According to the National Restaurant Association, the food service industry is posed to outpace our economic sales growth for the 12th consecutive year with sales expected to reach $632 billion this year, a 3.5 percent increase over 2011.
And it is believed that restaurants will reinvest most of this money in new technology, which they hope will give them the ability to continue this trend.
So, fellow restaurant services industry insiders take note: Entrepreneur.com recently published a list of innovative technologies to watch. Here are a few we think are worth investigating:
Food Safety Monitoring As September is National Food Safety Month, this new system, created by NJ-based food safety and security company Sealed Air, really caught our eye: A recording device that detects if food preparation employees are complying with health regulations and safety codes. One of the compliance areas is hand washing. So, how does it work? Employees are outfitted with identification badges equipped with radio frequency transmitters that alert the system when workers approach the sink to wash their hands, how long the washing lasts and whether soap or sanitizer is used. We at VSAG believe any health and safety process you can put in place to ward off cross-contamination, bacteria and the like in your kitchen is a great investment.
Cost: For the hand washing compliance, a monthly cost between $300-$500 (depending on number of monitoring stations needed). Prices increase if you want to train for other food preparation requirements, like wearing hairnets or proper food handling.
Touch Screen Food Vendors. These digital boxes (such as MooBella Ice Creamery Machine or Coca-Cola’s Freestyle soda fountain) dispense a wide variety of offerings in no time, all at the touch of the screen. VSAG is a fan of these touch screen vendors not only because guests love the variety, but they also can help cut labor and up throughput.
Cost: The MooBella Ice Creamery Machine costs $20,000, whereas leasing Coca-Cola’s Freestyle costs $320 per month.
Tablet Restaurant Management. The latest in iPad apps: Breadcrumb. Created by a NYC-based team of restaurateurs-turned-software makers, this app appeals to any restaurant looking to streamline its point of service (POS) operations. The app provides real-time views of tables, catalogs the menu by either dish selection or ingredient, processes sales/delivery tickets and sends orders to the kitchen. We think Breadcrumb is worth looking into if you want to go wireless/update your POS system. The great thing is you don’t have to purchase a whole new system since Breadcrumb works with traditional POS printers and cash drawers. Also, as information is updated it automatically syncs with the system and is protected from being lost since all data is securely located within the Breadcrumb Cloud Server.
Cost: Monthly rates range from $99 for one iPad to $399 for up to 10 iPads. App updates are free (plus, there is a free 30-day trial offer).
LED Alert Systems. The people at Power Soak Silent Alert System in Kansas City, MO aim to shine a light on kitchen chaos. Using colored LED light to illuminate workstations (such as the floor under the dishwashing sink or the wall above a deep fryer), this system alerts workers to the completion of time-sensitive tasks such as when pots are washed or when silverware is dry and ready to be used. A great way to improve workflow in any kitchen!
Cost: The Silent Alert System is a standard feature on Power Soak’s higher-end, automated dishwashing controllers, which run from $4,000 to $20,000. Note: The Silent Alert System currently works only with Power Soak dishwashers, but they have licensed the technology to other companies that make kitchen machinery.