Now more than ever, technology is a huge driver for restaurants. Whether it’s getting a new diner into your location with social media marketing, making ordering and payments more seamless, keeping guests loyal or gauging their experience, technology definitely has a front-row seat at restaurants. And it certainly shined at NRA Show 2015. Below are four of the best technologies we saw.
There are lots of different POS options out there right now, but one that caught our eye at this year’s Show was at the Revention booth. Revention’s POS display proved to be fast, user-friendly and visual, making a server’s input seemingly more time-efficient.
Another feature that stood out was a section for customer notes, which quickly tells servers and BOH staff about things like allergies and diet restrictions, consumer sentiment (Is a guest noticeably having a bad day? Did you overhear that someone has a birthday coming up?), whether they’re a veteran or a senior for potential discounts, etc. This option also allows users to create an alert that will pop up on the screen for that individual bill if something is in the midst of being taken care of as a reminder. Once it’s taken care of, the notification goes away.
Aside from the front end of the system, the back end has some powerful data tools that can essentially save operators money and target specific individuals for LTOs, coupon and discount deals and mailers. Through its data, users can sort guests that haven’t visited in X amount of days, align that to when business has been slow, and send those guests coupons to come back in. Think about how powerful these metrics are: less wasted food costs, more business, and more loyal customers. And the best part? You can create coupon mailers right in the system.
With a visually pleasing dashboard and a slew of analytics that goes beyond same-store sales, Delaget’s COACH software reeled us in. Taco Bell and Pizza Hut are two concepts that use this system, which pulls information across the board for all stores in the company. The system can be accessed by iPad and is updated in real-time, so managers and operators can scan metrics at any time and don’t necessarily need to be in the store to do so. The dashboard, which can be segmented by each store for each day, pulls in Voice of Customer, which is structured consumer sentiment data for that particular store; what percentage of transactions were an upsell (and by which employee); Labor Cost; Food Cost; Drive Thru Service Time; and In-Store Service Time. It also tracks the ranking of that particular store compared to all company stores and who the highest and lowest performers of the day are.
These analytics tell operators a few stories to make better business decisions: which employees are beneficial to ROI (labor cost); how to improve on speed of service [free report link]; what products are being sold more easily than others (food cost); and how to easily track missed revenue. And in the broad scheme of things, it can help operators decide which store(s), if any, need to be cut. Imagine how advantageous this could be for tracking franchise(e) performance, too.
There was a lot of digital signage at the NRA Show this year. We don’t necessarily have a favorite, but BrightSign did show some “wow” factor. The system comes with hardware (free software with HW) and a mobile app with the ability to control multiple screens. Want to change out the background of your digital menu from lunch to dinner to create a better ambiance? Or maybe you’ve run out of a specific item and want to take it off the menu in real-time via mobile. This mobile-first approach has already hit consumers, and will be just as important for restaurant tech users (operators and staff) to provide more streamlined operations. (Note: this type of usage is more beneficial for independent operators so as not to feature inconsistent prices, etc.)
The BrightSign system is user-friendly, where all text edits can be made inside the app right on your phone — price changes, menu item photo changes, background theme, you name it. The visuals also lend an element of interactivity, a big grab for brands. But think about this beyond just digital menus: every restaurant should have easy control of their content management, and with a product like this, options like social media feeds and user-generated content or restaurant entertainment can be featured quickly and flexibly.
We’ve been following Rockbot for quite some time, but finally got to experience this tech at the Show. Dubbed ‘the social jukebox app,’ Rockbot is an app that consumers can download to play whatever music they want, whenever they want. Users can also vote songs up or down to influence when the song is played at the venue. On the restaurant’s side of things, the app connects to hardware called the Rockbot Player, which connects to the Internet, a sound system and an option for in-store TV display. Though Rockbot offers many additional features, including Social TV for brands and mobile app integration, it is — at its core — a way for guests to customize their restaurant experience through music selection. App users can pull in their Spotify account, and since the app syncs to Facebook, it pulls your 'liked' artists for easy browsing suggestions.
Our favorite part, though, is Rockbot Anthem, a newer feature that syncs with Beacon Technology using BLE (Bluetooth low energy). When a customer enters a restaurant with a Beacon, the restaurant’s music system will trigger to automatically play the customer’s favorite songs as they arrive. This works for all customers with the Rockbot app on their phones if they have their bluetooth enabled.
And that’s what’s so special about restaurant technology, and where we’d like to see it going: to intuitively enhance the guest experience. These technologies and others we didn’t mention are great examples of how far tech has come, and lends ample possibilities as to where it can go. There are no limits, only obstacles. And in the future, it will be amazing to see how restaurant tech will turn the dining experience into something more than we could have ever imagined.
What’s your favorite restaurant tech that you’ve either implemented as an operator or used as a guest? Let us know in the comments below!