Why You Should be Treating Your Restaurant Like a Data Company

Operators: Stop Being Afraid of Mobile & Tech

Remember that time you thought building brand presence on social media platforms was optional? A lot has changed in the past three years regarding the way we approach business, proving that brands need to have presence in the socialsphere in order to remain relevant.

At the 3rd Annual Fast Casual Trends & Directions Conference in Chicago, hosted by the NRA in partnership with Technomic and DigitalCoCo, leaders in the fast casual space took the stage at the Ritz-Carlton to provide insight on their expertise.

Paul Barron, Founder and CEO of DigitalCoCo and Foodable WebTV Network, and author of The Chipotle Effect, took the stage to solidify that social media, mobile and technology in restaurants isn’t optional. Research pulled from DigitalCoCo’s proprietary Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI) shows that consumer social engagement with a fast casual brand has doubled in the past three years. And for those wanting to put a price tag on social ROI, annual revenue attributed to social consumers in 2013 was estimated at $750 billion (yes, with a ‘b’).

Now (well, yesterday for early adopters), we’re at a point with mobile and tech in restaurants where operators need to stop just thinking about it, and actually begin implementation. In 2016, Millennials — a generation that lives on their phones — will become the largest customer base for fast casual. A tech panel joined Barron on stage to speak to these advancements — Geoff Alexander of Lettuce Entertain You’s Wow Bao, Brett Schulman of Cava Mezze and Cava Mezze Grill, and Chris Dancy, who has been dubbed as “The Most Connected Human on the Planet.” The three gave different perspectives of using mobile and tech in their restaurant spaces, or, in Chris Dancy’s case, how guests (will) use them.

Are You Treating Your Restaurant Like a Data Company?

Dancy, an enthusiast of wearable technology, informed us just how powerful wearable devices will be in the future for obtaining data about each individual guest. When this happens, customers will be able to give more hyper-specific feedback to restaurants based on personal data. “Every restaurant is a data company, and what you do with it is tremendously important,” said Dancy.

At Wow Bao, Geoff Alexander is using mobile payments and mobile loyalty, and has been for years, but admits that most people aren’t ready for it — yet — but that won’t stop him from trying.

At Cava, Schulman has found that creating different brand content on a variety of platforms — everything from Twitter to Tumblr — is an essential piece of the puzzle when connecting with consumers. Content on each is customized to that specific audience, but delivers the same consistent brand message/voice, which is super important. On its mobile platform, Cava is in the works of integrating an Uber-inspired feedback tool that will rate the customer’s experience on a 1-5 point star system. This feedback data will tip operators on which locations are “hot spots.”

Tread Lightly

The most important thing to remember when integrating technology, social media campaigns or mobile features into your restaurant business is to keep it simple. If the technology doesn’t streamline a process or action, or help to make the consumer experience more worthwhile, it’s extraneous. You can introduce the sleekest new gadget into your operations, but if it doesn’t have a purpose, it’s clunky. You need to understand which advancements work with your audience and your brand. Sometimes, less is more. “Consumers think they want a lot of choices, but they really don’t,” Dancy said.