Speaking at the recent London Food Tech Week, Woods said many industry leaders saw technology investment as another cost on the P&L, and were only beginning to invest due to the heightened risk of cyber attacks.
Woods said there were huge opportunities to improve efficiency at a time of cost pressures, with many processes unchanged for 25 years.
Woods, who joined Wagamama in April, said her time at Merlin had converted her to the necessity of integrated systems to run restaurants.
“The restaurant sector hasn’t been very focused on tech – partly because it’s a cost," she said. "I’m coming back into the restaurant sector with a massive belief that there’s huge opportunity for tech to make a difference – not just for customers, but for our teams as well.
“If you work in our sector, most restaurants have really old infrastructure. It’s very similar to 25 years ago. There’s a massive opportunity for tech innovation to make the lives of our GMs easier, but no one has invested in it.
“Its quite challenging as most of the CEOs in the sector have not seen the light. They’re only starting to wake up to it as a result of cyber hacking.”
Speaking on the same panel, hosted by CGA vice president Peter Martin, Mark Palmer, board advisor to Pret, cautioned against using technology in ways that did not improve the customer experience.
“Contactless payment has the huge advantage that customers knew what to do with it. You don’t have to be tech savvy," he said "You have to make it easier for people. A lot of tech is tempting, but the focus has to be on making the customer journey more pleasant and easier.”
Robin Rowland, chief executive of YO! Sushi, said a key hurdle was integrating technology into hospitality systems, with professionals from different disciplines not always understanding one another.
Restaurant magazine will be delving deeper into how technology will increasingly shape the hospitality sector at its annual HOSTECH event. HOSTECH 2018 is a day-long conference for the hospitality sector that addresses all the burning issues surrounding technology, from the world of big data and how to collect it, safeguard it and use it to gain a competitive advantage, to how front and back of house technology is helping businesses manage costs, better forecast, drive efficiencies and encourage loyalty in a tough trading climate. Speakers on the day include leading experts from the Casual Dining Group, Azzurri Group and Microsoft. To book your place go to www.hostech.co.uk