According to new data published by the Central Business Directory (DIRCE) issued by the National Institute of Statistics (INE), today’s consumers have a choice of 280,078 places to eat, made up of restaurants and food stalls, bars, collectives and catering. This diverse offer also applies to organised catering, a segment that experienced a net positive growth of around 500 premises in 2019. Competition in the sector is fierce and restaurants are on the lookout for ways to stand out from the crowd and boost their takings. When it comes to achieving success, digitisation is already essential, and efficient hardware and software are pivotal. Codisys, a company that supplies the sector with technological solutions, sees digital transformation in restaurants and other sectors as a continuous challenge because technology, consumers and customers never stop evolving and “the solutions need to keep up”.
That's why so many of the technical innovations emerging in recent years have focused on restaurant operations and back-office processes – financial and accounts management, purchasing and orders, costs and inventory, personnel, etc. – and on the customer experience. When it comes to hardware, new ideas focus on "streamlining processes to increase turnover and make employees’ jobs easier," says Telsystem, a company that produces cash management hardware. In terms of software, the emphasis is on modular developments that centralise all aspects of the restaurant business in the same application. As well as developing these tools, system supply companies have woken up to the importance of data analysis when implementing their innovations. Companies now know that data analysis will allow them to take better business decisions based on copious information on the individual restaurant, its operation and on customer experiences and requests.
This digital progress is benefiting restaurants in many ways, such as optimal, efficient process organisation, profitability, modernity and speed, while reducing costs by bundling all the tasks in a single app. There’s no longer any need to have a programme for each job. Despite this, hardware and software suppliers concur that there would be even more benefits if users were adequately trained in these products and services. Camarero10 believes that “catering schools should factor the basics of these programmes into their curricula now that the digital revolution has already reached the sector, and they should have at least a basic knowledge of technological aspects when they join the job market”. Other suppliers like Iflares, which owns catering chains like KFC, AmRest, Grupo Lalala and La Piemontesa, say that the industry lacks training in new technologies and that many owners continue to rely on their individual management methods. But that’s not the only drawback, because developing and implementing technological innovation is an expensive undertaking. Each customer also needs to find the right support or platform that best suits the individual situation.
This aside, restaurant sector digitalisation is a market with scope for work and to explore new possibilities. Cheerfy, a company founded by two Spanish engineers that works with catering brands like Grosso Napoletano and Lateral, sees “a world of opportunities out there!”. Openings include mobility and self-service solutions and emerging robotics, in terms of hardware, and integration of technologies like artificial intelligence, Big Data, the Internet of Things, cloud storage and virtual assistants set to dominate trends in the software market in the coming years. “Adapting businesses to the digital transformation is no easy matter. The transformation touches everything from technology uptake to the need to change business cultures and the mindset of people who make up the business”, said Datisa.