Technology remains a hot topic in today’s foodservice industry, and with good reason.

Tech is top of mind for operators because their customers demand that be the case. According to data from the National Restaurant Association, within the past year, 9 out of 10 adults have done at least one of the following: view a restaurant menu online; look up restaurant locations, directions or hours of operation online; read restaurant reviews online and placed an order for takeout or delivery using a restaurant app or a website.

It’s no surprise, then, the NRA reports in 2019 restaurant operators plan to devote more resources to these technologies: customer-facing service based-technology such as online or app ordering, back-of-the-house technologies such as point of sale or table management and customer-facing devices or hardware tablets, tableside ordering systems or ordering kiosks.

In a tight marketplace, where real growth remains hard to come by (page 26), operators are wise to focus their tech-related resources on adding value on customers’ terms. Of course, doing so means other tech-related developments will continue to evolve at a much slower pace than might otherwise be the case.

Take, for example, the concept of a connected kitchen (page 96). For those new to this conversation, a connected kitchen is one where the operator links various pieces of equipment to enable them to communicate relevant information such as energy, maintenance, food quality, food safety, operational efficiency and more in a timely manner. The concept has been around for quite some time, but it has been slow to catch on across all segments of the foodservice industry for a variety of reasons.

Operators, for example, have held their data close to the vest for various security reasons. And until the advent of secure and reliable wireless internet connections, it was often difficult to establish the proper infrastructure. Finally, there was the fact that equipment could provide lots of data, but it was not always of value to the operators.

The good news is that the industry seems poised for a change when it comes to back-of-the-house technologies such as connected kitchens. Subscription services are starting to take shape that can help operators manage the uptime of their equipment. These companies work with operators to troubleshoot problems with equipment, track warranty claims and repairs against an inventory of what items the operation has and more. What’s more, these services do this while working with the operators’ preferred service technicians.

If a connected kitchen is not part of these endeavors, it won’t be long before that becomes the case. I say that because for these services to be truly beneficial, real-time access to data and the ability to mine the data for information that allows the operators to work with their supply chain partners to make informed decisions becomes paramount. This will unlock the real benefit of planned maintenance, for example, and help operators know when it’s time to replace a piece of equipment.

All of this may seem like it detracts from the operators’ ability to focus on their customers but it’s quite the opposite. Worry-free equipment operation allows operators to focus on what they do best: take care of consumers.