Delivery, labor scheduling, digital ordering and tracking customer behavior are hot issues among restaurant operators — and a growing number of technology providers on the NRA Show floor have solutions.
For the many tech providers showcasing their wares, a common theme was flexibility, or solutions that can be tailored to fit the needs of restaurant operators of all sizes.
Here are a few highlights of what’s new in technology from the NRA Show floor:
• Grubhub announced the launch of GrubCentral, a new in-restaurant technology platform designed to simplify the management of online orders and pave the way for restaurants to offer last-mile delivery.
Through a Grubhub-provided tablet or a web browser on their own laptop or PC — and soon via mobile app — restaurant operators can create and modify their menu on Grubhub’s marketplace in real time, listing specials or taking off items that run out. They can also manage the financials and cash in money owed on demand if needed rather than wait for weekly payments.
In markets where Grubhub offers last-mile delivery, restaurant operators can order drivers, track their location, check on orders or resolve issues. Grubhub now delivers in more than 50 markets, a number that grows every year.
GrubCentral is available in about 2,000 restaurants now as part of a rolling launch, said Akshat Thanawala, Grubhub senior director of product.
• Scheduling software provider Sling is touting new labor cost analysis functionality that will give restaurant operators more control over their staffing needs.
As managers build their staffing schedules, the software gives information about the sales required to cover the cost of putting each employee on shift. The data helps managers make better predictions about when more or fewer workers are needed to more efficiently manage costs.
Managers can also share and distribute information to workers, send messages to groups or individuals and organize all aspects of their work on a single platform.
• Customer engagement specialist Paytronix Systems Inc. and digital ordering platform Olo have joined forces to enable restaurant operators to identify customer behavior to allow for more targeted marketing.
With a single log-on, customers can maintain and access a single account for online ordering, and optionally a rewards program. Restaurant operators, meanwhile, will capture ordering data that will allow them to develop relevant offers for that guest, without necessarily motivating them with discounts.
• Restaurant solutions vendor Sysco spotlighted its new start up CAKE, offering a comprehensive technology platform that integrates front- and back-of-house operations, connecting a table management system with the point of sale. Designed for small chains and independent restaurants, CAKE allows restaurants to develop a digital profile of guests linked to their phone number when they make a reservation.
The system allows for more accurate wait time predictions, texting guests when tables are ready, server-held tableside ordering and payment and improved table turn time. The system also allows managers to better measure service touch times. Launched in late 2015, CAKE is being presented on the show floor for the first time.
A new product called CAKE Connect, now in beta-testing, will allow restaurants to launch promotions on social media and respond to customer feedback.
Update: May 23, 2016 This article was updated with more information about Sysco's CAKE product.