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What's New for the Restaurant Industry: WiFi6

The move to faster networks is happening at a time that the restaurant industry is already grappling with the challenges caused by a pandemic that closed many in-house restaurants and forced a rethinking of ways to continue operations.

While challenging, the forthcoming transition to a WiFi 6 network presents opportunities to better meet business operation goals as well as the demands of the new customer.

Already, the industry has embraced technology currently to support many of its needs; examples of such technology solutions include:

●     IoT sensors mounted on every piece of equipment in a restaurant, giving managers insight into peak periods, equipment usage (inventory), and energy consumption

●     On-demand delivery technology and integrated point of sale (POS) systems that help restaurant enterprises enhance the customer experience by identifying customer preferences, tracking information for loyalty programs, and driving return visits and sales

●     Mobility solutions connecting the kitchen, bar, and ordering staff in real time

●     Tabletop payment and entertainment solutions

●     Smart building enhancements that track everything from front of the house order management to back of the house kitchen staff, ensuring that a team is fully staffed and everything runs smoothly

●      People traffic counters, time clock systems, security CCTV and video systems, VOIP/telephony and hardware/cabling of new restaurants and retrofits.

In reality, restaurant customers now expect connectivity solutions that support their comfort, requiring businesses to operate the tools related to multimedia domains and connected objects.

While vital to sustained business operations, a transition to a Wi-Fi 6 network requires significant planning, both in terms of budgets and time: it will require an assessment of how technology will be affected during a transition and what upgrades will be needed to take advantage of the upgraded speed and capacity a new network will offer.

The future of the restaurant industry includes community kitchens, virtual brands, and kitchen maximization. There is less investment in the space itself, with a greater focus on the kitchen and delivery systems.

For example, mobile ordering – whether customers use a QR code to order from their phones or wait in an outside queue, there is a need for expanded wireless networks with outdoor access points. This and other innovations promise to result in the “new normal” of the industry.

All of this accommodation and innovation will rely on technology innovation, some of which may call for modification of what exists while others will require deployment of new technology.

What can a busy restaurant do to begin?

Onboarding a new network is not a simple “device-swap,” it is a major project that requires design and deployment and can have potentially severe implications if not properly executed. A significant concern is deployment that does not interrupt business operations so that revenue is lost and employee time is wasted. Once complete, such a technology modification will require maintenance so that systems are always functioning optimally.

A comprehensive project plan will entail multiple steps, with the highest priorities on deciding:

●     Who should be on the decision-making team? Should the project be handled in-house, through a third-party partner, or with a combination of both?

●     What will the project’s budget be?

●     When must the project begin to ensure no disruption in business systems?

●     Once a budget and timeline have been established, who will remove old devices and install new ones – in-house or a third party provider? And how will this transition be implemented so that it does not interrupt business?

The pandemic has presented challenges to the restaurant industry, certainly. Some restaurants have been able to modify operations to remain in business while others have been forced to close.

But as significant as these challenges have been and continue to be, there has also been an opportunity to rethink operations to embrace the “new normal” of the industry, accommodating the increase in mobile and delivery models with the customers’ demands for service that meets their own network needs.

Those who are able to design systems that embrace the new model for a restaurant, deploy these systems, and then maintain them successfully will be those who succeed in creating the restaurant of the future.

About the Author

Jamie Volk is the Vice President of Sales for Riverside, MO-based Velociti Inc, a global provider of enterprise technology solutions for more than 25 years. Velociti offers the restaurant and hospitality industries design, deployment, and maintenance solutions that optimize technology investments, improving business performance and customer experience.

Originally appeared in Hospitality Tech. Written by Jamie Volk, Vice President of Sales, Velociti Inc., March 25, 2022.