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09/23/2022

Key Takeaways From The Point

HT’s new monthly webinar series brings best-in-breed thought leadership to the hospitality industry’s most pressing challenges. Here, we present highlights from our first three episodes, touching on contactless transactions, off-prem solutions, and a tech-optimized workforce.
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The Point Logo

We launched our new webinar series, The Point, with a simple idea: Get to, well, the point. 

We know you have a lot of options when it comes to educational content. We also know that your time is tight. So, right from the drawing board, we resolved to keep it brief. Give us 30 minutes each month, and The Point will give you essential insights from top restaurant and hotel technologists, providing a do-this-not-that roadmap for the near term.

Give us 30 minutes each month, and The Point will give you essential insights from top hospitality technologists. Get to The Point at HospitalityTech.com/events

Over the course of our first three months, I had the privilege of chatting with three exceptional thought leaders. In fact, I was so pleased with those episodes that I’ve pulled highlights and start-today tips for restaurant operators to share here: “Where Contactless Transactions Are Headed,” with Skip Kimpel, Principal of Independent & SMB Consulting, New Business Development, ConStrata Technology Consulting; “Online Ordering & Off-Prem,” with Vadim Parizher, VP of Technology, Taco Bell; and “A Tech-Optimized Workforce,” with Justin E. Skelton, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Dine Brands Global (Applebee’s & IHOP).

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Skip Kimpel
Skip Kimpel, Principal of Independent & SMB Consulting, New Business Development, ConStrata Technology Consulting

Episode 1: Where Contactless Transactions Are Headed 

From voice, mobile, interactive cars, and more, there are more “touchless touch points” than ever. 

We discussed the rapid adoption of contactless transactions in recent years, what’s happening now, and what may be — and/or what should be — happening next. 

Rapid Adoption of Contactless Transactions

The pandemic accelerated adoption of contactless transactions by restaurants, but also adoption by guests. Our guest, Skip Kimpel, Principal of Independent & SMB Consulting, New Business Development, ConStrata Technology Consulting, notes that what normally might’ve taken some time, launched overnight. And it proved to be successful. “At the beginning of the pandemic, there were plenty of contactless solutions out there, but at the point we are now, there are a plethora of devices and platforms, specifically in the contactless payment area: pay-at-the-table devices, QR codes, etc.”

Guests didn’t necessarily know they wanted this level of convenience until it became necessary. And they didn’t mind sharing their data to get the food they wanted.

Skip’s Tips for Restaurant Operators

Artificial intelligence exists in almost everything restaurants are doing. 

Something most restaurants can hone in on immediately is some kind of conversational AI, like they’re doing at Checkers & Rally’s with 98 percent of orders. 

Suggestive AI is baked into most POS, allowing for personalized offers and upselling based on habits and preferences. 

“That’s the world we live in now,” says Kimpel. “Especially for the younger generation, giving up a little privacy for some convenience. The more the restaurant knows about you, the better they can serve you If you’re willing to put a credit card on file. If you’re willing to share some details about yourself — your food preferences, your birthday — they can leverage that to personalize your experience.”

 

Elevating Transactional Dining

“The QSR and drive-thru world is where we’re seeing a lot of innovation to meet contactless expectations that customers now have,” says Kimpel. “At a QSR, people just want to get their food. They want to get in, and get out. You don’t walk in for a dining experience. But with some new concepts, like Taco Bell Defy, they have actually found a way to elevate the dining experience by creating all this really cool technology — that happens to improve efficiency of operations too. And if the kiosk knows who you are as you approach, personalization can be streamlined as well, even offering a menu that is specific to you.”

“Something most restaurants can hone in on immediately is some kind of conversational AI.”

Episode 2: Online Ordering & Off-Prem

Online ordering and off-prem have boomed in recent years — in part out of pandemic-related necessity and in part because they are potential drivers of revenue and data collection. We discussed actions and solutions to optimize off-prem sales: online ordering, drive-thru, delivery and curbside pickup.

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Vadim Parizher, Vice President of Technology, Taco Bell

Online ordering and off-prem have boomed in recent years — in part out of pandemic-related necessity and in part because they are potential drivers of revenue and data collection. We discussed actions and solutions to optimize off-prem sales: online ordering, drive-thru, delivery and curbside pickup.

