Using Technology To Transform Your Restaurant Operation, Without Changing Your Identity

/ Foodservice Tips, Tech Tips / November 4

Person Holding Tablet in Commercial Kitchen-Using Technology To Transform Your Restaurant Operation

From the front-of-house to the kitchen, technology is changing how restaurant employees interact with customers, monitor equipment, manage workflow and even prepare menu items.

This is the story of how a leading supplier of 100% Genuine OEM foodservice replacement parts addressed the impact technology had on its operation. This is a story not unique to parts distribution. Whether a QSR, fast casual or full-service restaurant, technology is taking a leading role in the future of the foodservice industry.

This parts supplier’s digital transformation begins with a paradigm shift that was the result of increased competition. After years of sustained growth, the company was facing flattening numbers, and realized that they were rapidly losing ground to competitors because of a failure to embrace technology.

Growth, competition and changes to the market impact all of us. How you respond to those factors and stay true to who you are as an organization is critical. Through the lessons learned in this example, you will find applications for your restaurant. Here are some of the takeaways from one story of digital transformation process and questions to ask to help you assess your situation.

Don’t Lose Sight of Who You Are

As they began to determine their path forward, they had to understand how to respond and evolve while maintaining a well-established and highly thought of corporate identity. They weren’t willing to sacrifice who they were as a high-touch customer service organization. The challenge was how to redefine what a customer service organization looks like with technology.

Technology is a platform that can help extend a point of differentiation ― in this specific example, customer service ― to current customers, but also to attract the type of customer that values customer service but feels like digital is where they want to interact first. The team knew that no matter how a customer engaged with them, through chat, phone, e-commerce or text, they needed to experience their commitment to integrity, respect and responsibility.

Questions to ask yourself: What are your brand values? What are non-negotiables when it comes to your operation, customer experience and reputation?

Research Offers a Critical Opportunity

Research can be seen as an opportunity for some soul searching and a chance to hear from those that matter most ― both internally and externally. A SWOT analysis looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This exercise provides an internal team with a structured way to share their thoughts on the internal and external factors that affect an organization.

The team in our story surveyed internal and external (customers and partners) audiences to better understand the nature of their competition. From this foundational research, they were able to validate assumptions and discover new opinions, ideas and opportunities.

For example, they found that customers who work with them value customer service and accuracy to the point of diminishing the importance of price and availability. This insight helped prioritize their commitment to ensure customers remained connected to the relationships they had developed, regardless of the role technology would ultimately play.

Questions to ask yourself: How can research better connect you with your key audiences? What could research uncover about your operation and the role of technology?

Leadership Matters

As they expanded their position to allow for highly personalized customer service that incorporates digital, they understood leadership also needed to change. In order to reach their goals, they needed a team-driven leadership. Additionally, they identified some leadership gaps and hired a CIO, as well as a head of strategic marketing and channel-focused business development directors ― all positions that did not exist previously. It was a challenge to integrate new leadership into a team that has been successful and consistent for many years, but it was necessary in order to define the path forward.

Questions to ask yourself: As a leader, how can you empower others? How do you support your team? What is most important to your business and how can that be better communicated to employees?

Technology Can Drive You Forward, but You Need to Know Where You are Going

Technology has become a natural part of how we gather information, interact with each other and make purchases. For this parts supplier, the lack of an e-commerce platform put them at a competitive disadvantage. Additionally, they weren’t truly offering customers best-in-class customer service, because they didn’t have an omni-channel communications solution that allows customers options to interact in a way that fit the situation or desired channel (online, email, fax, phone, text, chat).

Their digital transformation began with the launch of an e-commerce platform in 2014, was extended with the release of their app in 2018 and continues with new customer-driven innovations. The app offers customers the same ability to research, verify and buy at their discount as our e-commerce site, but with a simple, convenient mobile experience.

Digital can still be personal, but it does present initial challenges. Externally, the need to catch up to other parts providers quickly and they were challenged to find personnel with the skill set to develop the e-commerce platform. Internally, the need to be sensitive to the adoption by the customer service team, dispelling the “I’m going to be replaced by a computer” mentality and overcoming the challenge of converting them from web opponents to web advocates.

Questions to ask yourself: How does technology impact your restaurant’s brand? How can you leverage it to improve your operation without losing your identity? How does technology support or enhance your points of differentiation?

Asking these questions ― and taking an honest look at your restaurant’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats ― will help you continue to build a successful operation that leverages technology effectively. Where you are today won’t be where to are tomorrow ― use technology to help get you where you want to be.

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