Independent operators aren’t as convinced as their chain counterparts that technology gives them a competitive advantage. While just over three-fourths think tech can help boost sales and productivity, according to a recent survey from the National Restaurant Association, more than half of independents say that technology actually makes the restaurant experience more complicated for customers.
That’s part of the reason indies aren’t implementing as much tech in their operations as chains, with about two in five independents saying their tech efforts are lagging, the survey says. But costs remains the biggest barrier—both chains and independents name initial implementation cost as the biggest reason they don’t have more consumer-facing tech in place. From there, though, the challenges differ. And for independents, it's the ongoing usage fees that hurt.
Support and maintenance remain a constant challenge for indies, as only about a quarter of independent operators employ tech staff, compared to more than half of chains.
Yet despite these barriers, nearly three in 10 independent restaurants are devoting more resources to tech this year. Granted, chains are about twice as likely to put funds toward tech, but independents do plan to invest in both their hardware and software.
At this point, the majority of independents have websites, though not all are mobile friendly, and 69% have POS systems in place (versus 94% of chains), which are used heavily for payment processing and table management. But indies are far behind chains in their use of other front- and back-of-house tech amenities: ordering kiosks, online ordering for takeout and delivery, smartphone apps, mobile pay and digital staffing and recruitment.
Still, independents see room for growth in tech, finds the NRA. While new ordering technology is an important area that they’d like to see more development in over the next five years, payment options remain a top need for these operators, who are hoping for some options and improvements in the next few years.