The Rise of Online Ordering & Off-Prem

“We saw the trend toward online ordering end off-prem before the pandemic, but it certainly has accelerated,” says Vadim Parizher, Vice President of Technology, Taco Bell. “We began to see that the customers are clamoring for the mobile experience, the web experience, and ordering from wherever they are. As percentages of online ordering grew, we needed to increase our capacity to manage this. We haven’t seen any deceleration of this trend. Our challenge has been to integrate this demand for off-prem with the restaurant experience.”

Vadim’s Tips for Restaurant Operators

Emphasis should be on the integrated experience from Mobile/Web ordering to arrival check-in process to food preparation/prioritization and guest checkout.  If the systems are not integrated, the experience will be disjointed. 

Greeting guests with self-check-in kiosks may become the norm, not just for Taco Bell Defy but any concept. 

Analyzing the journey from beginning to end and identifying the bottlenecks along the way is applicable to any restaurant concept.

“Training” customers on mobile app or web ordering is important to success, which requires deliberate efforts from restaurant management.

Taco Bell Defy

Taco Bell’s Defy is the “coolest QSR concept in the world,” says Parizher. “People have been calling it ‘tacos from the sky,’ but really Defy is about prioritizing and enabling the store to first think about building and optimizing a digital restaurant — so technology is not an add-on, or an afterthought. How do we lead with digital and off-prem orders?”

Taco Bell's Drive-Thru of the Future Debuts

“The Defy guest experience is unique,” says Parizher. “The restaurant sits above the drive-through, with the customers coming in underneath. One lane is traditional, the other three are digital-optimized. Customers order ahead on their mobile phones, then use a check-in kiosk upon arrival to scan a QR code for their order. When they proceed to the pick up, the food is delivered via lift — the food is loaded upstairs, and then is sent down to the customer.”

Greeting guests with self-check-in kiosks may become the norm, not just for Taco Bell Defy but any concept.”

Episode 3: A Tech-Optimized Workforce

We discussed the current challenges in hiring, training, and retention, and how hot technologies such as POS flexibility/mobility, kitchen display systems, tablets with payment swiping capabilities, autonation, and more can augment and optimize the workforce.

 

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Justin E. Skelton, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Dine Brands Global (Applebee’s & IHOP)

Restaurant Workforce Challenges

“Workforce is one of the biggest challenges we face within our restaurant space today, the kind of thing that keeps restaurant operators up at night,” says Justin E. Skelton, Senior Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Dine Brands Global (Applebee’s & IHOP). “A lot of this was brought on by the pandemic. A large number of people decided to do something different with their careers, and the challenge persists. It is particularly acute when you think about what we do in the restaurant space, whether it’s back of house with cooks or front of the house servers and hosts.”

Technology Solutions That Are Working

“POS flexibility/mobility is helping restaurants, and that includes not just the point of sale but kitchen display systems and tablets with payment swiping capabilities at Dine Brands,” notes Skelton. “Collectively, that “three-legged stool” is making a significant difference. If you think about orders going back digitally from the server to the kitchen display system, reducing errors, The level of order accuracy makes a positive impact. The server being able to handle more thanks to a tablet allows for faster table turns and better service. This ties back to the idea of retention. If I’m a server and I can do more and enjoy my job more thanks to technology, that will help keep me on staff.”

Justin’s Tips for Restaurant Operators

It’s important to understand what your requirements are. POS and related technologies are a crowded space, with plenty of options for enterprise brands. Some are better suited for smaller organizations, with a lot of the essential capabilities built-in.

Keep an eye on what has the potential to scale — and understand what your goals are. For example, does a small restaurant want to open a second or third location? If so, they must evaluate essential technologies for that potential. 

Integration remains key. Ensure that all your tech solutions can talk to one another and work well together.

“In addition, we are looking at automation and artificial intelligence and piloting some programs to help automate the more tedious tasks and leverage IoT and AI to streamline operations and ensure food safety by monitoring temperatures and conditions.”

“If I’m a server and I can do more and enjoy my job more thanks to technology, that will help keep me on staff.”