Pancake Stack Meets Tech Stack

This was originally posted by Bev Labs co-founder Chuck LaPress. While Bev Labs builds voice applications, we also utilize a whole host of other tools made available by our partners at Amazon. Here’s a look at an ingenious (and low-cost) solution to problems endemic in the food & beverage industry using some of Amazon’s lesser-known, but equally innovative, device and platforms.

One of the most amazing things about being a transplant from another career path is the invaluable perspective it gives you. Devising innovative solutions for business problems can lead to bad market fit if the solution architect doesn’t have hard-won, firsthand knowledge of the customer’s operations. But when you come from that industry, you can clearly see the solutions you wish you had available to you back when you were in the game.

Take the food service and hospitality industry. Everyone knows the food and beverage industry is a nightly descent into chaos, but few know just how thin the profit margins are, or the fact that for the most part operates as it did decades ago.

The chance to step back and look at operations with an eye toward tightening things up is a luxury. And the ability to hire a consultant to point out the obvious and suggest costly corrective methods rarely happen outside of the largest franchises or corporate settings. This problem calls for an F&B expat turned software developer.

The good news for restaurants of any size is that there exists technology that is both lightweight and extremely low cost that can slay the most common productivity problems. And it’s not a new point of sales system or inventory software — it’s automation triggered with the push of a button, and about as easy to program and install.

Kitchen chaos

The all-too-frequent problem: The restaurant is having difficulties maintaining a target cost of goods; both labor and food costs are too high.

The food problem: Food cost is rising because food is coming in the receiving door in a less than the desired state: Items are missing, too much of one thing and not enough of another; quality is not what is expected … all of these things lead to waste, and for a smaller operator without a dedicated receiving agent means that the kitchen manager is being torn in various directions.

The labor problem: The owner-operator can formulate what expected sales will be based on reasonable factors such as previous sales, reservations, and other forecasting tools, and use this to set a labor budget. This, however, doesn’t reflect reality. Employees call in sick. They forget when their shifts are. Management panics, and that results in bad decisions and costly mistakes. Overtime pay is one of the biggest issues in restaurants and can break the delicate cost of goods budget to the point that even busy restaurants can fail to be profitable.

The good news is, there’s a solution. An innovative, refreshingly low-cost solution that can be up and running in a restaurant in days, not weeks or months.

And that’s just the kitchen

The unplanned-for happens in the front-of-the-house, too. Namely, the telephone. An business necessity between meals can turn into a business killer during service time. The telephone is the most effective way to take reservations, answer customer questions, call vendors, communicate with employees, but that same tool become deadly when it rings at the wrong time. A call to place a takeout order gets answered by a harried hostess or sometimes even ignored completely, resulting in bad customer service or, worse, lost revenue.

All these common challenges tend to be circular, where tight budgeting results in poor performance which in turn results in less revenue and an even tighter budget. The good news is, there’s a solution. An innovative, refreshingly low-cost solution that can be up and running in a restaurant in days, not weeks or months.

Technology to the rescue

The recipe for better labor costs, better food costs, better customer experience, and better margins overall is a tiny piece of hardware married with a cloud-based technology solution. Amazon created an Internet of Things device that provided push-button ordering for many of their household retail items labeled it the Dash button. They later they gave developers access to the cloud-based functions behind the scenes.

The answer to restaurants’ most perennial problems, at the push of a button.

Around the same time, Amazon also opened up to developers the same call center-based technology that they utilize for millions of customer interactions in their own organization, called Connect.

With this IoT button and Amazon Connect, powerful integrations can be created — integrations that can save restaurants precious time. Now, the kitchen manager who has missing or damaged product coming in the back door while he is in the middle of expediting and the floor manager who at the same time is struggling to seat the customers coming in the front door while he also needs to review the schedule to see why a server hasn’t shown up can easily push a button in their pocket to resolve an issue.

Here is how it works: The button push activates a cloud-based function that has been programmed in the Amazon Connect system to either place phone calls to the vendor (in the case of the delivery issue) or to the staff members (in the case of the missing server). Not only can Connect place the outbound calls, but the button push can also trigger text messages and confirmations.

That’s not nearly all it can do. Connect can accept voice messages, transfer calls, provide a programmable intelligent voice bot that understands spoken words and responds back with a variety of voices. That means it can eliminate the need for a hostess to answer the phone to accept a takeout order. Just imagine! Now no one — not the guest who’s just walked in nor the customer on the other end of the phone — will receive anything less than a proper welcome and undivided attention.

While most restaurants face common challenges, there’s always the need to tailor specific solutions for specific use cases. We’d love to tell you more about how we have those covered. Ready to hear a demo? We’d be happy to work with you to find just the right low-overhead, low-investment solution that works with your existing systems to solve those issues that just won’t seem to go away.

Give us a shout at hello@bevlabs.xyz. We know what’s killing your margins, and we can help.

Chuck LaPress is the co-founder of Bev Labs, where we work with companies to find automated answers for operational issues. https://www.bevlabs.xyz