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Thai restaurants' labor woes may be a swipe of the tablet away

AIS, Kasikornbank unveil an IT system that puts a premium on efficiency

The restaurant management solution allows for numerous tasks to be done on a tablet.

BANGKOK -- Thailand's shrinking working population is expected to hit its restaurant industry especially hard. But Advanced Info Service, the country's largest cellphone service provider, and Kasikornbank may have a solution.

They think information technology could help restaurateurs be more efficient.

The partners are offering what AIS says is the country's first service that allows eatery owners to manage everything from customer orders and payments to their own orders of ingredients in an integrated, tablet-accessible system.

Food Solution combines two systems, one developed by FoodStory, a restaurant management services startup, and FlowAccount, an online accounting services startup.

It also uses Kasikornbank's mobile banking service to handle customer payments and AIS's communications network.

With Food Solution, a restaurant employee can use a tablet to take orders. The system also lets others in the restaurant to re-order stock and do the bookkeeping on tablets.

In a press release, Patchara Samalapa, Kasikornbank's senior executive vice president, said most of Thailand's small and medium-size restaurants "rely upon their employees for data recording."

Officials of Advanced Info Service and Kasikornbank announce the launch of Food Solution during a press conference in Bangkok in late May.

By "data recording," Patchara meant taking orders, keeping track of what foods are in stock, doing the accounting and recording cash payments. The more tasks there are, the more there is a chance of human error that, Patchara said, "could cause needless loss of time and expenditure."

Thais eat out more frequently than people in neighboring countries, and small to medium-size operators represent 69% of the restaurant industry's sales, Patchara said.

Food Solution is offered in three tiers, according to the size of the restaurant. The service charges monthly fees of 1,779 baht ($52.30), 2,870 baht or 3,670 baht. It is available in Bangkok and will be rolled out nationwide by the end of the year.

Facing a falling birthrate and an aging society, Thailand's working population is expected to start to decrease in 2018. Labor costs are already on the rise.

Pratthana Leelapanang, AIS's acting chief marketing officer, said there are potentially 40,000 latent customers for Food Solution.

An owner of six restaurants in Bangkok who attended Food Solution's launch event, said he likes the system's apparent ease of use.

"Passion alone is not enough" in the restaurant business, the owner said. "You need a system to expand your business."

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