Restaurant Tech Trends To Watch in 2016

Make reservations and scheduling easier this year

The restaurant world has finally caught on to the tech boom, which means a daunting array of technology to sift through. What’s next for 2016? Check out these five restaurant tech game-changers. For restaurants reluctant to adopt, the probability of catching on is included, with 1 as least likely and 5 as most likely.

1. Servy

For operators seeking honest feedback to improve their business, customer review sites often prove unreliable. Traditional mystery shoppers and consultants can be cost prohibitive. Enter Servy: A crowd-sourced solution that pays qualified customers to review restaurants. Reviewers receive up to $30 for answering a series of questions on the app, with space for additional feedback. 

Servy prices evaluations at or below a restaurant’s check average so they range between $5 and $25. Leo Kremer, co-owner of Dos Toros, a chain of casual Mexican restaurants in New York, says the ease of integration, structure and analytics are its best features. “It’s cleaner, quicker, cheaper and more frequent,” he says. Bonus: Servy donates a meal to a local food bank for each evaluation. 

Probability of catching on: 3 

2. Homebase

Homebase alleviates common operator headaches, such as paper schedules, employee messaging, time sheets, tip reporting, overtime tracking and shift trades. Unlike its competitor, HotSchedules, which charges employees to use the app, Homebase makes a stripped-down version of its software and mobile app available to anyone, for free. 

The product seamlessly integrates into existing point-of-sale systems like SquareClover and RevelAharon Coffee & Roasting Company co-owner BatSheva Vaknin tried it after opening her Beverly Hills, California, shop and then quickly upgraded her plan to include text alerts. “It makes employee scheduling so easy. It gives you a level of control over the business even when you’re not there,” Vaknin says.

Probability of catching on: 4

3. Reserve

Restaurant reservation systems are a dime a dozen, but Reserve is showing the most promise to unseat behemoth OpenTable. Unlike OpenTable, which charges the restaurant for each reservation, Reserve applies a $5 fee to the customer after the meal. The app provides diners a curated list of available restaurants based on neighborhood, cuisine and vibe. 

Customers can use the app to handle their check, including tips and split tabs. Meanwhile, operators can optimize their dining room and know specifically the origin of sales. Chris Lauber, general manager of Charlie Palmer at the Knickerbocker hotel in New York City, says the restaurant app for Reserve is phenomenal, with evolving updates. Lauber says, “Reserve is the one to watch.”

Probability of catching on: 5

4. DipJar

Ryder Kessler came up with the inspiration for DipJar after talking to a barista who told him that as customers switch from cash to credit/debit, tips had declined as well because there was no easy way to tip. The solution: a small piece of hardware with an internal 3G service. Customers pay for their food, and, if they choose, dip their credit card into the digital “jar” to give an industry-standard set tip determined by the business owner. “People get a kick out of it,” says Ilias Iliopoulos, owner of Fresco, a gelateria in Manhattan.

Merchants have access to a suite of statistics and can set the tip amount along with employees' disbursements. Businesses subscribe for $20 per month, plus a small processing fee per transaction. “If I were using my POS, it would be at least an extra hour or two to sift through schedules to see who gets what,” he says, adding that many customers still leave cash, but it helps streamline gratuities.

Probability of catching on: 4

5. Industry

Most operators still trust Craigslist to find and post foodservice jobs. Industry, a San Diego-based startup, is looking to change this old habit. Using visual- and video-based profiles, Industry gives managers a greater picture of potential hires to find the best fit. The platform also includes a feature called MyPath, where users can keep track of their training and certifications. “It filters out a lot of under-qualified people that make the hiring process difficult and stressful for us,” says Mark Huber, managing partner of Bootlegger, a pub in San Diego, California.

Probability of catching on: 3