It doesn’t matter if you own the corner coffee shop or a franchise spanning multiple markets. If you’re a restaurateur, you’re feeling heat that isn’t coming from the kitchen.
“The restaurant life is a demanding one,” offers Shana Peterson-Sheptak, PNC Bank’s Head of Business Banking. “We typically see our restaurant owner clients grapple with any number of ups and downs. But right now, they’re facing some unique headwinds.”
First, there were the constant disruptions of COVID-19, forcing many restaurants to radically shift focus. With fewer customers dining in, and social distancing becoming critical, seating was pared in dining rooms and the ever-present problem of finding labor became decisively worse.
As COVID-19 abated, a fresh set of problems cropped up. Food prices and labor costs spiked in 2022 and 2023. The corresponding price hikes on menus everywhere translated into more American diners choosing to eat at home as opposed to going out.
The result of this one-two punch? Between 2019 and 2022, the total number of restaurants in the country shrank by nearly 11%.
As restaurateurs look for answers to help improve their operational efficiency, one important solution for trimming costs and ramping up productivity can be found through greater use of automation. Alina Crisi, PNC Bank’s Head of Merchant Services, offers up some piping hot insights. “The restaurants that are doing well have relentless focus on cost containment and efficiency, without ever compromising the guest experience. They’ve become very smart when it comes to every aspect of their operations.”
One of PNC’s commitments is continually offering value-added solutions for customers, restaurants included. PNC Merchant Services offers several solutions that can handle everything from inventory control, point of sale, marketing, and employee management, making it easier to rein in the chaos found in many restaurant operations. Linga, a PNC company, offers an advanced and comprehensive restaurant operating system.
What Does A Restaurant Operating System Do?
When it comes to operations, a restaurant operating system does everything but fry an egg. As one example, Linga is customizable above all, allowing the restaurateur to implement what modules are crucial for their specific needs, regardless of the restaurant’s size.
"One question we always hear? That a system such as Linga is too complicated for a smaller restaurant. However, a good system is highly customizable, allowing the restaurateur to only choose the modules that are needed. Our team has built a best-in-class system that works for every size restaurant. We’ve found that, time after time, our customers report back that the productivity gains make this kind of system more than worth it.”
Here are just a few of the capabilities on Linga’s menu:
- Point of Sale. Ordering, table management, and much more;
- Employee scheduling. Keeping employees happy is the backbone of restaurant success;
- Inventory management. Tracking purchases, alerts when supplies get low, and efficient management of resources to create a fully stocked kitchen without disrupting cash flow;
- Kitchen and backroom operations. The more productive the kitchen is, the more profitable the restaurant becomes. A good system keeps your kitchen humming;
- Online ordering, mobile apps, or self-ordering kiosks. Not only does the right system provide greater convenience for guests, but it integrates seamlessly with your kitchen for timely delivery;
- QR and Kiosk ordering. More options for customer orders means restaurants can better serve customers—one valuable solution to labor shortages.
- Waitlist management. No guest wants to wait long for a table. This component can keep your customers informed of when their tables will be ready;
- Secure payment options. Credit card security is paramount. So is having the most up-to-date options for guest confidence;
- Marketing and customer loyalty programs. The more customers, the better. Options are available to turn any restaurant, regardless of size, into a marketing machine; and
- Instant performance analytics. If the past few years have proven anything, it’s that the restaurant business can — and will — change in a hurry. The better the data, the more nimble a restaurant owner can be to make adjustments.
Just as importantly, a restaurant operating system should be reliable, with the fewest number of interruptions, working in tandem with the financial management software the restaurant already uses.
One note of caution: A system is only as good as the data that is fed into it. As Crisi offers, “One thing we always tell clients is that data management is an ongoing commitment – the more you use the system, the more it can track and help you understand the full operations. Making it a priority can yield dramatic results in terms of performance – not to mention greater confidence when it comes to making decisions.”
What Is Implementation Like?
It’s a business that doesn’t like disruptions, especially when orders are flying, the phones are ringing, and the delivery truck just rolled up to the back door. A restaurateur simply doesn’t have the time to be a programming whiz on top of everything else. So, what does it take to get up to speed?
“Every restaurant is different,” Crisi adds, “which means every configuration will be unique, including hardware and software. Linga, as one example, does what I call, ‘white glove implementation.’ That means we work alongside our restaurant partners and get them up and fully operational, programming menus and back offices until it’s exactly what our client needs.”
At the same time, a restaurant operating system is only as good as the people who use it. That means education is a crucial element of success.
“Once the programming is complete,” Crisi says, “the implementation team trains the staff on how to properly utilize the system. This includes go-live meetings to ensure its full and enthusiastic use. And once the platform goes live, we offer virtual tech support to make sure things are going smoothly, or to iron out any small hiccups that may occur.”
How long does the process take? According to Crisi, shorter than the restaurateur might expect for buildouts, modifications, and education.
“Of course, this process depends on collaboration and complexity of the business. A lot of our timetable depends on the client response time when it comes to providing good input. And the more extensive the project, the more time it may take. But we’ve found that our customers see this as a priority in their operations given the subsequent results,” said Crisi.
How Effective Will It Be?
A system such as Linga is designed to eliminate many of a restaurant’s pain points. And, according to Crisi, the feedback is unanimous.
“One thing that’s consistent? Linga has made a decisive impact for our customers,” said Crisi.
“As one example, when we switch their point-of-sale system where they take orders, it’s allowed restaurants to run faster, turn around orders more quickly, see more reliably and transparently what they’re selling from an ingredient standpoint, and manage their inventory better. With this information-rich environment, they can really focus on achieving the efficiencies needed to hike their profitability.”
How To Get Started
Have an appetite for growth? If so, Linga and systems like it are an essential part of the recipe. At the same time, so is a bank that fully understands the restaurant business with all its complexity.
“We’re proud of the capabilities we’ve developed in the restaurant space,” offers Peterson-Sheptak. “We’ve worked hard to create the expertise in an often-challenging industry. As a result, both in our products and our real-world advice, we’ve created a lot of loyal customers.”
To learn more about all the ways PNC can help your restaurant, ask us today. With the right solutions, you could be enjoying extra helpings of success sooner than you might think.