5 Tech Trends Operators Are Preparing for in 2016

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Restaurant technology has not only changed the way we eat and experience food, it’s also impacted how we approach making dining decisions. With speed and convenience at the height of our last-minute choices, on-demand services like UberEATS and Postmates have proved successful. But tech-minded operators must always be thinking steps ahead in order to keep up with consumers.

Below, we ask a variety of operators and industry experts what one tech trend they see on the horizon that they’re preparing for (and, in some cases, rolling out).

In-House Accommodations for On-Demand Delivery

“The largest tech trend is the food on-demand trend, which allows customers to order from restaurants from their computers and mobile devices, to be delivered to the location of their choosing,” says Jeremy Morgan, CEO at Tava Indian. “Historically, there have been several restaurant chains that have succeeded by building their entire operating platform around this model — the largest pizza companies and some sandwich QSRs pioneered delivery for the industry. But what is different about this trend is that it is enabling large-scale delivery platforms for restaurant companies that wouldn’t traditionally deliver. Taking the logistics of managing a delivery fleet is a huge enabler. However, restaurants will need to find new, innovative ways to integrate IT into their restaurants to allow for receiving orders, accepting (and reconciling) payments, and appropriately executing delivery orders across several vendors. At Tava, we’re preparing for this by creating a single point of contact for all delivery orders, regardless of who places it (e.g., Postmates, Eat24, etc.), and developing our operating platform to accommodate the additional business that will come from outside the four walls.“

Fast casual restaurant Roti is taking things one step further.

“Food delivery continues to move well beyond pizza and the local Chinese place,” says Peter Nolan, chief brand officer at Roti. “Third-party aggregators like GrubHub/Seamless showed customers that they can pick from a huge variety of restaurants and, within a few clicks, order their food. Companies like Postmates, Caviar, Sprig, UberEats, and Maple are all, in their own ways, raising the bar on food delivery. Now customers in many cities can order really good food at a decent price in just a couple of clicks. This significantly alters the competitive landscape for all restaurants. At Roti, we are updating our POS system to a system that excels at mobile ordering integration, exploring all third-party delivery options, and looking at expanding our own in-house delivery program.”

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GPS-Enabled Curbside Pickup

On the other side of the delivery coin is, of course, pickup. With curbside pickup being introduced to the mainstream years ago by restaurant brands like Applebee’s and Chili’s, making it more convenient to pick up to-go orders, Anthony Pigliacampo, Founder at Modern Market, hopes to make the service even more convenient with GPS-enabled curbside pickup.

“We believe there is a huge opportunity to leverage mobile tech to facilitate easier takeout solutions for our guests,” says Pigliacampo. “Being able to see where a guest is and bring food to them the second they pull up would be amazing. We have already begun laying the groundwork for this by getting our kitchen display system and POS into the cloud and building the infrastructure into our new mobile ordering system to capture customer GPS data with us if they want to share it. It will take a year or two to fully build out, but it is coming.”

Seamless Dining at Full Charge

And speaking of convenience via mobile, consider the guest experience from a larger picture. With society being glued to their phones so much, Geoff Alexander, VP at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, sees room for opportunity — starting with the guest and expanding to the operator.

“There are two different pieces of tech that I am excited to see enter the restaurant space,” says Alexander. “The first is ‘pay at the table’ for full-service dining — credit card processing tableside as opposed to a server walking away with the guest’s credit card. And second is wireless charging of phones and PDAs. I think this will change the platform of fast-casual dining, both from the operations standpoint — imagine no more outlets for POS systems — to the guest, who will come in for longer periods of time to charge and eat and drink more often.”

Bonus: Invisible Transactions

Though not necessarily in the near future, Mike Elgan, tech journalist and founder of the food/tech podcast The FATcast, predicts the Uber experience to have a widespread impact on the future of restaurants. 

“What’s going to rattle the foodservice POS world are companies like Uber,” says Elgan. In the experience of Uber, consumers don’t need to be weighed down with consciously paying for the ride. Elgan calls this an invisible transaction. “I think that’s what’s really going to transform the whole foodservice industry is invisible transactions. People will simply take things, or pick up things, or enjoy foods or whatever, and walk out. And if they want to glance at what they’ve paid for or any of that kind of stuff, that’s fine.”

For more tech predictions from industry experts, download our free Technology Guide here.