The Paper World Ends in 2012

I predict that 2012 will be the year for paper to finally become obsolete in all foodservice business transactions and information storage. Restaurant owners, finance officers and HR teams can deliberate how long it will take, but it is obvious that the days of using paper on the business side of foodservice are numbered. What’s causing the end of the paper world? Technological advancement.


Tech-savvy consumers, employees and managers alike are increasingly fed up with paper documentation. The inconvenience simply outweighs the convenience. The coming year brings us into a new frontier in the digital age. One of the biggest trends foodservice will see is a focus on Web-based interactivity. Hard copies in foodservice have already become antiquated. Handing customers paper receipts, replacing manhandled menus, deciphering marked up schedules and processing stacks of employee paperwork are quickly coming to an end. Putting paper to rest has been inevitable and is long overdue.


Whether it is fine dining, grocery stores or fast casual, paper is no longer the standard when it comes to information storage and transactions. The advantages of digitizating are numerous. Lowering costs, saving time, improving security, going green are among the many benefits for eliminating paper.


For example, with paper filing, 7.5 percent of all documents get lost and 3 percent of the remainder get misfiled. (Source: Coopers & Lybrand) The expended time and costs of paper mismanagement add up quickly. According to Octacom the average office spends $20 in labor for retrieving a single document, and up to $250 to recreate a lost document. With far more efficient options provided by cloud-based technology, why not convert?


The cloud allows restaurants to integrate point-of-sales software with talent management systems while saving pertinent information in an indestructible location — the Web. Restaurants can run payroll, log hours, file I-9 forms and have them all saved online for complete compliance. No flood, fire or food related accident can harm a computer file in the cloud. Additionally, if you use rights-based security all business documents are only available to specific users with credentialed access. And when these users do log in, they can access these business documents from anywhere.


Continual innovation in mobile technology has led to the expectation of instantaneous communication. With Internet access in people’s back pockets, they can recieve Instant information updates via the cloud anytime, anywhere. It’s not longer the latest thing, but the status quo. To maintain relevancy, in the next year foodservice will see an increase in tablets on restaurant tables, Web-based talent management, email-only receipts.


Already technology leaders like Apple only provide customers a paper receipt upon request. And a growing number of restaurants are using devices like the Square Card Reader, which allows businesses to run credit cards on an iPhone and email receipts. With multiple tech companies working on the evolution of flexible e-paper, in the near future restaurants will be able to have ‘paper-like’ menus that can be updated instantly. The benefits of an e-paper menu? You could add a fall menu without reprinting everything. Or when you run out of a special, you can easily take it off the menu with the click of a button. And if there’s a shortage on tomatoes, you simply insert an apology note on the front.


The death of paper won’t be an accident. Paper has simply lived out it’s usefulness. It can’t survive against the elegance, simplicity and cost-efficiency of the technological alternatives. Rest in peace paper, you had a good run.

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  • Great article and couldn't agree more as ChowNow is leading the paper-less revolution by eliminating the need to receive online orders by fax or having to write phone orders down as everything is processed through a Samsung tablet.  In regard to Jammie's comment, our tablet could be passed around by waiters and BOH as a reference for orders.  And even though I haven't seen too much of it yet, I would bet that a lot of hosts are already keeping track of reservations via tablets or computer systems.  As with anything, people tend to fear change, but technological advancements are a daily occurrence and people will need to adapt.  Plus with all the cool gadgets coming out I think restaurant staff will be excited to try new and fun devices that will make their jobs easier and more efficient.

  • I agree wholeheartedly about the benefits of the service industry going paperless.  The obstacle is the host, who's been using a pen-and-paper list for years and balks at the idea of an iPad, waitstaff that has grown used to writing orders, and a BOH that runs fairly efficiently on a paper-system.  Its these individual PEOPLE that you have to try to convince that this is better, that they need to learn and adapt to this new technology, and that it will be well-worth the week or two it'll take of painful, mistake-ridden adjustment.

    The switch to paper-less is definitely inevitable, but I think it will be slowed by the people factor.

    I work for NoWait, that does an iPad wait list, and our biggest obstacle is hosts who are upset simply by the change in routine.

  • Yes!!!

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