In The Clouds

Be efficient and tech savvy at the same time.

Imagine simplifying how you track inventory or handle staff schedules. How about assessing the success of specials or loyalty programs from your cellphone? 

The growing number of cloud systems—which store data and programs on the internet instead of on your computer’s hard drive—offer more than just a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with management tasks big and small.

From streamlined POS systems to curated playlists, cloud-based systems are eliminating excess paperwork and improving communication, which means restaurants can speed up the front and back of the house and spend more time focusing on the customer experience. 

“The customer benefits from our pace of change, our flexibility and responsiveness to their needs and the elegance and simplicity of the tools we put in their hands,” says Scott Brittain, chief technology officer for Snap Kitchen, a healthy grab-it-and-go concept with locations in Texas, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Data Done Right

Say goodbye to paper. Essentials like transaction history, loyalty rewards and even social media accounts are collected easily and stored on cloud-based systems. Even mobile gets into the mix with cloud-based apps that integrate into the rest of a restaurant’s system. (Think speedier menu updates from the POS to mobile and seamless integration of diners’ data for marketing campaigns.) 

Snap Kitchen is experimenting with a new cloud-based mobile app that will soon tie into the whole operation. Customers can currently use the app as a direct line to find stores, browse menus and participate in the loyalty program. Additional tools like online ordering, delivery and nutrition management will roll out later this year. 

“Every email we send or offer originates from a cloud system,” Brittain says. “Equally important is our ability to track the ROI and customer behavior created by those contacts.”

Bust the Line

Long lines are inevitable in the drive-thru at Costa Vida, a Mexican counter-service concept with locations nationwide. But thanks to Toast, a cloud-based POS system, staff can expedite orders by walking the lines with a tablet. 

Line-busting this way demonstrates that you’re trying to cut down on wait time and provides more opportunity to interact with the customer, says Dave Conger, Costa Vida’s director of information technology. 

“It gives the impression that you’re technically relevant, that you care about conveniences and that you’re trying to make life easier for your customer,” he says.

Curate a Custom Playlist

Music can drive the feel and pace at restaurants, but playlists churning out the same tunes can quickly exhaust staff and customers. To bolster the artsy feel at Chicago’s Bohemian House, partner Dan Powell keeps his playlist updated using Spotify, a cloud-based music service. 

“I can be at home, logged into my phone or if I’m out shopping and think, ‘Aw man, I really like this song’ and with a couple of clicks I can add it to our playlist,” Powell says.

Powell couples Spotify with a playlist on SoundCloud, where he can find lesser-known artists. Similar to the way they treat the restaurant’s secret off-menu cocktail options, staffers disclose the restaurant’s playlist on Spotify when a diner asks about the soundtrack. Sending a diner home with a little music intel after a great meal is a win-win.