American Express and Square Offer Restaurateurs a Recipe for Success

Technology and automation are key to helping restaurants thrive in a post-pandemic world

By: Ryan Slattery

There is a special kind of solidarity felt between restaurant owners, born out of the unique challenges this group faced during the pandemic. While the days of forced closures and occupancy limits are a thing of the past, the road to recovery for restaurateurs post-pandemic is appearing to be longer and more complex than originally thought, as they grapple with new challenges like inflation, food supply and labor shortages.

At the Culinary Creators Project hosted in Toronto, Canada, on March 25, local celebrity chefs, restaurant owners and industry decision-makers gathered to discuss what’s top of mind as they navigate their recovery and where they feel the biggest opportunities for growth are. Hosted by American Express Canada and Square, the event focused on the prevailing themes of embracing automation and streamlining operations as key to increasing restaurateurs’ bottom lines.

The event also highlighted the partnership between Amex and Square as the perfect pairing for restaurant owners seeking a seamless payment experience for customers. With Amex payment cards widely accepted across all Square tools at no additional cost to merchants, restaurateurs making use of both are at a clear advantage when it comes to saving on costs and ensuring a safe and secure payment experience at their place of business.

Kicking off the panel portion of the event, Kerri-Ann Santaguida, Vice President and General Manager of Merchant Services Canada for American Express Canada, spoke about what inspired the two companies to join forces. “With both companies being leaders in the payments industry, we’ve had a front row seat to the hurdles the restaurant industry has faced over the last few years,” she stated. “We knew it was important for our companies to come together to provide restaurant owners with a seamless payment technology experience to support their operations.”

The partnership gives chefs and restaurant owners access to helpful tools and personalized support to grow their businesses, in addition to cost savings from having all Amex credit card transactions processed at one set pricing structure. “The idea was to offer a solution that would make running a restaurant smoother, to enable chefs and business owners to actualize their restaurant aspirations regardless of where they are on their journeys,” said Santaguida.

Celebrity chef panelists echoed the need for tools that can provide busy restaurant owners with peace of mind. Nicki Laborie, founder of Reyna Hospitality Group which operates restaurants in Toronto and New York City, said by refocusing on marketing, promotions, and events, along with the use of tech tools like Square, she started to turn profits post-pandemic.

Addressing inflation, rising food and labor costs, Patrick Kriss, chef and founder of Alo Food Group, said operating in a post-pandemic world has been an adjustment but it’s something you just have to roll with and find solutions to as you push for profitability. He said streamlining technology can go a long way.

“Everyone has been affected by the same challenges. There is nothing you can do about it,” Kriss said during the panel discussion. “You still have to give the customer a great experience. We look internally and try to make changes, to make us more efficient to cut our costs. Looking at our staffing structure. Looking at our suppliers, maybe lean on them to get better pricing. We haven’t changed too much on the front-facing. It’s on the back end that we really look at ourselves in the mirror.”

Derek Wasser, chief operating officer of The Food Dudes, echoed how tech has helped. “The innovation since Covid has been a massive benefit. When one to two percent could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s a really big benefit for us.”

The panel members also praised the use of automation and how a robust point of sale system can provide them with insights on customer spending and  preferences that ultimately enable them to make better, more informed business decisions.

“Automation to me goes hand in hand with tech and the modernization of the tools that we use,” explained Craig Harding, founder and culinary director of Bar Prima. “One really good example is the way that different systems are talking to each other in the restaurant now, which has just been amazing.”

From revisiting their marketing strategies to revamping menus, it’s clear that today’s restaurateurs have little time to spare on making sure the fundamentals of their business are running without incident. Santaguida understands this need for operational ease and the role that payment companies play in supporting business owners, stating that “Amex acceptance on Square is a tool that gives restaurant owners what they ultimately need, which is the time back to spend on other things.”