only, you may not be aware that there’s a glitch until… you’ve been made aware. In my operation, we recently discontinued our custom-designed app. After a large investment of time, money and resources, and a greater number of glitches, promises of fixes and ease of use that weren’t kept – not to mention having to pay additional charges for integration with our current systems, which had their own communication glitches – we decided it was an expense that wasn’t actually essential to our operation. This past weekend, an order came through, rather, a partial order came through. You can imagine the issues on the make line that arose from that.
I’ve known far too many operators who have integrated their phone systems into a “cloud-based” type of platform, which is really great, when it all works the way it’s supposed to. But, inevitably, there comes a time when suddenly, without warning, the whole thing goes down. In my experience, it’s often peak busy times, like a Friday night supper rush, when this happens. Customers are frustrated and punchy because they can’t get through, team members are on the receiving end of these upset customers, and are often not equipped to solve or resolve the tech issues, so it’s usually the owner-operator who is stuck on their mobile phone with tech support trying to get it back up and running. If you’ve ever worked a shift when this has happened, then you know the special place in Hell it is.
This column isn’t meant to dissuade anyone from adopting and integrating tech. It’s important for every owner-operator to vet out and determine if these new tech components actually help streamline your operation and/or increase sales and do what they promise. The reality is, you can get sold on something that doesn’t actually do what you were told to expect it to. Almost all of these operation-enhancing tools cost significant money, and take time and energy to set up and to work through glitches. Some of these tech tools are definitely worth the investment; however, not all are. And, eventually even the best of the best ones will fail in some way. What, if any, kind of back-up plan do you have in place in the event of some unfortunate unforeseen glitch?
Diana Cline is an award-winning pizza chef, a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating operational systems and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. Contact her at email@example.com.