There’s no doubt about it: Running a restaurant today is tougher than ever before.
On top of some usual challenges — financial planning, food and labor — restaurateurs must also stay abreast of technologies that are changing the way our industry and customers do business. The great news is technology is making us more efficient by increasing productivity, reducing wait times and satisfying busy, tech-savvy customers who want to incorporate dining out into their time-constrained schedules.
Did anyone think four or five years ago they’d be outfitting servers with Apple Watches or other wearable “smart” devices to help increase check averages or table turns? That’s starting to become more the norm than the exception these days. Tableside technology is allowing customers to order and pay for meals via electronic tablet — reducing throughput times and enhancing the overall customer experience. And don’t forget on-demand delivery, which could help restaurants and consumers make the most of off-premise dining.
These are just a few of the latest innovations for restaurateurs to consider, but there’s so much more. The big question, however, is where to look for solutions? The National Restaurant Association is working to provide tools and resources at our Restaurant Innovation Summit, which we’re holding at the end of this month. This is the third year for this conference and it truly is a one-stop shop for anyone interested in the newest and most effective technologies on the market, or coming soon.
This year, we’ll be addressing some big, even game-changing topics. One of them is frictionless payment. If you haven’t heard about this particular technology yet, you soon will. It could change the way check transactions are handled, how payment data is captured and, potentially, improve data security at the same time. Because credit-card information is stored on secure third-party servers and a physical card is not necessary for the transaction, the payment process is virtually eliminated and breaches could occur less frequently. We’re bringing together clients from two of those platforms — Cover and Reserve — to talk more about it and what it means for the industry.
Another area of interest for operators is on-demand delivery, which teams up restaurants with hi-tech food delivery firms that pick up and drop off the food to off-premises customers who are unable to dine on-site. The systems, however, can still allow those customers to participate in the dining experience. Executives from the field’s leading services, including Postmates, Caviar, DoorDash and delivery.com, will explain how restaurateurs can use them to their advantage to create additional sales.
Also, IBM Chef Watson, a computer program that helps chefs create original recipes through the help of flavor compound algorithms, will show how combining food chemistry, taste preferences and creativity can result in innovative new menu items.
Technology is evolving all the time. It’s important for us to embrace it to stay relevant. The success of our businesses depends on it. Join us in San Diego, Oct. 27-28, to see what else is on the table!
Phil Kafarakis is the Chief Innovation & Member Advancement Officer for the National Restaurant Association.
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