Restaurant Technology Guide

Technology is everywhere

Some have changed the face of the restaurant industry.

Let's see what this year
had to offer.

 
 

LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER

By Paul Barron, CEO, Editor-in-Chief, Executive Producer

Technology is the saving grace of our industry. Look around and you not only see the evolution of the tech-savvy consumer, but you will also see the tech-savvy brands that are now a commonplace in the restaurant business. Now that technology is a mainstay, we can get back to the real business of serving guests and making them love the restaurant experience.

2017 marks the 10-year anniversary of the iPhone and the world has changed in how we communicate more than any other aspect the we have seen in the past 30 years of technology. In the 90s, it was the touch screen POS that made the experience a bit more loveable for operators by getting more data about sales performance. The next 10 years began the failed kiosk era that was just a little too early for its own good, along with email explosion that became the first wave of a new consumer touchpoint ecosystem.

Today, the communication system leads with social and video with apps and technology all stemming from the smartphone. The real question is how long will this phase last before we see the next consumer technology tool that will shift the landscape once again. Where are we going with all of this on-location technology that enables a one-to-one communication or custom messaging by user? Social has been great for broadcasting our message, but now the tuning out of brands is underway by consumers.

This past year registered the first year in social media that brand name mentions went down, but brand experience mentions went up. What this means is that brands are pushing the wrong buttons now that consumers have the ability to tune out the mass communication of what social media has become.

The movement of eating out less is 2017’s biggest challenge for the restaurant industry, and it could be technology that saves the day. More customized experiences will be critical with use of Wi-Fi tools like Zenreach that enable a complete custom communication with guests based on immediate need versus the broadcast solution that social media has driven over the past five years.

Beacons will be the next major mover we’ll see in 2017 that will connect brands to the needs on a much more customized basis, with targeted ads that cater specifically to consumer needs and wants, but the big play here with beacons is the cross-competitive data that will reveal what brands their guests are using and how they can lure them into their restaurant.

Who will the winners and losers of 2017 Restaurant Technology be?

 

Why Oracle’s POS is The Leading Hospitality Management Platform

A point-of-sale system is arguably the most important technology that an operator can invest in. With that in mind, we decided to take a closer look at the POS software that continues to land at No. 1 on our socially curated lists.

The user-friendly Oracle Simphony POS software not only is a platform to collect customer payments, but it’s also a hub to manage gift and loyalty programs, enhance inventory management, manage labor and training, and to increase loss prevention efficiency.

So what makes this product stand out?

Oracle Hospitality — Symphony POS

Oracle Hospitality — Symphony POS

The Software

It may have been complicated to develop the software, but it certainly shouldn’t be to use.

A restaurant needs a system that all members of the team can easily understand and use, so they can also train others.

This cloud and mobile hospitality management platform is intuitive and can adapt to your specific needs. All Oracle devices run on one central system for all operations.

Are you worried about your systems becoming out of date? With Oracle you will remain at the forefront of innovation. The system will continue to evolve and update.

Even though it’s a cloud-based system, if the Wifi disconnects, the software is still operational. So you can continue to collect payments and keep business moving along as usual.

Not to mention, the software gives you access to real-time reporting and analytics– which makes sense of all the big data the system has collected.

It’s Durable

Let’s face it, restaurants are dirty places. That’s why it’s important to have a POS system in a hardware that will last. Oracle’s Workstation 6 is strong and doesn’t need to be handled with care.

Oracle’s Tablet 720 works in harmony with Simphony and has the same design as the Workstation 6. This tablet is also durable, but comes with a convenient wearable case.  

It’s Portable  

The Tablet 720 has a battery life of 6 to 8 hours, but this battery can be replaced so it can remain mobile and on the floor for long periods of time.

But the tablet isn’t the only device that’s portable, the Workstation 6 can be moved too. If needed, it can be wall mounted, kiosk mounted, or transported to the kitchen.

Oracle’s Consulting

Oracle doesn’t just install the software and send the operator on the way, the company’s consultant services make sure that users understand all the functions the POS software has to offer. They make sure it’s successfully implemented.

 
 

GET CONNECTED, OPERATORS: TOP 3 TIPS ON MAKING WI-FI WORK FOR YOUR RESTAURANT

By Mae Velasco, Associate Editor

Technology not only transforms the way restaurants run their businesses — from streamlined ordering with cashier-free kiosks and mobile-app food delivery, to software facilitating back-office logistics and moldable email marketing — but technology is also transforming consumer expectations on customer service.

