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The Staggering Difference a Subtle Change to Investing in Restaurant Technology Can Make

Author: Chris Andrews, Chief Information Office at Smoothie King on: Mar 17, 2020

As we consider making any changes to the technology that ultimately ends up in our franchisee-operated locations, one of the guiding principles for Smoothie King is that we’re stewards of fiscal responsibility. In other words, we don’t want to invest in technology just for technology’s sake.

Instead, we work to ensure both the franchise owners’ and guests’ perspectives into account. By doing so, we’re able to take a far more holistic view of which opportunities to capitalize on. Harkening back to our long-standing tagline – Smoothies With A Purpose™ – we go through a process of choosing technology that’s purpose-driven and will help franchisees achieve a specific business objective.

Here are a couple of examples in the restaurant franchise space that clearly demonstrate this concept:

Streamlining Payments for Restaurant Franchise Brands to Augment Guest Experiences

Your guests want the most seamless path to a transaction. This rule applies whether you’re operating a full-service restaurant, a fast-casual concept or a quick-service model.

It’s hard to choose the path-to-purchase your guests are going to pick. So, instead of forcing them to take a specific route you think they should take, it’s important for brands to give consumers as many options as feasibly possible, thus enabling the guest to decide when, where and how they’ll transact with your business.

In today’s restaurant environment, the options for payment are proliferating. You’ll have guests who want to pay by:

  • Cash
  • Credit/Debit
  • Mobile payments
  • Contactless payments
  • Prepaid cards
  • Gift cards

When deciding whether to accommodate each of these payment processing methods or to limit your locations to a few of them, consider the customer first. In the battle for wallet share, you can’t afford to trip over your own feet by turning consumers away because you can’t process their payment.

On top of guest experience, an up-to-date payment processing system should help to improve, or at least maintain, operational efficiency, as well as safeguard your restaurant against security issues.

That said, upgrading your point-of-sale system or vendor can be a time-intensive and expensive process. That’s why it’s important to consider your purpose before deciding to invest in upgrading your payment infrastructure.

Do Digital Menu Boards Make Sense for Your Restaurant Franchise?

Just like a payment processor or systems merchants, you need to have a clear purpose in mind when deciding to partner with a digital signage vendor. There are underlying levels of complexity when investing in a digital signage system that can quickly become unruly if you aren’t prepared or equipped to roll it out to your franchise network. You aren’t simply buying a few screens. When all is said and done, you’ll end up investing in hardware, software, cabling, training, installation, content subscriptions and support. In effect, it’s part of your in-store marketing strategy.

When taking a look at digital signage, it’s critical you consider it with the right mindset. Certainly, you want any business investment to yield a financial return, but you need to be realistic with your goals. On its own, a digital menu board isn’t going to help you sell more smoothies. The mere fact that you have a bright and shiny new menu board that you can update with a computer probably won’t help you get more people to visit your business and buy smoothies.

What you can do – and what is more strategic – is to motivate your existing guests to engage with your brand through the content displayed on digital signage. There’s a natural opportunity to highlight your product mix or limited time offers. Do you want more people to sign up for the guest loyalty app? Or do you want to earn more followers on your local Facebook or Instagram page? A digital signage display can be used to educate guests about the opportunity and benefits they can earn by doing so.

Not only can digital signage help guests engage with your brand, but it can also help you boost sales. For example, Starbucks has begun to develop AI systems for their stores, and is using it to remember customers’ personalized orders. This has freed up employees’ time and helped them better establish personal connections with their customers – and increased their Seattle location’s same-store sales activity by six percent.

Whatever your objective, ensure digital signage is the best method or channel to help you achieve it. Keep close track of specific metrics related to the tactics deployed through the technology.

Or put another way – is the technology helping you achieve the business objectives you identified prior to rolling it out?

How Do You Know if It’s the Right Decision for Your Restaurant Franchise Brand?

Before even considering rolling out new restaurant technology within your franchise system, it’s of paramount importance to get input from key stakeholders. Smoothie King works with individuals on our corporate team who have a long tenure with the brand, franchisees and guests to figure out what works and where there may be a need for an upgrade or update.

There are many owners within the franchise system with a lot of great ideas – and they’re not shy about sharing their thoughts. Some of the most prescient insights come from owners and operators who are in their stores week in and week out, seeing how restaurant technology affects operations, guest experiences and profitability.

When the time comes to make adjustments to restaurant technology, being transparent and being able to build the business case for making any changes are top priorities. Again, we’re not in the business of adopting new technology without it serving a specific purpose or providing a solution to a system-wide issue.

At the same time, we make a concerted effort to reduce friction by introducing any changes through our corporate-operated locations and going through the learning curve there before rolling out any changes to the franchise community.

By staying true to our core business proposition – starting with the purpose – we’re able to make smarter investments in restaurant technology that helps guests and franchise owners alike achieve their goals.