The shiny new thing may not be right for everyone's operations. Here are some tips offered at the FSTEC conference for making a smart decision.
1. Be smart about checking references
Before signing with a vendor, ask the prospective partner for the names and contact info for at least one operation that has been a customer for at least two years, and at least one more that signed up in the last two months. The idea, explained Justin Keenen, director of IT for Veggie Grill, is to verify the seller’s commitment once the deal is done.
2. Promote your tech experts from within
Dat Dog, a four-unit hot dog chain, is betting that knowledge of its operations is more important than familiarity with the state of tech when making an investment or operational change. Someone who climbed the ranks knows what’s needed and what’s a real solution. Plus, said COO Bill DiPaola, chances are high that a person promoted from within will be less expensive than a tech expert recruited from the outside world.
3. Act bigger than you are
“Our footprint is much bigger than our shoe size,” said Veggie Grill’s Keenen. “We operate 28 stores. We act like we have 200 stores.” Assuming the leverage needed to pressure a vendor can wrest the same sort of concessions a big brand commands, he suggested.
Added Dat Dog’s DiPaola, “If I’m willing to spend tech dollars, you’d better be willing to work with me.”
4. Shop for the right people as much as the right tech
“The relationships you build with your vendor will be as absolutely essential to getting what you need as the technology is,” said Dat Dog’s DiPaola.
5. Don’t overlook the little guys
Lean, hungry upstarts could have a better mousetrap to offer, agreed DiPaola and Keenen. Plus, the Dat Dog exec noted, a company still in entrepreneurial mode is more likely to be agile and flexible.
“If they have a different idea, a different way of doing things, yeah, I’m going to listen to them,” said DiPaola.