Case in point? Wi-Fi. Gone are the days when Wi-Fi access at a local joint was a pleasant, unexpected surprise. In 2014, 65 percent of guests said they expect easy internet access while dining. Wi-Fi, now a factor on where consumers choose to eat out, is almost mandatory. If customers can’t connect to post a photo of their meal or kill time while they’re waiting for their orders to make their way from the kitchen, they’ll disconnect from you.

Later on in this guide, we explore “Why Your Restaurant Needs Wi-Fi and How It Builds Your Business”, but here’s a sneak peek. Experts from Zenreach, a product that allows restaurants to offer secure Wi-Fi to customers, while simultaneously providing metrics and data to these businesses, dished out their top tips on making Wi-Fi work for your restaurant.

Tip 1: “Ensure you’ve made the investment in enough bandwidth from your ISP to deliver a great browsing experience to your customers.”
— Ron Lapierre, EVP Business Development

Tip 2: “Most people see offering up some piece of contact information a fair exchange for free Wi-Fi! Make sure you capture emails, Facebooks or phone numbers. You can even incentivize signups by offering coupons or in-store promotions.”
— Alexandra Kane, Director of Marketing

Tip 3: “Invest in a captive portal. It can collect customer data over 5x faster than other old school methods like fishbowls! And advertise it! Make sure it’s a premium customer experience. Spotty or dropped Wi-Fi will do way more harm than good!”
— Ian Bishop, Director of Sales

 
 

NO. 1 RESTAURANT TECHNOLOGY GUIDE COMPANY

By Mae Velasco, Associate Editor

Technology is taking a “byte” out of the restaurant industry. And while getting a food order from the customer to the kitchen and back to the customer’s table on a platter may not happen instantaneously (yet), with how much has progressed, it feels like we’re in the age of The Jetsons. From self-ordering kiosks that allow guests to customize their meals before they reach the cashier to robots tossing salads, rolling sushi, and deep-frying french fries, the future of foodservice is happening today.

Our annual technology guide highlights these advancements that have transformed the foodservice industry. Whether they are POS systems, customer-facing devices, back-of-house software, or digital signage, these products and companies changed the restaurant game in ways we could have never imagined. However, there was one brand that stood out from the rest. Congratulations to our No. 1 company of Foodable’s Restaurant Technology Guide, UberEATS!


UberEats — Overall Score of 291.45

This on-demand meal delivery service is no stranger to Foodable. Its name is fitting, especially because Uber Technologies Inc. is an über force across multiple industries. While Uber initially disrupted consumer-focused services by providing another avenue for transportation — to the dismay of taxi fleets, some cities even calling for an Uber ban — UberEATS has taken the concept of access to drivers with a single tap of the button to foodservice.

The UberEATS app is so popular that it has even been named the No. 1 food app restaurant industry influencers are using. Its ease of use provides an unparalleled convenience for hungry patrons, as the total food and delivery price is shown right as they place an order, tip included to avoid a last-minute scramble for pocket change once the meal is at their doors. Users can even track the delivery as it makes its way toward them, with a lineup of impressive restaurants unique to each locality.

UberEATS

But independent restaurants aren’t the only ones eyeing this trailblazing company. This disruptor has caught the attention of big-brand names, as McDonald’s has recently announced it would test a food delivery partnership with UberEATS. The test will take place in three Florida markets — 200 restaurants in Orlando, Tampa, and Miami — in late January, as the burger giant continues its attempts to come back from the digital dead and further connect with its growing base of tech-savvy millennial customers.

UberEATS’ services are available in more than 50 cities, including major urbans coast-to-coast from New York to San Francisco, and internationally in Canada, Europe, South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia

"...[We] launched the UberEATS app in just one city: Toronto. If you had told us on that chilly Canada morning that a year later, UberEATS would be available around the world, we’d have said you were blowing brisket smoke," UberEATS said in a release. “...we’re blown away. The partnership and support we’ve received from our new culinary community has made it all possible. And we want to take this time to say thank you to our Restaurant Partners, Delivery Partners, and our customers.”

Curious to see what other game-changing restaurant tech companies made their name in this year?
Check out the Top 100 Restaurant Technology Companies here!

 
 

Best Digital Marketing Solutions

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

In today’s digital age, marketers have an array of different tools, services, and platforms to pick from.

There are so many out there, that doing the research to find out which ones are the best for your business can be a time-consuming process.

With that in mind, we have decided to pull social data and determine the overall acores of the top technology platforms for digital marketing. These scores are out of 300 points and are based on sentiment, brand perception, and engagement.

Without further ado, here are the top three technology solutions.


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No. 1: MailChimp — Overall Score of 277.91

This email marketing service landed at the top of our list. With over 14 million people using this platform, it’s one of the most popular email marketing services available.

So, what sets this service apart of the others?

