Contributing Writer: Wajih Rahman, director of enterprise products, Revel Systems
After almost two years of uncertainty and change, the restaurant industry continues to combat unprecedented challenges. Not only were we faced with a global pandemic that changed the way customers engage with restaurants — we also experienced the biggest labor shortage in history.
This year, the Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) 2021 focused on looking back at the past 18 months and how successful restaurants are leading with values during a time of uncertainty.
As the Director of Enterprise Products, my role is to develop solutions at scale and launch new products designed to meet the needs of our enterprise customers. I have worked alongside operators such as FAT Brands, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Dave’s Hot Chicken, and more to design solutions that solve challenges or improve operational hurdles.
The past 18 months have pushed us all to work in ways which we haven’t in the past. For me, this meant being the voice of our customers and frequently iterating our products and product development priorities to meet the needs of our clients’ changing and urgent priorities.
The pandemic has accelerated demand for integrations and digital channels that may have been slowly integrated over the next decade, into a short 18 month timeframe. I have worked closely with clients to offer new services and provide unprecedented convenience to restaurant patrons — and that demand is here to stay.
With that context in mind, here are my top three (3) takeaways from Restaurant Leadership Conference (RLC) 2021:
The restaurant industry has faced a lot of volatility over the last 18 months. And although there are current tailwinds in the sector, a shortage of skilled workers continues to challenge the industry.
As a result, restaurants have seen wages for line workers increase more than 14% from September 2020 to September 2021*. This theme underlined many of the sessions at RLC, where panelists spoke very passionately about how this challenge is so multifaceted, encompassing wages, flexible schedules, on-boarding, employee retention and more.
Over the past 18 months, we saw the biggest shift in revenue move from in-store transactions to online orders and third-party marketplaces. As a result, many of Revel’s clients quickly immersed themselves in a crash course in digital and third-party marketplaces.
Third party marketplaces and delivery systems create a more seamless experience for the customer, but a more complex environment for restaurant operators. Integrations with providers such as Olo or Chowly are critical to ensure the kitchen is connected to your POS and third-party ordering systems.
Restaurants pressured to make a “quick fix” decision when it comes to their POS integration can ultimately face long-term data silos that are difficult to manage and slow to update. A small investment in a cloud-native platform and open API ecosystem enables flexibility, scalability, and pivots alongside your business.
Customer data continues to be a strategic differentiator in how brands engage with guests. Conversations have quickly shifted from customer relationship management (CRM) to customer data platforms (CDP), and brands are becoming more aware of the importance of knowing the complete lifecycle of the customer journey.
It’s no longer sufficient to know who customers are and what they bought. It’s equally important to know the activities at the very top of the funnel in determining how to optimize your brand awareness.
You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it. Any time you are under pressure to make a “quick fix” decision when it comes to adding new order channels, new technology and POS integration, the quick fix can lead to long-term data silos that are difficult to manage and slow to update.
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I look forward to seeing you at the Restaurant Leadership Conference in April 2022!
Learn more about Revel Enterprise® cloud-native platform enables flexibility, scalability, and pivots alongside your business.
*Sept 2021 v Sept 2020 for non-supervisory and line workers. Source: Technomic analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data.