Technology is making its way into virtually every nook and cranny of our society, including restaurants. Many big chains are embracing modern services, from at-table ordering and payments using tablets to providing online reservations and order-ahead apps. But should smaller, family-owned restaurants rush in to offer these services?
Barriers for Independent Restaurants
No doubt, the largest obstacle to technology adoption by smaller eateries is the cost. Companies that process credit cards or offer payment equipment and services may charge ongoing fees that concern owners whose customers fluctuate during the year.
Then there is the question of who has the time or expertise to give high-tech gadgets the maintenance and regular upgrades they need. For many entrepreneurs, these barriers seem high.
Accepting the Inevitable
Nevertheless, an increasing number of independent restaurateurs are recognizing that consumer behavior is changing and eateries that lag behind the trends will end up losing out. Statistics now show that small restaurants have caught up to their larger franchise and chain peers when it comes to having a website; however, only 69 percent have a POS or electronic cash register/credit card processing system as opposed to 94 percent of chains.
Furthermore, small restaurants continue to fall far short of their larger chain rivals in terms of cutting-edge systems such as online ordering and mobile phone apps.
What’s in Store for Small Restaurants?
Few would argue that technology is always advancing, but it’s hard to say what trends will stick and which will go by the wayside. Large chains have the financial wherewithal to take risks in adopting the first innovation that comes along, and that can lead to a mixed bag of success and failure.
Smaller eateries with fewer resources are both cursed and blessed by their monetary limitations. Cursed because they can’t afford early adoption but blessed because they can benefit from the experiences of their larger counterparts and only purchase what has proven to be successful.
Further good news for small restaurants is that once new technologies have been on the market for a while, the prices generally come down to affordable levels as more providers compete to offer similar solutions. As an example, today, some processing equipment providers even offer use of POS equipment for free to smaller restaurants, with the idea that the businesses will make up for the cost of the equipment over time through regular payment processing volume.
Don’t Expect Technology to Save You
Keep in mind that while adding technology can improve your sales, service and operations, it can’t save you if there are fundamental issues with your food preparation or service. There is no replacement for the human touch, and customers respond best when they feel their meals have been lovingly prepared and served by staff members who are knowledgeable about the food and concerned about their dining experience.
At its best, technology can make certain parts of running a restaurant more efficient, leaving more time for business owners and their hard-working staff to con