Chris Fletcher

New Technology vs Change Management - Are we focused on the right problem?

Tech continues to evolve and so does the hospitality industry, but we still face a multitude of challenges, from rising costs to high turnover, has spurred the emergence of a vast array of technology solutions. Hundreds of tech companies have entered the scene, offering hardware and software solutions that promise to address various issues—harnessing data, streamlining operations, cutting costs, ensuring employee satisfaction, managing supply chain complexities, increasing customer frequency, and automating traditionally manual tasks, to name just a few.

Yet, despite the abundance of options, the journey toward a state-of-the-art tech stack is far from smooth. In conversations with restaurant operators, a common theme emerges—the challenges of adopting new technologies. While operators express eagerness to incorporate these innovations into their businesses, they also highlight significant hurdles.

Budget Constraints: The Elephant in the Room

The largest and most formidable obstacle that operators face on the path to a tech-driven future is limited budgets. The aspiration to embrace new technologies clashes with the reality of financial constraints. The struggle to allocate funds for tech integration becomes a pivotal point of consideration for restaurant operators. In fact, cost was the main obstacle to adopting new technologies, according to the survey, with 58% of respondents citing it as a key concern. Rounding out the top three were lack of staff to manage and implement technology (45%) and lack of integration with current systems (41%).

Integration Challenges: A Frequent Theme

Difficulty integrating new technologies with existing systems was a recurring theme throughout the survey results. When asked about their key considerations when vetting potential new technologies, cost and integration repeatedly topped the list. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (74%) cited costs as a top-three concern, followed by functionality (71%) and integration with the current tech stack (66%). More than a third (39%) said they expect to increase their total number of tech providers in the next year.

The Path to Differentiation

The ability to seamlessly blend new tech tools with legacy systems emerges as a key point of differentiation for restaurant operators moving forward. Despite the current complexity, the brands that can employ the latest technologies without disrupting operations will be the ones to win. This underlines the significance of change management not just in terms of human adaptation but in the intricate orchestration of technological integration.

Technology's Crucial Role

Amidst the challenges, a resounding 78% of respondents declared that technology will be "very important" or "critical" to their ability to meet business objectives in 2023. Another 19% deemed it "somewhat important," leaving a mere 4% who considered technology only of minor importance to their businesses. This is a clear statement from operators that a tech-forward restaurant is now table stakes, with most operators recognizing they won't be able to compete long-term without embracing it.

Furthermore, only 12% considered themselves laggards who do not prioritize technology. The majority actively leverage tech to improve internal efficiencies (57%) or to provide a better customer experience (32%).

Beyond the Budget: The Role of Change Management

While limited budgets and integration challenges dominate the conversation, it's essential to recognize that the challenges extend beyond financial considerations. Change management, the often-overlooked component, plays a pivotal role in the successful adoption of new technologies.

Just as in any industry, restaurant operators are confronted with the human side of change—employees accustomed to established processes, the fear of the unknown, and the resistance to depart from the familiar. Change management becomes the compass that guides businesses through this intricate landscape of transformation.

Looking Ahead: Navigating the Future of Restaurant Technology

As the restaurant industry grapples with these challenges, the path to a tech-driven future is not without its complexities. However, with a strategic focus on change management, operators can navigate these challenges successfully. The journey involves not just a financial investment but a cultural shift—a commitment to embracing change, fostering a tech-friendly environment, and ensuring that employees are partners in the tech evolution, not just bystanders.

The restaurant industry stands at the crossroads of technological innovation and the challenges of change. Limited budgets and integration complexities may cast shadows, but with a nuanced understanding of change management and a strategic approach to technology adoption, operators can pave the way for a future where technology becomes a catalyst for growth, efficiency, and a delightful customer experience.

If you need help building and managing your tech stack, please get in touch

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