The pace of innovation in restaurant tech has increased dramatically over the past decade, and it’s only getting faster. While some restaurants are testing fully automated kitchens, others opt to keep technology in a supporting role. But what’s the right choice for your restaurant?
Should you download this app or that one? Should you get rid of your paper training manual? Should you replace all your cooks with robots? (Hint: Probably not.)
When it comes to adding technology to your restaurant, it can be hard to know where to start. The benefits of POS systems and reservation management software have been proven time and time again, but when it comes to more recent innovations, it can be tough to know what can—and should—be replaced with technology.
A few years ago, new technology options for restaurant kitchens were sparse. Chef James Passafaro explains, “It kind of blew my mind that, at the time, given all the technology we have, everything that’s front-loaded into the front of a house with ordering systems and POS and all that, that we didn’t have anything in the back of the house.”
For the first time, technology investment in restaurants is shifting toward kitchens and the back of house, and the influence on employee confidence and guest satisfaction promises to be transformative.
In a recent episode of Give an Ovation: A Podcast for Restaurants, Zack Oates and Passafaro discuss new restaurant technology, the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on restaurant culture, and why genuine hospitality is the indispensable ingredient in restaurant excellence.
Why Robot Chefs Don’t Cut it in the Kitchen
Passafaro is the co-founder of opsi, a culinary app for chefs designed to streamline operations, boost consistency, and support kitchen teams through clear communication. Passafaro says, “We intend to change the way that employees [and] employers engage with hospitality technology and better bolster the team so they’re able to do a better job each day.”
For chefs and cooks, news of automation in food service can make it seem as though their skills aren’t needed or valued. At opsi, we believe differently.
“We truly believe that there’s no reason to replace. There’s only reason to better help,” says Passafaro.
Opsi is your sidekick in the kitchen. It’s a tool for digital recipe management, accurate food costing, streamlined task management, and easy communication. With opsi, the information you need is always at your fingertips, so you can spend less time running around your kitchen and more time on what really matters.
“There’s so much technology now out there that is, in some ways, trying to circumvent the human experience in restaurants,” Passafaro explains. “And what’s really important about restaurants is the heart, the warmth, the service, the people. That connection of sitting down and being taken care of.”
Oates summarizes: “Hospitality is a dialogue, and you don’t have that dialogue with a robot. You have that dialogue with a human.”
COVID-19: The Changing Landscape of Restaurant Kitchens
The COVID-19 pandemic put incredible stress on the restaurant industry and kitchen professionals. Many restaurants had to permanently shut down operations, and many more did not, but they struggled to stay afloat. The uncertainty for the future of dining was felt by employees and guests alike.
“The pandemic, in my experience, has been…a reckoning for the industry,” Passafaro says. “People [are] more aware of what’s going on in restaurants, the financial implications that go into restaurants, and also what restaurant workers deal with on a regular basis.”
Passafaro identifies workforce attrition as one of the major challenges restaurants have faced and are still struggling with. “You can’t change the way you operate overnight. You can’t just scale down your workforce and make the same product happen or the same experience and service happen.”
His solution? “You need to be able to give them tools so that they’re able to better educate, self-manage, and have more oversight for the team to know where the trouble spots might be.”
Opsi provides your team with immediate access to all your important documents. New hires can get up to speed quickly when they have all the necessary information instantly available to them, and everyone on your team will benefit from opsi’s task lists and digital recipe book.
Some level of unpredictability has always been standard in restaurant work, but in the face of increased uncertainty, restaurants are finding new ways to prepare for the future.
The New Generation of Chefs
Investing in new technology for your kitchen can help you save money in a business with small profit margins, but opsi can do so much more than that. Good restaurants are made up of good people, and choosing the right technology means investing in your team.
“When I was cooking as a young cook, everything was notebooks, binders, clipboards,” Passafaro says. “But we need to continue upgrading and getting rid of the manual with some sort of level of digital so that people have that access and know that everything’s there when they need it.”
Opsi doesn’t just provide your team with recipes and up-to-date prep lists: it also gives them the confidence to do their best work.
“I’m hiring young cooks right now… that are very tech-forward and have a very high level of understanding of technology. And they really lean into that piece of it with opsi where they’re able to get access and self-educate and know where everything is at one time.”
As kitchen teams hire younger cooks, it’s important to consider the needs of those new employees to support and retain them. Embracing new technology plays to the strengths of the next generation of chefs.
Plus, opsi is a tool that leverages the technology that you and your team are already familiar with. It’s available on computers, phones, and tablets, so you don’t have to install and learn a whole new system.
There’s no way of getting around it: providing the best experience for your guests requires the warmth and connection of superior service and genuine hospitality. Having the right technology on your side ensures that your team has the resources they need to provide first-rate service for your guests.
Interested in checking out the tech that puts your team first? Check out opsi by scheduling a demo, or sign up on our website and download the app today, available in both the App Store and Google Play Store.