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How Restaurant Technology is Evolving in the Franchise Industry

Jul 27, 2018


By Adam Zeitsiff, Chief Information Officer at Smoothie King

With news of robots being able to perform more advanced tasks, people get nervous about them taking over customer service roles, especially in the quick-service restaurant (QSR) industry. But what is important to remember is when your purpose is inspiring people to live a healthy and active lifestyle, there’s just no replacing people.

The QSR industry is still a people business, especially at Smoothie King. When guests walk into our stores, they have a purpose and it’s our job to help them achieve that with over 50 smoothie blends to meet their needs. People aren’t going anywhere in Smoothie King stores – that would de-humanize the experience and would take away from the brand and what we are trying to help our guests accomplish.

However, technology in the restaurant industry is advancing quickly and restaurants have to figure out how to evolve right along with it.

Improving Community and Convenience

For Smoothie King, it’s important that we consider how technology creates a strong sense of community and purpose between our guests and our brand. Our guests should feel they can interact with Smoothie King through technology – specifically via our app, and this interaction should enhance their relationship with us.

For example, we will be upgrading our guest loyalty app in Q3 so that not only will it continue to keep track of points, but it will provide guests the ability to pay through the app and better define their purpose. If they’re looking to work toward their fitness goals, as part of a sensible diet and regular exercise routine, they can let the app know, and it will guide them to our fitness-focused blends. Convenience is still paramount for guests, so we will be tweaking the app to allow for ordering in advance. So, if you’re picking up your dry cleaning and you want to order a smoothie, you can do that – then pick it up and drive off because you’ve already paid for it.

Technology Drives Delivery

Technology is changing the restaurant industry for the better. For example, mobile apps are influencing delivery.

Not everyone has the ability to hop in their cars and pick up their food. Not every restaurant can afford to build their own delivery service either.  So, the delivery companies out there make it easier for people to get the food they want delivered when they want it, while providing restaurants the ability to get it to them. If you can’t pick up the smoothie you ordered in advance and pre-pay companies will get it to you anyway. Delivery gives us the opportunity to give a wider range of consumers access to our products.

Creating Efficiency for Franchisees

There are two sides to technology implementation. One is the way it affects the guest and our relationship with them – that building of community, which is very important to Smoothie King. Two is the way it affects the franchisee. It’s important that we give them the right tools to help them run their business efficiently and maintain a competitive edge, so they can spend more time working to grow their business. Technology should not be a burden to franchisees; it should free up more of their time to focus on the guest and initiatives that will spur growth.

At Smoothie King, we strive to provide the most efficient point-of-sale system and the most efficient and easy-to-use back-of-house system. This allows our franchisees to see reports on their mobile phones, run inventory quickly and manage multiple stores from one interface.

Companies who implement technology this way give themselves a competitive advantage.

The purpose of a franchise system is to make things uniform and consistent, and technology helps with that. It not only contributes to operations becoming more efficient for franchisees as they open more than one location, but it makes things more efficient to scale. So, when you deploy this technology for the first through third stores, it will help you efficiently manage 15 or 20 stores as well. Technology can make it easier for small to mid-size operators to become bigger operators because the tools to manage their stores become even easier to use.

Choose Wisely

While technology is benefitting the restaurant industry, it’s also making it more competitive as restaurants of all kinds strive to be quicker, more efficient and more accurate.

With technology advancing so rapidly and creating a frenzy among franchise restaurants to apply all of it quickly, it’s important to slow down and evaluate its worth.

They key is to make sure whatever technology you implement drives new growth and traffic in to the store, improves store efficiency, reduces costs and enhances the guest experience.

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