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Augmented & Virtual Reality: Practical and Useful for Restaurants

In part two of this two-part series, HT interviews restaurateurs to learn why and how they're using augmented and virtual reality to foster loyalty and interact more fully with guests as well as employees. In part one of this series, HT interviews hoteliers.
One quick-service restaurant that has found augmented reality to be useful is Culver Franchising System, Inc.
"Guests are increasingly interacting with their mobile devices, so we wanted to leverage this technology to enhance the experience they have when they're eating or waiting for their food," says Emily Patterson, director of marketing, Culvers.
Therefore, Culvers extended the use of its existing mobile app to create an interactive AR gaming experience during the company's 2015 and 2016 holiday promotions. To play, customers had to access "Slopestyle Buttercup" and "Arctic Puzzle Adventure" through the Culver's app. The experience was then triggered using a Culver's promotional cup. When guests successfully completed the AR games, they received an extra entry into the company's holiday sweepstakes.
With their AR game, Culver's was not only able to entertain guests they were able to drive significant mobile app downloads.
"During our 2015 promotion, we had a 435% increase in Culver's App downloads during the four-week promotion compared to the previous four weeks," Patterson noted. "And our 2016 promotion surpassed the amount of Culver's App downloads that we had during our 2015 promotion with 42,000 app downloads."
Zaxby’s Franchising, Inc.  also wanted to engage with its customers, but took a different route.  The company launched its Tailgate Tour called “Zaxby’s Fanz of Flavor.” The company traveled to 12 college matchups, offering students the opportunity to use Vive, a VR system from HTC. During the VR experience, fans painted a three-dimensional Big Z, Zaxby’s mascot and virtually toured a Zaxby’s location. The tailgate activities took place in a large custom-built structure designed and built by My Friend’s Nephew, an Atlanta-based creative advertising and design studio.
"We’re finishing up a recap of the tour, but the statistics we already have on hand show great engagement from those that participated in VR," said Will Riley, Zaxby’s Franchising, vice president of brand management. "We saw open rates of more than 50% in our email follow ups. From there almost 50% downloaded/viewed their VR experience to relive the fun. Additionally, when videos were shared online, we saw impressive video view rates among our participant’s social following."
After such a positive experience, Zaxby's has decided to continue working with My Friend's Nephew to create easy pop-up experiences for future use in local restaurant events, prospective franchising events, and more, Riley noted.
For Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt, to #BeOrange means to celebrate originality, creativity and inventiveness. Orange Leaf customers like to try new flavors as well as new technology and experiences. Therefore, introducing an AR mobile app was a logical step for the company. Customers download the Colorbug app, collect a free stencil from a participating Orange Leaf location or download one from the company website, color the stencil as imaginatively as possible, open the app, point the mobile device at the colored stencil and watch it come to life.
Results have been extremely positive, says Geoff Goodman, president, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt. For instance, the company has seen more than 100 clicks to the page and 300 fans have engaged with the company on its social media channels specifically in reference to the AR coloring page.
In September, the company released a second stencil that coincided with its campaign to benefit No Kid Hungry. With help from the AR app, Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt was able to raise more than $17,000 dollars for the charity.
As an added bonus, the AR app is having a positive effect on store management. By participating in AR activities, store leaders get to be playful and stay engaged with the brand, key brand elements and their Millennial and Gen Z workforce, Goodman notes.

Want to learn more about augemented and virtual reality? 

At #HTNEXT, Abigail Tan, Head of U.K., Europe and North America, St Giles Hotels Group, will present on the topic: "Engaging Guests by Enabing a Digital Journey." She will discuss how St Giles leverages virtual reality to engage guests and to see from their perspectives, what it actually means for them to “Be Central” in London, New York, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Penang and Sydney. She will also share how the company engages guests in the campaign from the creation and sharing of immersive content, to procuring guests’ videos, and what role virtual reality will play in the company’s overall customer engagement strategy. Tan will explain the process from conception to next phases as well as how St Giles 360 crosses a microsite, app and social media channels.

Additionally, during a general session, Chris Ruff, president of Driven Growth will deliver a presentation on the topic: How Virtual and Augmented Reality Will Change Loyalty & Engagement for Hospitality. Already, creative uses of augmented and virtual reality are popping up at resorts  and hotels of all sizes and types. This session will dig into how hotel brands can truly utilize VR and AR in better ways. Attendees will learn how VR can be used to increase brand loyalty as passionately as what was seen during the rise of the PokÉmon Go in summer 2016; how to use the “pull” tech of AR/VR, where users request the experience, with beacon technology where messages and information are “pushed” to guests; and why it’s so important for hoteliers to implement these technologies and differentiate themselves from the competition as they become mainstream. Through best practices and use cases from other vertical industries, attendees will take away from this session what can be done to harness this opportunity now as well as what is coming down the pike.

To learn more about this session or to register for the event, please visit:

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