Using technology to help independent restaurants thrive

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GoKart CEO Anx Patel discusses how using the latest technology can enable independent restaurants to thrive in a challenging marketplace whilst improving their supply chain efficiency through collaborative procurement. 

A challenging sector

In such an unpredictable industry as the restaurant sector, there are many challenges for independent businesses to really make a go of it in today’s market. Economic recession and political uncertainty has taken its toll on most industries, with non-essential markets such as fashion, beauty and entertainment being hit hardest. With stagnant wages and a rising cost of living throughout the UK, it’s no surprise that the restaurant sector has suffered with people less likely to splash out on an expensive dining experience every week. The cost of raw materials has spiked and even chains which seemed big enough to absorb this, such as Jamie’s Italian and Prezzo, have felt the pinch leading to mass closures. How can a one-man band or small independent chain expect to survive in such a climate?

Technology at our fingertips

Now more than ever, it’s vital that independents are doing the most to boost their business and cut increasingly looming overheads, and in 2018 any business not using the latest technology to do so risks being left in the dust. Taking advantage of technology can help to cut costs, boost customer numbers and help small businesses become more competitive with even the most popular chains and franchises. Three easy ways to integrate technology into your business include:

Free WiFi – today’s diners expect to be able to Instagram their food wherever they go, and even more vitally check emails as workplaces increasingly expect 24/7 availability from staff. Offering – and most importantly, publicising – free WiFi in your establishment will not only attract those customers who like to stay connected, but will also allow smartphone users to tag themselves and share photos at your location, showing off your friendly atmosphere and great food to various social media followings. Passing trade is likely to choose your restaurant over one with no ‘free WiFi’ sign welcoming customers in the door, and guests are also likely to stay longer. Shop around for a WiFi deal for your business and you will find the cost for implementing this vital infrastructure is minimal. 

Online ordering – the likes of Deliveroo and JustEat have blown up in recent years, with many would-be restaurant goers opting for their favourite dishes in the comfort of their own home. Utilising one of these services, which run their own marketing campaigns so you don’t have to, is said to bring in up to 30% more business to a restaurant. However, there are of course fees involved with these sites, so you must consider whether the investment is worthwhile. 

Social media – on the other hand, Facebook’s ordering app is free and can be used directly from a restaurant’s Facebook page, which means you don’t have to splash the cash and customers won’t be tempted by any rival offerings on other sites! It’s important to remember, however, that the sales garnered via Facebook will depend on how successful your own social media strategy is and will mean updating your page regularly to keep the ‘likes’ rolling in. Facebook ordering has been found to boost sales by around 10%. More widely, a strong social media presence as a whole is the best way to advertise your business and attract new customers. 

Supply Chain Management

Aside from these simple tech solutions, no business can grow without managing an efficient supply chain, particularly in the food and beverage industry where the best ingredients at the right price, as well as minimal waste and overheads, are vital elements to the success story. It’s important to scrutinise every aspect of the supply chain, including revising your inventory: can some products be ordered at a later time, or are there any ingredients with high wastage? Utilising Supply Chain Management (SCM) software can increase visibility of problems throughout the process from supplier to customer, and help restaurateurs decide how issues can be resolved and costs can be cut as much as possible, especially for smaller businesses that don’t benefit from existing relationships with large suppliers and bulk-buying prices.

SCM software helps many indie restaurateurs realise they are paying too much for materials and look out for lower rates. One way e-procurement platforms can help businesses to cut costs and improve efficiency in their supply chains is by enabling independents to combine buying power, with group buying resulting in around 20% cost savings. This helps smaller businesses to enjoy lower prices as much as their larger counterparts.

Using online services to come together and save has become an integral part of business for many, and is now vital to the prosperity of independent restaurants. One such platform is GoKart, a B2B app that aims to level the playing field for small businesses and give restaurateurs the tools they need to compete, empowering the next great food brands to evolve. Growing 35% month on month, GoKart has become essential for many of its clients with an easy-to-use ordering app that allows small food and beverage companies to come together for procurement at a lower price.

A digital future

While the challenges outlined above for the restaurant industry are all too real, the sector also boasts many exciting opportunities. Smart entrepreneurs who utilise the technology at their disposal to save time and money and increase their customer base stand to gain significantly, especially as consumers increasingly value fresh, healthy, organic ingredients and look for an establishment offering something new and different. By 2021, the UK food industry will have grown by 21%, with UK consumers reported to have spent £85bn in restaurants and cafés in 2017 alone. Offering free WiFi, remaining social media savvy, and combining buying power with eprocurement platforms like GoKart can truly mean that for indie restaurateurs, it’s all to play for.  

Anx Patel, CEO of GoKart 

Image Credit: Sangeeth88 / Pixabay