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Three Takeaways from the 100th National Restaurant Association Show

Posted by Kevin Lentz, NetSuite Product Manager, Restaurant & Hospitality, and Brady Thomason, NetSuite Solution Manager, Restaurant & Hospitality

Last weekend, over 43,000 independent and chain restaurant owners, operators and exhibitors converged on McCormick Place in Chicago for the National Restaurant Association’s centennial show. From ready-to-use convenience foods and cutting-edge equipment, to new point-of-sale (POS) technologies, back office systems and training programs, it’s clear today’s restauranteur is looking for ways to operate more efficiently, cost-effectively, all while improving the guest experience in a pivotal time of change. One thing hasn’t changed: the choices you make as an operator today will directly impact your restaurants tomorrow. We’ve rolled up our top three takeaways from the show to help you choose how you inject change into your restaurants wisely.

1. Not All Point-of-Sales are Created Equal

Walking onto the exhibit floor, it’s mind-boggling how many restaurant POS vendors there are to choose from. With so many choices, how do you select the best front-end system for your restaurant?

First insider's tip: pay attention to nomenclature. Does the POS speak the same language as your business (i.e. checks, guests, staff, menu items)? If the terminology doesn't match, it's a telltale red flag that you’re looking at a retail POS in sheep’s clothing, and you will forever struggle to make that POS fit into your business. If the system was purpose-built for a different industry, with different business processes and conventions, you’ll wake up with an awkward partner next to you once the honeymoon phase is over. Hierarchies will be missing in certain key areas and heavy-handed in others. Searches and reports will be off because that “one key thing” you always filter by is missing, and that one KPI you need isn’t there. And once the data finds its way into your accounting software, you'll find yourself jumping through odd GL hoops to get things to line up correctly.

Second insider’s tip: your restaurant concept(s) should dictate which POS system you choose, and the functionality requirements necessary to achieve your business goals, not the other way around. For example, if you’re buying a POS for a quick-service restaurant chain, you most likely won’t need reservation and floor management functionality. Does the system allow you to scale your business easily like a cloud POS option does? Great POS systems will easily and effectively integrate into your other back-office systems like inventory, scheduling and accounting to give you the 360-degree visibility and control you need to operate your restaurant.

2. Digital Darwinism – Survival of the Selective

Food and Beverage technology is evolving fast, and the propensity for a restaurant chain to bolt on solutions that don’t correctly solve problems, or that will be quickly obsolete, is higher than ever. There were over 116 restaurant technology companies at this year’s show. All of these companies independently strive to provide an effective solution, but if two, different point solutions don’t integrate well, the guest experience will be severed at the heels, increasing human error and operator confusion. There was an overarching theme at this year’s show: with seemingly endless pain points and a limited IT budget to solve them, how can today’s restaurant operator select the right solutions while providing the best ROI and guest experience? Look for flexible, cloud-based, industry-tailored technology solutions with strong reputations, strong integrations and helpful sales and customer support teams that want to partner with you for the long haul. Being selective also means understanding what your goals and priorities are as a business, and what they are not. To learn more visit www.netsuite.com/restaurants, or sign up for a free product tour.

3. Training & Professional Certification with ServSuccess

Along with technological changes, restaurants must be nimble in the way they hire, onboard, train and develop their employees to retain the right talent and reduce costly turnover. The National Restaurant Association has partnered with Amplifire to produce 21st century, online learning specifically for the restaurant industry. Complete with years of industry knowledge distilled down into interactive training and study guides, ServSuccess is designed to “attract, upskill and retain talent for independent operators, multi-unit businesses, large and small brands, and all types of establishments…” announced Dawn Sweeney, National Restaurant Association’s CEO, at the show’s “Future of Dining” panel discussion. The training features three levels of certification, including Certified Restaurant Professional, Supervisor and Manager, each of which require industry experience, character references and successful exam completion. Organized training is hard to come by in the restaurant industry, so leveraging training like ServSuccess to increase employee satisfaction and reduce turnover will give any owner or operator a distinct advantage.