Although the restaurant industry as a whole was a bit of a technology transformation laggard, we’re seeing cloud computing now graduating to a level of widespread adoption. And with restaurant brands like Domino’s and McDonald's positioning themselves as technology companies that serve food, it’s clear that we’ve arrived at digital transformation, with technology front-and-center as a business-enabler.
Of course, business needs determine the ultimate value of any technology. Fortunately, strategic adoption of the cloud empowers technology organizations to deliver greater value and innovation to the business — faster, and more efficiently.
When restaurant organizations adopt cloud computing in ways and stages that make sense, the benefits are massive.
Just exactly what are restaurants adopting, and how does it help?
A Look at Cloud
At its most basic, cloud computing is the concept of having a scalable information technology infrastructure available on-demand. Depending on what they need and what they subscribe to, organizations get access to computing power, database storage solutions, applications, and more, with very little hassle, and at a predictable cost.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
SaaS enables an organization to access and run software via the Internet, with a third-party provider hosting the application in a cloud environment. SaaS allows an organization to buy a license to access the software on-demand.
With SaaS, the main application lives in the cloud. Browser-based access or lightweight local client installations allow for access from the user’s computer or mobile device. Salesforce.com was an early leader in SaaS. An example of SaaS for restaurant is cloud point of sale. With SaaS, there is no need to manually update software. All updates are developed and delivered by the software provider and pushed to devices from the cloud, behind the scenes.
Examples of other restaurant SaaS solutions include reservation management software and customer analytics/restaurant marketing software. There are even mobile apps that let restaurant owners and managers keep tabs on their stores, from anywhere: viewing important data like sales numbers and labor costs, and remotely monitoring alerts of things like excessive voids. Want feedback from customers? Get a SaaS solution running on a tablet for quick surveys that drive analytics and guide action.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
As a CIO, you know the pains of building and getting on-premises applications running – and the ongoing cost of maintaining them. You need networking hardware, the operating system, middleware, servers, other software, as well as databases and the development and testing tools and environment. You need a team of information technology professionals to get it all working together, just so you can develop, deploy, and manage software for use in your restaurants or at corporate headquarters. PaaS takes all of that and makes the entire stack on-demand, in the cloud.
PaaS lets your team of professionals focus on innovation instead of infrastructure. It allows your team to develop innovative experiences, with software running in the cloud. Labor and expenses you formerly allocated to keeping servers running and a development and test environment operational can now support the creation and running of value-add applications.
The combination of PaaS and SaaS replaces the need for computers powerful enough to run the latest technology. For restaurants trying to keep everyone consistent across the organization with security patches (among other reasons to protect customer and corporate data), the latest software updates, and in-sync data sets, PaaS is quite valuable.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
Does your restaurant organization own servers? Are you doing backups routinely to ensure systems recover in the wake of a disaster? Are you working to ensure encryption of data, updates to hardware, etc.? IaaS replaces the need for all that spending. IaaS is all about taking your server room and eliminating it completely, moving your infrastructure to the cloud where you pay for what you use, expand or shrink as necessary, and always ensure adequate uptime, performance, and security.
IaaS is extremely valuable to a large restaurant organization. As a CIO, you can take systems and infrastructure supporting corporate functions out of a local data center and into the cloud. Examples include analytics and reporting, CRM, and e-mail. The data center you use to develop and test technology enhancements for restaurants also gets relocated to the cloud. Say goodbye to the need to constantly care for servers, network equipment, and related hardware.
With cloud computing, you have a scalable solution where you pay for what you use as a service rather than paying the capital expenditures of buying all equipment and software outright, plus the operational expense to maintain, power, and cool it.
Ultimately, strategic adoption of the cloud empowers technology organizations to deliver greater value and innovation to your restaurant business — faster, and more efficiently.
Are You Changing the Game for Your Tech Team?
Hopefully, you've gained a greater understanding of the types of cloud computing and how each can help a restaurant business' tech team achieve business goals, as well as which cloud option might be the right fit for your organization.
Article contributed by guest blogger Michael Kowalski.