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  • Writer's pictureMike Hanna

6 Ways Software is Changing the Restaurant Business

Eating food is a pretty low tech activity, but software and tech are transforming the restaurant business. From international fast food chains to local boutique trattorias, the food service industry is benefiting from innovations that are transforming the landscape of dining in America. And with so many startups eager to change the way we eat, there are plenty of opportunities for software sales reps to get at the forefront of something appetizing.

Here are 6 ways that's happening:

  • Food delivery and pickup

  • Reducing waste

  • Filling tables

  • Rewarding customers and building brand loyalty

  • Contactless Payments

  • Social Media Marketing

Tuck in your napkin and get your knife and fork ready (or chopsticks). Let's take a look...

Food delivery and pickup

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, food delivery and curbside pickup has helped many restaurants stay in business. Before the app era, delivery meant calling a restaurant directly and having one of their employees bring the food to you. But now there are third party services like UberEats, Grubhub, Caviar, and DoorDash, where an independent driver brings hungry customers their breakfast, lunch, dinner, or midnight pizza. These apps have allowed restaurants to expand their business offsite and rapidly grow their revenue. Restaurants that were not able to offer delivery services until now can also get more exposure in front of thousands of potential new customers. They have also created some challenges—for instance, restaurants that never wanted to offer delivery services...and suddenly finding themselves with negative reviews because a driver failed to deliver food quickly enough. Good or bad, there is no doubt that delivery apps are a huge billion dollar industry with many startups competing for clients and changing the business.

Reducing waste

If you’ve ever been in the food business, you know that what can make or break a restaurant or caterer is how well they use up the food in the kitchen. If a restaurant throws away lots of food, they’re throwing away lots of money...not to mention that food is going to waste in a world where millions of people do go hungry every day. But thanks to social media and advances in web platforms, we may soon see the day where 40% of America’s food is no longer discarded uneaten. LeftoverSwap is an innovative app that matches users to (you guessed it) leftovers before they land in the garbage. HungryHarvest delivers produce to consumers that would otherwise be discarded by supermarkets due to its less than desirable appearance; in fact, they have prevented around 20 million pounds of food from going into the landfill, while simultaneously connecting people in need with much needed nutrition.

Filling tables

If you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, you know there is a period of time in the mid afternoon that can really be the doldrums (in sailor terms, that means no wind...and in speech it means not a whole lot going on). But now there are apps to keep business going even during these times. Savored can help restaurant owners fill tables during unpopular times with discounts. Leloca, an NYC based app that’s expanding nationwide, can help tables get filled after a cancellation. YumTable runs deals based on real time capacity on the restaurant floor. With these kinds of apps, restaurateurs can eliminate inefficiencies in the way they handle foot traffic (for example, cancelled arrangements) and increase their revenue.

Rewarding customers and building brand loyalty

American consumers have a whole lot of choices when it comes to everything, and food is not different. Need a coffee? How about Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Pets, or Tim Hortons? Want a sandwich? How about Panera, Subway, or Quiznos? There are also regional chains competing for customer loyalty. One of the easiest ways to get them to come back now, ya'll hear is to offer customers incentives for repeat business. Generally speaking, reward apps tend to be built and managed by a specific brand, which of course facilitates an overall customer experience. But some apps do allow diners to earn reward for eating at different places, such as the pizza delivery and pickup app, named (go figure) Slice, which offers customers points based on how much (you guessed it again) pizza they order. These apps are allowing restaurants to compete in a digital space for customer loyalty even as consumers are faced with a plethora of options.

Contactless Payments

Another area where software is changing the restaurant game is through contactless payments and the payment processing companies that facilitate them. Taking a credit card and swiping it may not seem like a whole lot of work, but if 5-10 seconds can be shaved off every transaction because customers can now tap their card or phone over a terminal, that can add up to a minute. And while a minute may not seem important, if you’ve got long lines during Two for One Fish Taco Happy Hour, it can sure make things less stressful. Companies leading the way in this area include Apple, Visa, Mastercard, and payment processing solutions like Square and Clover. Of course, in the era of COVID-19, contactless payments are also important health and safety considerations.

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is everything in terms of publicity these days, especially in an era of social distancing (in real life). Apps like Instagram and Snapchat are incredible resources for promoting a restaurant or catering company, just by posting pictures of the food with the right hashtags. But restaurant owners may not have the time to manage social media accounts on multiple channels, or it may not be their specialty. Why not let customers do it all for you? With apps like a recent startup called Octothorpe, customers get rewarded for posting a selfie with their food and using a branded hashtag. By showcasing their lunch or dinner on Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat, they’ll be helping restaurant owners with the incredible marketing tool of social proof.

Staff Management

Working in the restaurant business is stressful. Managing people who work in the restaurant business can be even more stressful. There is a high turnover rate as many people in the service industry do not necessarily consider their job the final stop on their career path. But apps like BlueBoard can help keep employees happy by offering rewards and incentives, which in turn builds esteem, engagement, productivity, and boosts customer service. Human capital management apps like Genio are specifically geared to businesses where employees work in shifts, like bars, restaurants, and coffee shops. Scheduling, communication, attendance, and task management becomes much easier to manage from one place, resulting in cost savings and better productivity.

A final word about software in the food business

As you can see, software and apps specifically are cooking up an incredible recipe in the food industry. From reducing food waste to managing employees to rewarding customers to filling empty tables, restaurant apps are eliminating inefficiencies in the system and increasing profits for restauranteurs. In an era where COVID-19 has slammed many businesses and put them under for good, it’s refreshing to see one industry where technology may help it have a comeback, and at the same time empower smaller independent venues. And it’s also exciting news for software sales professionals. The food business is a big industry, and it's a rapidly space with lots of startups. If it sounds intriguing to you, or you’d like to discuss some other places you might want to go in software sales, send me an email at I’m a software sales recruiter with almost 40 years of experience in the business helping job seekers and employers find that perfect match. Until then...Bon Appétit!

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