Who Ya Gonna Call? 10 Sources for Finding Tech Vendors
August 15, 2022 | 973 Views
One of the big challenges when it’s time for your team to make an investment in technology – whether it’s a new kiosk for ordering or checking in, a software system to streamline recruiting, or even the best tablets for training new employees – is to figure out who you should be considering as a vendor. Unless you have a dedicated technology team that has the time to keep track of all the industry players and can provide you with a list of the companies to contact, you might not know who should be included on that list (and who should NOT be on it).
When I have been presented with this task and want to efficiently develop my own shortlist of possibilities for tech suppliers, here are the 10 sources I use:
1. Colleagues – Always my #1 source. I reach out to the trusted friends working in the hospitality industry and ask them about their tech partners and the details (both the good and bad) on their experiences. They are consistently the frankest sources of information and have many, many times prevented me from making what would have been a terrible choice.
2. Team members – Most of our front-line employees have worked for different companies during their hospitality careers and have been exposed to a variety of equipment and systems at their jobs. As such, they can provide me with valuable insight about tech rollouts at their previous places of employment and tell me what they really thought about the systems as an end-user.
3. Vendors – Ask the folks you already partner with (and like) who they work with and who integrates with their products. This step can end up saving you a lot of time and money if you find a compatible vendor with your current suppliers by preventing you from contracting with an IT specialist to write code so your new system can talk to your old systems.
4. Hospitality associations – Check with your local, state, or national hospitality association to see which vendors they recommend for whatever tech needs you may have. One of the potential advantages of going this route is that often, in addition to providing a recommendation, the association will also offer a discount to member companies who sign up with the provider.
5. Industry trade shows – In addition to a variety of local options, the three best national trade shows in my opinion are the 1) the National Restaurant Association Show, which occurs in Chicago each May, 2) FSTEC, which is coming up in September in Texas, and 3) MURTEC, which will take place next winter. These events provide fantastic opportunities to see and experience different technologies first-hand.
6. Industry organizations – There are many wonderful organizations you can join that will provide you with an opportunity to network with others and learn about potential technology vendors. Among the top contenders are the International Food and Beverage Technology Association (IFBTA), which has chapters across the country, and of course, the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART). Not only does the latter have regional training forums, webinars, and offer a vendor gallery at both of its national conferences each year, but as a member for the past two decades, I can tell you that all my trusted industry colleagues (which are my #1 source of tech recommendations) are people I have met through CHART.
7. Industry periodicals – There are some great ones to choose from that regularly feature articles on new technology in our industry: QSR, FSR, Restaurant Business, and Nation’s Restaurant News are a few of my favorites. If you don’t have the time to read all of them, I would suggest subscribing to their news feeds on Twitter so you can get updates and read the articles that have the most interest to you.
8. Podcasts – For those who like to take in information this way, check out the Restaurant Technology Guys or The Tech Chef to learn about the new tech that is changing our industry.
9. Tech review sites – There are quite a few websites that feature extensive sets of reviews by users of various business software programs. The two most prominent of these sites to help you find vendors that may work for you are G2 and Capterra.
10. Google search – Finally, if none of the options above work for you, then don’t sleep on an old-fashioned Google search. Just make sure you enter in the best possible keywords to help narrow down your search for the most compatible contenders.
My final recommendation is that it shouldn’t just be you, or the training department, compiling the list of proposed vendors because the ultimate decision will most likely affect so many different parts of your company. As you embark on your quest to add new technology to your restaurant or hotel, make sure to involve individuals from IT, Operations, Maintenance (especially if the new system will require installation), and any other departments that will be a part of the process.