These are unprecedented times filled with ever-changing government regulations, safety measures and consumer demands. It should come as no surprise that, in order to stay competitive and profitable as a restaurant owner, the latest technologies must be at the forefront of your decision-making in 2021.

As an independent pizzeria operator, equipping yourself with the right technologies can empower you to successfully compete with even the largest pizza chains. Do this by researching the latest technology trends and implementing technological advancements that allow you to stay ahead of the curve as the industry continues to adapt toward more automated and customer-oriented solutions.

Delivery, Drivers and Drones, Oh, My!
Delivery has always been a staple in the pizza industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, 70 percent of customers are now ordering their food off-premise. Spearheading this trend is the demand from Millennials; 74% of those surveyed expressed their preference for food delivery services.

Delivery itself is also changing. Delivery options have increased, with new food delivery providers, mobile apps and online ordering systems influencing shifts in consumer behavior and future expectations. Pizzerias in 2021 and beyond will require an intuitive and integrated restaurant management system that can help them manage all these new operations.

Related: What does the future of pizza look like?

Looking into the future, there are more changes that can be expected. It may be time to forget about heavy traffic, travel time and run-down roads, as online orders may soon be delivered by drones. According to Finances Online, drone delivery offers the biggest advantage above all others when it comes to speed, cost and safety.

Delivery vehicle sharing and autonomous vehicle delivery services are also in the works, and several tests have already been conducted.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your pizzeria should look to drop everything and invest in the latest drone technology to prepare for 2021. The industry is still a long way off. However, it does mean that delivery innovation and growth is on the rise, so it’s critical for pizza restaurants to invest in cutting-edge delivery management tech so they can prepare for these evolving demands.

this photo shows a driverless vehicle being tested by Domino for pizza delivery

Domino’s partnered with robotics company Nuro to test driverless vehicles in Houston, Texas, in 2019.

The Transformation of Your Restaurant Footprint
As on-premise services are diminishing and delivery and carryout are growing, it’s becoming more cost-effective for pizzerias to reduce or modify their physical footprint for 2021. This means devoting less space to indoor dining in order to accommodate off-premise needs and creating space for additional drive-thru lanes, increasing the size of kitchen and prep stations, and adding drop boxes for delivery driver pizza pickup.

That means restaurant owners will need to adapt their marketing promotions to focus more on curbside, takeout and delivery. QR codes will continue to surge in 2021 and can be used to market promotions, allow customers to view menus, and provide a quick option to join loyalty rewards programs.

They’ll also need to invest in technology to streamline these operations and make them as profitable as possible. Look for tablets, kiosks and no-contact payment methods to streamline efficiency and boost the customer experience across all touchpoints.

But it doesn’t stop there. A study from Finances Online found that more restaurants are predicted to become robotically robust in 2021. Once thought of as a far-off dream, the idea of robots making an appearance in your local restaurant community is more realistic than ever.

Related: As robotics improve, how will they affect the pizza business?

Back in 2018, Creator launched its first restaurant using robot chef, Moley. This robotic culinary master only requires a recipe and procedure to be uploaded into its AI, and it can produce virtually any cuisine. Not only can it prepare food in any kitchen, but it even cleans the kitchen afterwards.

In just a few short years, this type of robot has been tested and tweaked by various companies and may soon be accessible to the average restaurant, allowing more food to be made while decreasing labor costs. Plus, consistent quality will be guaranteed, all of which leads to increased customer visits.

Just like drones, this tech trend reflects the need for pizzerias to optimize their food preparation and operations. And while technology can’t completely replace the element of human connection, it certainly makes room for restaurant owners to invest in tech solutions that also work to minimize labor costs and increase no-contact processes.

Related: Can most restaurant jobs be replaced with robots?

Goodbye, POS, and Hello, Restaurant Management System
So before drones and robots become the norm, what can independent pizzerias do to keep up with today’s new normal and developing behaviors? A trend to keep on the forefront of your radar is how restaurant technology is evolving from the limited capacity of older POS systems to more comprehensive restaurant management systems that go far beyond the point of sale.

Traditional POS systems are no longer cutting it anymore, for a few reasons:

Incomplete data: An outdated POS system doesn’t offer the best or most detailed picture of all the ways that your customers are buying from your restaurant. With all of the on- and off-premise options available, pizzerias must effectively manage and analyze this data from one comprehensive hub.

this photo shows a high-technology POS system being used in a restaurant

Absent rewards programs: Punch cards are no longer enough to nurture customer loyalty in 2021. Restaurants that implement a comprehensive loyalty program, complete with customized rewards and marketing tools that provide a great experience across all channels, are seeing the greatest success in retention.

Inconsistent customer experience: With all of the ordering and fulfillment options today, a seamless customer experience is critical, whether your customers are eating in-house, ordering on your app, or picking up their food curbside.

An integrated restaurant management system can provide this experience. It has essential features to simplify the operational aspects of running a pizza restaurant, like online ordering tracking, delivery implementation and review, and a customer rewards program.

Consolidating technology will remove unnecessary expenses and time. You won’t have to track and view all these elements through different applications. Instead, you can monitor all your operations and maintain complete control from a single dashboard, giving you the insight you need to cut unnecessary costs and support the more revenue-generating areas of your business.

Successful Pizza Restaurants Will Have a Technology-Focused Approach
A restaurant management system allows you to own all of your customer data, manage your loyalty program, track delivery drivers, streamline online ordering, and integrate all your other systems in one place. Strategic restaurants will be looking for a modular multifunctional platform to quickly address changing demands from a single point Solution-as-a-Service (SolaaS) provider.

The year 2021 will see a heavy focus on technology that meets customers’ needs for convenience while streamlining operations, creating an automated, profitable solution for pizzerias looking to prepare their business for the long term.

Jamie Swartz is the director of product marketing for HungerRush. Jamie leads the marketing direction and strategic vision for the HungerRush portfolio set. She is an experienced technology marketing executive with over 16 years of experience in product marketing across a multitude of industries. A technophile and storyteller, Jamie is deeply passionate about the user experience and solving customer pain points in a creative, exciting way.

Pizza News, Technology