A cook and a manager talk while eating

Digitalization in the gastronomy – 10 Do’s & Don’ts

Digitalization is what everyone is talking about at the moment. But how should you even approach this project in your canteen? With this guide, we would like to help you ask yourself the right questions and successfully lead your canteen into the digital age.

When thinking about digitalization in the catering industry, the topics of contact data collection, online booking and delivery systems are currently particularly present. But digitalization can do much more! (Read here what a lasting impact Corona will leave on the catering industry).
There is also enormous potential in the everyday life of many caterers to make processes more efficient with the help of digital solutions and thus free up additional capacities. In this article, you can read about the possibilities you have in terms of digitalization, what you need to pay special attention to and what mistakes you should avoid.

But first things first:

Why digitalize at all?

The much better question is: Why not? Many people are initially somewhat hesitant about digitalization, true to the motto “never change a running system”. We don’t want to contradict that. However, the past has shown:

Progress cannot be stopped. And that is a good thing!

Consider, for example, the introduction of the first electronic cash registers. This innovation, groundbreaking at the time, is now part of our everyday lives. No one would discuss any more whether it is worth using an electronic system instead of paper and pen in a canteen. The aim of these measures is therefore not to simply throw your existing systems out the window. Rather, it is about supplementing them wisely and optimizing them step by step with the help of the current possibilities.

Furthermore, the demands on modern canteens are constantly increasing. Specially to fulfill time-consuming and cost-intensive trends such as fresh produce and regionality, it is important to relieve your kitchen staff. This is where digital processes come into play. The time won can be used directly for attending to the guests and preparing meals. This increases customer satisfaction and, not least, turnover. But your employees also benefit from digitalization! By freeing up their time, they can take care of the tasks that are urgent, without getting unnecessarily stressed. Especially at peak times, two extra helping hands may be welcome, but are tied up at the checkout. Modern self-checkout systems can help in this case.

In addition, a survey conducted by the Metro Group found that more than half of all decision-makers already see the potential of digitalization for their gastronomy. This includes, for example, an increase in awareness, but also an improved image, higher guest frequency and more efficient work processes.

Der visioncheckout in the canteen of the PTV AG

What does the digitalization of my canteen cost?

This question cannot be answered in general terms and depends on a wide variety of factors. Basically, it is important to understand that the costs incurred for digitalization are long-term profitable investments. Now you still have the opportunity to jump on the rolling train before it hits full speed.

For example, you can lay the foundation today by collecting data on quality control or food consumption. This will make it much easier for you to benefit from its analysis later on and to remain competitive. You should bear in mind that reconstruction does not mean digitalization. However, if a renovation is imminent, it is a good opportunity to technologically modernize both the kitchen and the dining room. Think about little things like power outlets, sockets, or a well-developed Wi-Fi network.

But back to the costs:

With good digitalization solutions, you will quickly save more money than you spend at the beginning. Many solutions aim to free up capacities in order to increase turnover in the long term. Nevertheless, the initial investment is a relevant factor for many decision-makers. Here are some figures:

For investments starting at around 10,000 euros, you can already scan the food consumption of your canteen. This data is then analyzed with the help of artificial intelligence and thus food waste is avoided. You can save even more with an AI-based self-checkout system. Here, just a few thousand euros are enough to digitalize your canteen and increase your staff efficiency. Another approach is to digitalize your personnel planning. Here, there are offers starting at 750€, even with free test phases. For more ideas on digital innovations, see our list below.

Finally, another point worth paying attention to: the monthly costs and the services that are covered. Service packages can be the better alternative in the long run to benefit from software updates and uncomplicated maintenance.

What are the possibilities for digitalization?

The possibilities for benefiting from the digitalization of your canteen are as diverse as the catering industry itself. In our small but fine selection, you will find innovative solutions to take off towards the future.

Human Resource Management

Creating functioning staff schedules is sometimes a science in itself. The nestotool ensures that you always have exactly the employees you really need on site. All without hours poring over Excel lists.