Easy to Use
It’s especially user-friendly and intuitive. Users can create campaigns with a wide selection of email templates that are all mobile-friendly. This is not only useful for a one-person marketing team, but also for larger teams.

MailChimp

“MailChimp's collaboration options, like multi-user accounts and comments inside the editor, will speed up the design process and fit right into your workflow,” according to the platform’s website.
 
Marketing Automation
For online sellers, MailChimp offers marketing automation functions. This allows the user to target customers based on their behavior, previous sales, and preferences. Emails will be automatically sent when triggered by a specific event, date, or subscriber’s activity.

“Our research empowers you to determine the best time to send campaigns, to quickly test subject lines before you send, and to automatically send your campaigns at the same time in different time zones. Our data scientists and engineers blog about new products and features, and our researchers publish their insights on our website — all so we can help your business to send better email,” MailChimp’s website states.

Advanced Analytics
MailChimp offers reporting features so the user can evaluate how successful their campaigns are. These reports can be accessed anywhere and the user can monitor open-rates and website traffic.

A user can also test different emails with A/B Testing. Users can build three variations all with different content and send times to determine which day of the week leads to higher open rates and what subject lines are the most effective.

MailChimp Analytics

Mobile Apps Offer On-the-Go Options
MailChimp has a suite of mobile apps all with different functions that users can access via their mobile phones. With the MailChimp Subscribe app, users can collect signups on a tablet. With MailChimp Snap app, users can send photo-based emails directly from their mobile devices to a segment of subscribers.
 
Integrates With Other Services
MailChimp recognizes that users can’t do everything with their platform, so it can be integrated with other apps and services. Google, Salesforce, Eventbrite, Twitter, Facebook, Shopify, and SurveyMonkey can all be synced with MailChimp and the data from these can be imported.

The Pricing
There are three programs for marketers to select from. 

  • The New Business is free, but it comes with rather limited services.

  • Growing Business starts at $10 a month (the monthly fee increases depending on your number of subscribers) and offers automation, integrations, segmentation, and reporting.

  • Pro Marketer is an additional $199 per month, but offers advanced reporting and is recommended for high-volume senders.


No. 2: Zenreach — Overall Score of 277.46

Zenreach

Close behind at No. 2 is Zenreach. This service offers automated marketing through Wi-Fi.

Collects Accurate Customer Data
The company offers its merchants a piece of hardware that is embedded with a free Wi-Fi portal. Through this, patrons visiting the business share their email addresses by logging in to take advantage of the Wi-Fi. Zenreach then can monitor this users visiting habits and see how often they return to the store.

Users can identify their most loyal customers, capture contact information, get real-time foot traffic analytics, and integrate with OpenTable or data from their POS.

The service caters to restaurants, bars, hotels, retailers, stadiums, venues, and gyms. Pretty much any place where a user would want to tap into some free Wi-Fi.
 
Automatic Messaging
But, Zenreach offers so much more than just advance analytics. Users can either send custom email blasts or set up targeted, automated messages.

“We've determined the most common types of customer behavior to craft a series of Smart Messages that automatically target groups like First-Time, Lost and Loyal customers. Simply enable the Smart Messages that you'd like to use. We'll take care of sending the right message at the right time,” Zenreach’s website says.

So for example, let’s say the Zenreach user wants to target a shopper who hasn't visited in 90 days. The user can set up an automated email to go out to the shopper once it’s been 90 days.

Then the user can see if they come back to the store after getting the email, giving them precise analytics on ROI.


No. 3: Constant Contact — Overall Score of 274.31

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This online marketing company lands at No. 3 on our list and was one of the first trailblazers in email marketing.

While only 77 percent of regular emails hit customers’ inboxes, the company claims 98 percent of Constant Contact emails do.

Customizable Email Templates
Users can design emails from a selection of customizable templates or they can reach out to the Constant Contact team to have them design an email template specifically for them.

Automatic Emails
After designing the template, the user can set it to be sent automatically depending on a trigger. For example, any time a customer has a birthday, the user can trigger the email platform to send that person a happy birthday email with a reward.

Seamless Contact Management
Users can import lists from multiple places like Excel, Gmail, or others and Constant Contact will automatically remove the emails that unsubscribe, bounce back, and are inactive.

 

Real-time Reporting
Constant Contact users are given email tracking tools that show them who’s opening, sharing, and clicking through in the emails.

For users interested in setting up live events, trackable coupons, online surveys and more, the platform offers PLUS features that can handle those extended services.

These top three platform’s Overall Scores in particular were within 3 points of each other in restaurant operator conversations. Specifically, these companies out-scored most of the top 10 with positive comments from operators totaling 18,389 conversations.

