Top Restaurant Tech Tips from Industry Leaders
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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.”