Scotty! Two to beam up. Oh, and a side of slaw
Staying on top in today's business of eating requires that owners and management adapt to changes in the marketplace. For many restaurants, that change can involve new technologies. By now, most of us have probably had our order taken by an iPad-wielding server communicating wirelessly with the inner sanctum of the kitchen. And I have to admit to smiling when I call for pizza delivery and the person on the other end of the line immediately knows my address, what (and when) I last ordered, and maybe even my credit card number and waist size. It's like "1984," but with pepperoni.
Cooking equipment also keeps pace with the technology. A prime example of this being the leading-edge induction cooktops at Hari Cameron's newly opened-this-week Grandpa(MAC) next to Pickled Pig Pub on Coastal Highway. The cooking surface remains mysteriously cool as the cheese bubbles happily in the stockpots. Magnets – not just for your refrigerator door any more.
When it comes to customer interface, restaurants have used POS (point-of-sale) systems for years to track orders and inventory, but technologies such as caller ID and online shopping cart systems have been merged with modern software to allow restaurants to blend with cellphones, landlines, texts and even faxes (remember them?). In fact, recent trends have brought about order kiosks or table-mounted iPads that eliminate the order taker entirely.
A number of restaurants in the Cape Region streamline their phone/delivery orders with software. If you've ever ordered delivery from America's Pie, Grotto, Pete's Steak Shop or Papa John's, for example, you've been on the receiving end of that technology. One of the more impressive systems I've seen so far is being implemented by Adam Newman and Kyle McLaughlin, the new owners of the Rehoboth Ale House. In addition to upgrading the POS system in general, Adam and Kyle are now capable of receiving orders from smartphones. With one of the East Coast's most popular beaches just steps away from their front door on Wilmington Avenue, this has proven to be a good thing. Sunbathers can access the restaurant's menu from their smartphones, order with a simple tap of the finger, then enter their payment information. The orders appear on the same computer screens that display orders from the servers, so nothing is missed and carryout containers can be double checked.
But what impresses me most is the software that keeps Rehoboth Ale House craft beer fans informed about what's available - and what's not - at any given moment. And you can see it in real time from your phone or computer. Many craft breweries are, by definition, small and cannot provide unlimited kegs to their distributors. So, in some cases, when your favorite boutique brew is gone, it's gone. Digital Pour software tracks the sale of each brand of beer and extrapolates that information to the quantity of liquid contained in each keg.
It then converts that information into a graphic interface that shows little multicolored kegs in various stages of emptiness. Restaurants that use all the features of the software can promote new additions to the beer menu, and even allow users to post their favorites.
Adam and Kyle love their customers' reactions to the system, and told me a funny story of a couple who logged on to the system from home, saw that their favorite brew was available, and drove to the Rehoboth Ale House only to find that, in the interim, the keg had been emptied by enthusiastic beer aficionados. I asked the guys to tell me how the customer reacted, and they said, "Oh, they just ordered another brand." Beer drinkers. Y'gotta love 'em.
So whether it's keeping track of the liquid/fume ratio of your favorite craft keg, knowing where to dispatch your pizza, taking orders, heating pots and pans with magnets or even tracking gift cards and frequent diner cards, smart restaurateurs know that technology can be an asset to their bottom line.
Check out the new Grandpa(MAC) on the highway (Hari will show you his space-age cooker if you're nice). And if you love beer, visit Rehoboth Ale House's cute little kegs at www.RehobothAleHouse.com/draft-list. Here's to ya'.