Learn some key benefits of using an automated order system for your food business, and they can help save you time, effort, and money.
In an increasingly digital world, it can sometimes feel like restaurants are from a different place in time, a golden age where people still sold things made of atoms instead of data and information. After all, it’s pretty tricky to revolutionize a burger. Although lord knows, hipster bars have tried their hardest, with foot-high patty towers sandwiched in brioche buns, held precariously together with a single skewer. Seriously, how are you supposed to eat those things?
The truth is that technology can revolutionize how restaurants work, too. Automated order management systems are rapidly becoming standard fare in restaurants, reducing errors, speeding up processes, and taking some of the drudgery out of server’s jobs. In this article, we will look at some benefits of using an automated ordering system and how they can help your business.
Reduction in Human Errors
Tell me if this situation feels familiar: The server takes the order, writes it on their pad, and passes it onto the kitchen. 10 min later, the ticket is ready – except it’s not what the customer wanted.
Now, the chef is annoyed because they’ve got to do another meal and can’t read the server’s incomprehensible writing. Meanwhile, the server is furious because they’ve got to tell the customer their order isn’t ready – all because the chef made a potato scallop when the ticket clearly said, ‘tomato salad.’
Automated order systems make these sorts of errors a thing of the past – by digitizing your orders, you know the kitchen is getting the correct order every time.
Another great advantage of automated ordering systems is the possibility to integrate them into other systems, further reducing the chances of errors. For example, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) can get a phone number for business and integrate it with their automated ordering systems to reduce the chances of errors while taking over-the-phone orders.
Real-time Menu Updates
You’ve worked hard on crafting your menu. Your customers appreciate this, and they’ve thought long and hard about what to order, finally setting their heart on that perfect dish. That’s why it's so soul-destroying when you have to go back and tell them you’ve already sold the last one. It’s even worse if that call comes 10 min after they order because the chef was too busy to notice they’d run out.
One of the best benefits of self-ordering kiosks or other automated systems is that menus are updated in real time based on stock levels. That means customers, servers, chefs, and managers all have the information they need at their fingertips, and no one has to be disappointed that you’ve just run out of cheesecake.
Faster Order Processing
Once an order is taken, it can take a surprising amount of time to make it to the kitchen. On a busy day, servers must walk miles, back and forth from customers to the kitchen, carrying scraps of paper. Of course, your servers try their hardest to get there as soon as possible, but there’s no ignoring that table of six who are calling them over. Guess that order will have to wait until it can reach the kitchen.
The situation is no better for phoned-in orders to Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs). You can guarantee the phone rings again when you’re ready to pass the order on.
Of course, with automated orders, these orders get passed onto the kitchen the moment they’re taken. No more distractions, no more delays. With modern systems, QSRs can even take the pain out of payments by automating the payment process. Please check how to be PCI compliant, though, as data security can be an issue with some systems.
This level of integration creates a streamlined workflow whereby charges are passed on immediately, your servers concentrate on serving improving standards, and chefs have the maximum time to plan and cook.
For those QSRs who really want to streamline their process, there are even options to get an enterprise VoIP phone system that can seamlessly integrate into your automated ordering system, so phone-in orders make it to the kitchen even quicker.
Real-time Order Tracking
You know why people come to your restaurant if you run a QSR. Yes, they want quality, but that’s not what the Q in QSR stands for – people want food quickly. That means they want to know precisely how long an order will take when they come to you. Many automated order systems do this for you, updating customers in real time, keeping them engaged, and managing expectations.
Additional technology can also supplement order tracking to keep your customers informed every step of the way. For example, get a virtual business phone number so your customers know when they’re being called by you, meaning your delivery driver can contact your customers before they arrive. Diners appreciate a sense of transparency, especially as they are so used to up-to-the-minute tracking from other companies, such as Amazon.
A busy kitchen may have hundreds of individual ingredients. Even the most careful chefs and managers can’t keep track of every last thing in their heads, especially in the cut-and-thrust of service. Unfortunately, this often means you only realize you’re out of an ingredient until it’s time to use it.
Of course, you do regular stock checks and have to build to levels to try and ensure that you never end up in that situation. Still, no system is perfect, and neither are the people doing the stock checks. Automated order management systems are perfect for avoiding such disasters, automatically flagging low stock levels before it’s too late.
Better Supply Chain Coordination
While it’s great to know about low stock levels before they become a problem, many automated order management systems go beyond just tracking stock levels. They can automate the ordering process as well.
Such systems can calculate when you are low on stock, trigger the ordering process, and contact suppliers, substantially improving your operations management. This is excellent news for your stock levels and will save you or your staff from having to manually input orders yourself.
However, it’s not just you that can benefit from this automation; your suppliers can too. By triggering the ordering system when stocks run low, you ensure you give your suppliers the maximum time to source and prepare orders. That makes such systems great for you, your staff, your customers, and your suppliers. A quadruple win!
This might seem problematic for those wishing to take a more active role in integrating an ordering system into their website; if orders from your website affect your stock levels, editing your site could be difficult. However, this needn’t be the case, as one of the benefits of headless commerce is that you can separate the front-end and back-end of your website to make changes while still allowing for an integrated ordering system.
The final benefit of an automated ordering system regarding stocks is that you can drastically reduce your food waste. For most kitchens, ingredients are the second most significant expense, so reducing food waste can seriously impact your bottom line.
There are several ways that automated systems can work for you. The first is by ensuring that you don’t over-order goods. This can be critical, especially when you are talking about perishable goods. The second way they can help is by flagging up goods close to their sell-by dates, allowing you to create specials, or putting on offers.
The final benefit of having an ordering system linked to your inventory like this is the simple ability to record the amount of wastage you have. It’s always important to track your restaurant KPIs, and if you find that your automated system isn’t staying in line with your real-life stocks, it will flag up the problem for you,
Lower Labor Costs
Throughout this article, we have seen how you can save time and increase efficiency in your restaurant by implementing automated ordering systems. Yet, we haven’t touched on what these savings really mean to your business – reduced labor costs.
By removing so many mundane tasks from your employees – from order processing and stock taking to simply carrying orders back and forth – your employees will free themselves from arduous tasks that eat into their time. This means you don’t have to pay skilled staff members to do jobs that a computer can do more efficiently.
Of course, this does mean that many staff may be wary of implementing automated systems and be justifiably worried about their jobs. However, the truth is that automated systems aren’t there to replace employees; they are there to make them more efficient and to let them focus on what they are best at – providing great food and excellent service.
Automated systems can even reduce your labor costs by removing the need for you to travel to your restaurant just to check how things are going. By integrating your automatic ordering system with tools like RealVNC's remote desktop app for Mac, you can always be available to solve problems without taking up your whole day.
Automated order management systems are one of those rarities for food businesses – something beneficial for everyone. They can help servers, saving them time and effort. They help chefs by ensuring stock levels are always right. They prevent errors throughout the process. They save you money. Most importantly, though, automated ordering systems improve your customer experience, which keeps them returning time and time again. If you’re not already using an automated ordering system, it might be time to consider implementing one into your business.