Inventory Management

The central inventory management platform from food notify combines warehouse management, product ordering, recipe management and menus. The generated data is processed directly for you and is immediately available.

Customer retention

To build a good relationship with your customers, feedback is the most important key to success. With SayWayterminals, it is easier than ever to collect and evaluate this feedback.

Payment & Checkout

Every year, people in Europe wait over 165 million hours to pay for their lunch. With the help of AI-based meal recognition, visioncheckouteliminates queues for happier customers and less stressed staff. Additionally, the tool provides a quality control platform to further increase your guests’ satisfaction.

Food waste reduction

A large part of your planning goes into estimating quantities and yet every now and then a few portions are left over? With tools such as Too good to goor Delicious Data, you declare war upon food waste, expand your customer base and additionally increase your turnover. Win-win-win!

Which digitalization measures are the right ones for my canteen?

It would certainly be nice to have a universal recipe for what measures every company should implement. But as you have already noticed in our list of possibilities: “One size fits all” unfortunately does not exist here. We have collected a few points for you to find out which measures are right for you.
The canteen is the heart of a company and should therefore also reflect its values.

You are the technology leader in your industry and advertise with innovative solutions? Let’s bring them into your canteen! Employees will be inspired to think outside of their offices, and you can impress external guests as well.

Do you have an immediate problem that you would like to solve digitally?

Especially the increasing tendency towards snackification, regionality and freshness presents many caterers with problems such as staff shortages or too few flexible opening hours. Digital solutions can help.

How do your budget and the desired measures fit together?

Many innovations, such as a modern self-checkout terminal or a digital staff management system, are probably cheaper than you would first assume. But you may also find one or two creative ways to boost your budget. For example, many innovations currently have a lot of media attention, from which your company can also benefit. Your marketing department would certainly not want to miss out on such a placement.

Now you have a complete picture of the most important aspects of the digitalization of your canteen. Here you will find the most important do’s and don’ts summarized in an overview.


  • Seize the moment

    Are you planning a renovation? Seize the opportunity and set up innovative solutions in your canteen at the same time. Will your canteen be less busy than usual during the summer months or between the years? Many of the processes can be implemented in just a few weeks.

  • Rethink processes

    Don't be hung up on old structures and try to force new technologies on top of them. Be ready for change and stay flexible to get the most out of innovations.

  • Create added value

    The purpose of digitalization measures should always be to make processes more efficient. Don't lose sight of this focus when planning. Make sure to create an additional benefit for you or your customers.

  • Watch out for hidden costs

    Do the operators of your desired solution advertise conspicuously low set-up costs? Before you rush into purchasing, be sure to ask about the costs of maintenance, services, and software updates.

  • Research funding

    Until 30 September 2021, for example, this can be the “Überbrückungshilfe III”. But even after that, it is worth applying for funding. Here you can find country-specific programs that support digitalization, especially for SMEs.


  • Getting lost in the competition

    Technological development is advancing at a rapid pace. Try to stay up-to-date and keep track of new developments. Now you can lay the foundation to benefit from further innovations in the future and thus remain competitive. Take the example of an image-based self-checkout to reduce food waste: gather and analyze the data now to adjust your spending and calculations in the future.

  • Equating digitalization with renovation

    Even without major intervention in your existing structures and systems, many digitalization measures can be implemented. While a renovation offers a good opportunity to consider innovations for your own canteen, it is by no means necessary.

  • Not involving your employees

    Even the best software only runs error-free if it is operated correctly and reliably. Take the time to address the fears and insecurities of your employees. Make it clear that these measures are to support them and not to add to their stress.

  • Being a lone fighter

    Look for solutions that are compatible with as many other systems as possible and use open, standardized interfaces. Only if your systems work well together you will be happy with the programs in the long run.

  • Being blinded by advertising promises

    Take the time to take a close look at the systems. Which management software do you get along best with? Which device is easiest to use and with which do you really reduce your effort in the long term and not just superficially?

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