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NRA Show 2023 Highlights: Integration, Automation and Menu Optimization

Exhibitors at this year’s show were focused on helping attendees improve back-of-house operations and digital sales channels.
NRA Show 2023 attendees
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In addition to attending the show’s educational sessions, HT’s editorial team also had wonderful conversations with a variety of exhibitors. Here are a few key highlights from those conversations.


Lightspeed Booth and team members at NRA Show 2023
Lightspeed booth and team at NRA Show 2023


During NRA 2023, the unified POS and payments platform was showing off its flagship hospitality product called Lightspeed Restaurant, featuring the module Advanced Insights which is able to provide valuable data and insights to restaurant owners using data from its unified payments offering. For example, the module is equipped with a “magic quadrant” (including ‘hidden gems, one hit wonders, underperformers and greatest hits’) that tells restaurant owners not only what items are popular on their menu but how likely a guest is to return and purchase that item. Why is this important?

“Some items are ‘one hit wonders,’” explains Liam Crooks, MD of EMEA at Lightspeed. “It’s a very popular item that many customers are willing to try once but then they don’t come back to purchase it repeatedly. On the other hand, there might be something on the menu that isn’t ‘popular’ but when guests try it they keep coming back for it. We call those ‘hidden gems.’ When you identify those, you can start to push that item on social media, change the menus to highlight it, tell your servers to recommend it, etc.”

When asked what technologies will really make a difference for restaurant operators in the near future, Crooks focused on the importance of integration: when the sales platform can talk to scheduling and payroll, etc. 

“It’s not sexy but it really makes a difference,” Crooks explains. “One of our customers in East London is called Silo & Crate and they’re now saving 15 seconds per transaction because payments and point of sale talk to each other. That doesn’t seem like a big deal but there are some days where they’re selling 5,000 pizzas – so that can have a huge impact on the business and customer experience. Plus their revenue has increased 10 percent.” 

Pepsico Foodservice Booth at NRA show 2023
PepsiCo Foodservice booth at NRA Show 2023

PepsiCo Foodservice

Restaurants are always looking for ways to drive revenue, and this year PepsiCo was offering NRA attendees the opportunity to learn more about their menu optimization platform which drives significant lifts in beverage attachment, order value and online revenue.

“The consumer has pivoted to a largely digital first and off-premise eating habit,” explained Scott Finlow, CMO, PepsiCo Foodservice. “We’ve seen numbers forecasting that 60 percent of all restaurant growth will be digital.”

To help restaurants out, the company created a group called the PepsiCo Foodservice Digital Labs team that offers database consultancy services at no charge to its customers. One of the services it provides is Menu Pro, and it’s meant to help operators optimize their menu based on what does and doesn’t work with a typical customer’s digital experience.

“We’ve learned there are three things that you need to get right: Visibility, Variety and Value,” Finlow noted.

Visibility: Consumers are looking for beverages and oftentimes they don’t see them, the image they’re presented is outdated or incorrect, or there isn’t even an image at all – it’s just text.

Variety: Consumers are only being presented with limited options, but getting the right portfolio of products is important to meet the full spectrum of consumer demand.

Value: Using combos and bundling to drive purchases.

Operators interested in using this service will first be audited by PepsiCo’s Foodservice Digital Labs team to see how well the brand is using Visibility, Variety and Value within its digital channels. The team will come back with suggestions and the brand is given the choice to implement them.

“The results we’ve seen are very strong,” Finlow said. “We’ve seen 40 percent growth in beverage attachment and 10 percent growth in overall AORs. We’ve done 50,000 menus so far, but we have 500,000 more to go. Once we do those 500,000, our focus will be on how we can make this menu optimization more dynamic and able to provide updates in real time.”


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Powerhouse Dynamics booth at NRA Show 2023
Powerhouse Dynamics at NRA Show 2023

Powerhouse Dynamics

At this year’s show, Jay Fiske, President of Powerhouse Dynamics, was talking to attendees about the trend of the digitization of back of house and infrastructure.

“There is an increasing amount of data being generated by equipment,” he explained. “Cooking equipment, fryers, ovens, hot cabinets, dish machines, etc. Typically, that data is stranded on the assets. But there's an incredible amount of value in that data if you can get it to the right person at the right time in the right format.”

Open Kitchen, one of the company’s products, ensures operators can access that data. By tapping into it, operators can be alerted if the equipment is malfunctioning, if it isn’t being used properly, if there is a food safety issue, etc.

Additionally, operators using older equipment can still benefit from data by retrofitting their equipment with sensors to add intelligence. This could be putting a sensor in a refrigerator to ensure it’s at the right temperature or putting a sensor on the door to ensure it’s being closed properly or even putting an energy sensor on the breaker that powers the unit’s compressor to ensure it’s getting enough power to work properly.

As an added benefit, this data can help restaurant brands achieve their ESG goals.

“Larger entities have their board of directors and their investors asking: ‘What are your ESG goals? How are you measuring them? What actions are you taking to drive down the carbon footprint of your operations?’ And using this data helps them address these types of questions in a meaningful and measurable way,” Fiske adds.

When it comes to industry-changing technology, Fiske is betting on automation.

“Automation could mean a robotic arm that makes fries or a pick-up cabinet where guests can get their food after ordering online and are effectively skipping the line,” he notes. “With the labor challenge restaurants are facing, automation is going to have a bigger impact and role in restaurant operations.”

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