A restaurant server takes customer orders using a digital tablet.

Tech demos: Ask before you invest

7 time-saving questions restaurant operators should ask.

Restaurant operators understand that choosing the right technology solution is vital to business success. They also understand how busy they are, meaning that if they’re going to spend the time on a demo, it’s important to get the most out of it.

BackofHouse tapped Ken Tsang of the restaurant help desk Science on Call to review the key questions an operator needs to ask when demoing a new solution.

Which solutions do I realistically need to demo? 
A little research goes a long way. Before you actually engage in a demo, make sure you’ve identified any must-haves, narrowing the field to those that truly appear to make sense for your business. Be honest and clear-eyed about your needs and resources.

Who are the key players in your category, and how do your features compare?
One way to find out if a solution is a good idea for your particular business is to quiz reps on how their solutions fit the market. How do they see themselves? Who do they consider competition, and why are they better?

Tsang recommends aiming to demo 3-4 solutions in whatever category you want to implement., from reservation systems, to third-party delivery platforms. “Generally that seems to be a good number,” he said, because it allows you to learn how different vendors are thinking about the space.

How does pricing work? What return on investment can I expect? Can you offer any breaks? 
Solutions are there to deliver ROI and smooth out the operational flow of your restaurant—and any solid reps should be able to articulate why their solution is worth the money. Ask direct questions about pricing and listen to their answers. And if the price isn’t to your liking, it never hurts to ask if there is any wiggle room.

How much does my restaurant actually need?
“Most customers don't need the Cadillac version every time, but we want to know if they have a very particular thing that’s only available in [a certain] tier,” Tsang said. “Understanding your requirements and how these companies segment their product, making sure it lines up to your restaurant’s actual needs is crucial.” 

Who handles implementation?
Just because a solution checks all the other boxes doesn’t mean it magically installs its software and hardware in your restaurant. We’re talking about implementation, and according to Tsang, you should ask about it so you know who is in charge of getting the technology up and running. 

What is your support system like? 
Similarly, you should get a sense of what kind of support you can expect from a vendor once you’re using their product and have questions or unexpected problems. As Tsang puts it: “OK, so we get this thing implemented, and something breaks six months down the road. What kind of support tiers do you have?’”

What integrations do you offer today… and what about tomorrow?
Ask how well a solution integrates with your existing tech stack. “There are so many products out there that do niche things, but if they don't work with your POS system, for example, it's gonna be extra work for you,” Tsang warned, adding that it’s worth inquiring about future integrations to see if your issue might soon be solved, and what your potential partner’s future roadmap looks like.

If you have restaurant technology questions or need help figuring out the right solution, visit backofhouse.io