Tech Titans Dish Out Insights During a Live Hospitality Hangout

MURTEC '24 kicked off with a dynamic discussion featuring Hospitality Hangout podcast hosts Michael Schatzberg and Jimmy Frischling alongside industry leaders Christopher Demery, CTO of Blaze Pizza, and Andre Vener, Founding Partner of Dog Haus, delving into evolving guest expectations and the future of restaurant technology.
MURTEC 2024 Hospitality Hangout Panelists
Hospitality Hangout podcast hosts Michael "Schatzy" Schatzberg and Finance Guy Jimmy Frischling chatted with Christopher Demery, Blaze Pizza, and Andre Vener, Dog Haus.

MURTEC '24 began with a bang with a series of concurrent sessions on a variety of fascinating topics. We were thrilled to have Hospitality Hangout podcast hosts Michael "Schatzy" Schatzberg and Finance Guy Jimmy Frischling on stage during one of these sessions. They chatted with Christopher Demery, CTO of Blaze Pizza, and Andre Vener, founding partner of Dog Haus. Schatzberg and Frischling's sense of humor kept Demery, Vener, and the audience in stitches as they talked about a range of tech topics.

Here were a few key takeaways from this session:

1. Guest expectations are constantly changing, and it’s up to the restaurant to meet the guests where they are. 

"If your guest is changing, then your restaurant needs to be changing with them," Demery said. "For our brand, off-premise is a large part of our business. We found that we can improve the off-prem guest experience by texting order updates to guests such as: 'Your food is being prepped!', 'Your pizza is cooking in the oven!' and 'Your meal is done and waiting for you!'"

"When we first opened our doors, we had two ways that people could order from us," Vener added. "Now we have five. Not everyone wants to talk to someone to place an order, so we offer QR codes and kiosks and a mobile app. And we’re finding that the upsell on kiosks and QR code orders is really high."

2. Branded mobile apps are very useful tools if you know how to use them correctly. 

"We had a mobile app for about five years," Vener explained, "but then we went away from it because it wasn’t working the way we thought it should, and we attributed that to customers not wanting 100 branded apps on their phone. In December, we relaunched our app because we realized that your most loyal customers want to be rewarded for their loyalty, and an app is a great way to track and reward loyalty with not just points but also with secret menu items and limited-time promotions."

"We polled our guests to ask them what they wanted from a mobile app," Demery said. "Our guests didn’t want to use it for tableside ordering, but they did want to be able to use it to pay for their meal and leave the restaurant, rather than waiting on a waitress to bring the check. So we designed our app to solve the pain points of our guests, and then it becomes a valuable tool they want on their phone."

3. In a game of "Hot or Not," not all futurist tech trends make the cut. 

Demery and Vener were split on whether virtual reality dining should be hot. Demery felt that VR dining is too much of a risk for a restaurant. He took the stance that when marketing folks get hold of images, it creates unrealistic expectations for consumers, which can then backfire. Vener, on the other hand, felt that restaurants should be well aware of how often their food is going to be photographed and posted to social media. Since that reality is already here, restaurants should be producing products that match up to any and all marketing hype. Demery and Vener agreed that LTOs and specials designed for social media are a hot tech trend. They also agreed that drone delivery for restaurant food is not a tech trend that makes the cut, even though guests seem to be very excited about it.

4. Schatzberg and Frischling asked Demery and Vener to predict how restaurant tech will be different in the next two years. Both operators felt that technology will take personalization to a new level for guests. 

"I imagine that in a couple of years, when guests enter a restaurant, their favorite items will be automatically presented to them," Vener said. "For example, maybe digital menu boards will recognize a guest and adjust the menu items on display so that they see their favorites and a few suggestions on other items they might like."

"Maybe servers will wear headsets that give that same personalized information to them so that they can make really great recommendations on new items the guest might want to try," Demery added.

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