Today, more than ever, we love shiny new gadgets. We line up for the latest technology innovation, even it its just a tiny bit better than the last big thing. We blindly accept the notion that technology is good for us. But if you are looking to grow your business, is technology the answer? Will your investment pay off? Here's some common techniques you may try to grow your business — and how technology can help.
If you want to grow your same-store sales
Can your business handle an increase in sales? Do you have the right systems in place to process orders accurately and quickly? Does your staff have to wait for a POS or credit card terminal, or put customers on hold while they finish up other orders? This is where the right point-of-sale system can help to speed up the ordering process. Integrated credit card processing on every terminal eliminates bottlenecks. And a speedy phone ordering system integrated with callerID, a street database, and efficient delivery software will help prevent delays. You may find that you've already got more business — those customers have just been turned away by busy signals and long waits.
If you want to grow your business, you have to be able to analyze the business you've got. A point-of-sale system does more than just help you take orders, it allows you to take an in-depth look at your business; analyze your menu items to determine which ones are under-performing, so you can try to improve your offerings; and analyze your promotions to determine which ones work best to drive traffic, and which ones don't.
Another way to grow same-store sales is to add more channels for order taking. Online and mobile ordering will increase ticket averages, if implemented correctly, because customers have a chance to view your entire menu at their leisure, and sophisticated suggestive selling algorithms will boost their order total. Restaurants often find that customers order more often as well when you give them the convenience of ordering from their phone or computer.
You may also consider growing your service types to attract more business. Adding a curbside pick up service is a first step. Adding delivery is a significant decision but can increase your same-store sales significantly. Before you add these services, consider how the order flow will impact your operation. This may require a change or expansion of your point-of-sale system, to manage the complexities of taking and delivering these types of orders.
If you want to grow your profit margins
More sales are great, but if you can squeeze a bit more profit out of the sales you have, you may be just as happy. Technology has a strong role to play here as well. Perhaps its time to implement inventory tracking software, even if you only count your big ticket items such as cheeses or meats. Or track indicator items, such as dough balls, pizza boxes and drink bottles to ensure that all orders are accounted for.
Upgrade your labor management tools to help you achieve costs savings here as well. Appropriate scheduling based on sales forecasts, and manager alerts when labor costs exceed targets or overtime is triggered are technology tools that can pay you back.
Of course, technology costs money too, and here's where you you need to keep a sharp eye on costs vs. benefits. You may not need to upgrade your point-of-sale system more than once every four or five years — but if breakdowns and outages are interfering with your operation, upgrading to a reliable system makes sense. You may have started out paying per order for your online orders, but as your online business grows, consider switching to a flat monthly rate to save on these middle-man charges. And shop around regularly for your credit card processing. Often bundling your processing with your POS system can save you money.
If you want to grow your customer base
Reaching out to potential new customers is a great way to grow your business. Why not invest in the tools you need to be effective at catering parties and lunches for local business, schools or organizations? Or set up incentives at local hotels to reward staff who recommend you? Get involved with community organizations to host fundraising campaigns, where a portion of their members' sales over the month is donated. Often your investment in a strong point-of-sale system will give you tracking features that help you implement these types of programs easily.
Do you have a clear plan in place to nurture every customer you have, growing your "share of wallet" with your existing customers? An effective customer nurturing program starts with a clearly outlined communication plan that welcomes new customers, captures the information you need to stay in touch with them, communicates regularly, asks for their feedback and rewards them for their business. Many technologies work together here — your customer database, e-mail marketing systems, survey systems and a reward or loyalty programs that ties to your point-of-sale, online ordering and social media. Investing in a strong marketing system that ties all the pieces together will pay off with greater customer frequency and fewer lost customers.
If you want to grow into multiple locations
With one restaurant to run, you probably feel you can keep a close eye on the operation. But you may feel stuck and unable to escape the daily grind. When you start to look toward expansion, it's critical that you invest in the right technologies that will let you keep control even when you are not physically present. Now is the time to start looking into security and surveillance, as well as to implement strong cash management controls and auditing procedures. You'll want to look for point-of-sale tools that let you manage remotely, with easy remote access to your system, and alerts and e-mails that keep you in the loop.
As your empire grows, enterprise-based technologies become a worthwhile investment. Once you have more than three locations, you'll find it useful to use enterprise management tools to consolidate and analyze data, and to manage individual store menus, coupons and other settings.
If you want to grow by franchising
When you are ready to franchise your concept, its important to think about your branding and image to potential franchisees. The technologies you recommend can have a big part of your success. Of course, potential franchisees want to see that you are organized and modern, offering systems that are easy to use and not overly expensive. Strong analytics help you prove the results of your concept. Implementing a strong marketing and customer rewards program can help you gather specific demographic information about your customers that will help attract potential franchisees, and a strong social media presence with strengthen your brand.
As you gain franchisees, you'll want to keep consistency in your operation with centralized branding and menu management, especially as consumers experience your brand through many different channels. Online ordering has made it even more crucial for franchisors to keep consistent systems and menus in all their stores. Centralized reporting from all locations helps your accounting department gain efficiencies, and a centralized marketing and loyalty system keeps customers happy across your organization.
At every stage of your restaurant's growth, different technologies have a role to play. Adopt the ones that are right for you and you'll see tremendous results.
Ive been passionate about pizza technology since my start in 1994. Since then Ive worked in marketing and development for several pizza tech firms, founded FireFly Technologies, and now work as Marketing Director at Granbury Restaurant Solutions.