Email and Wi-Fi-based services performed better than mobile app marketing this year. Mobile app marketing fell 39 percent in importance over the last year.

Data marketing and CRM conversations totaled 12,409, which is a significant increase over the last year. This means operators are seeking more information on competitors, local demographics, and consumer interests.

Last year, 2,347 conversations were centered on data marketing and CRM.

  • 48 percent of operator are seeking more cross competitive information

  • 51 percent of operators are seeking more local demographic information for marketing

  • 38 percent of operators are seeking more understanding on consumer behaviors

Check out the top 10 technology services and platforms below. 

 

The BEST POS OPTIONS

By Ryan Ross, Contributing Editor

Aside from the staff, there is nothing more vital to the successful operation of a restaurant than the point-of-sale (POS) system. But with so many options, restaurateurs often struggle to figure out which POS is the best fit for their needs.


Plus, with so many other things to juggle when running a restaurant, it’s hard to take time out to sit down and research all POS options before making a decision.

Luckily for you, we’ve compiled social data to calculate the overall score of the top POS options in the restaurant industry. These scores are on a 300-point scale, and as Paul mentioned in the foreword, their ratings are based on three major categories: sentiment, brand perception, and engagement.


So now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the top three POS options for restaurateurs.


No. 1: Oracle Hospitality — Overall Score of 286.61

Micros Oracle

The best overall POS system on our list is Oracle Hospitality. Though the name may be unfamiliar to some of you, you’ve certainly heard of the name of the company they acquired: MICROS systems. MICROS was considered the gold standard for restaurant POS systems, so it should come as no surprise that Oracle has continued the tradition that MICROS started.

What sets Oracle Hospitality apart from the competition?

Wide Range of Applications
As a restaurateur, you know that there’s much more that goes into running a restaurant than just taking the orders, cooking the meals, and collecting the money. (If only it were that simple.)

Oracle Hospitality’s applications are wide-ranging, including the options to support order management, keep a close eye on the cash flow, track kitchen performance, create menus, and adjust pricing. You name it, Oracle Hospitality can do it. 

Back-Office Work Made Easy
No longer do you have to spend entire dinner shifts in the back office trying to piece together all the reporting data. Oracle Hospitality has plenty of solutions to help keep your business moving in the right direction, including reporting and analytics, labor and inventory management, and loss prevention. Best of all, all this information is packaged in easy-to-interpret graphics.

You can also use Oracle Hospitality to keep track of gift and loyalty programs, as well as reservations, allowing you to do all the little things that ensure a great experience for your customers.

Mobile Capabilities
Oracle Hospitality also has plenty of capabilities for mobile users. Not only do they offer tablets and mobile workstations (which cut down on servers crowding around a terminal, waiting for their turn to enter a customer’s order), but they also offer a mobile app that you can use to keep an eye on your business wherever you are.


No. 2: NCR Silver — Overall Score of 281.45

NCR Silver iPad

Coming in a close second is NCR Silver. Much like Oracle Hospitality, NCR Silver offers plenty of options that give restaurateurs the tools they need to successfully run their business.

What are some of the ways NCR Silver can help you do that?

Cloud-Based Storage
With NCR Silver’s cloud-based storage (a feature which is also available with Oracle Hospitality), you don’t have to worry about keeping all your restaurant’s operational data in an on-site server. And since space in a restaurant is always at a premium, the option to have business data stored in the cloud should appeal to anyone who’s spent a shift crammed in a back office next to a giant server..

Silver Concierge Service
NCR Silver also offers the Silver Concierge service, a full team of representatives dedicated to handling all the little details that can be incredibly time-consuming to manage on your own.

With Silver Concierge, you have access to 24/7 live support, free setup of your terminals and back office programs, and ongoing training sessions to cover any new features of NCR Silver. Best of all, Silver Concierge can also help with monthly maintenance of your menus.

Free Email Marketing
Email marketing campaigns are some of the easiest ways to generate new business for your restaurant. The problem is, setting up and managing an email campaign can take up a lot of time, and when you have a restaurant to run, it’s easy to let this crucial piece of generating new business fall by the wayside.


One of the great features of NCR Silver that other POS systems don’t offer is free email marketing. Rather than having to manage your email marketing campaigns on an entirely different system like MailChimp, NCR Silver can handle them within their own software. Best of all, with NCR’s email marketing, you no longer need to worry about tracking loyalty information for your guests: once they’re in the system, the NCR Silver POS will apply discounts and special offers to your guests’ accounts automatically.


No. 3: ShopKeep — Overall Score of 279.67

ShopKeep

The third-highest-rated POS system is ShopKeep. Though they’re a relative newcomer to the POS space, they’ve quickly made a name for themselves, and it’s easy to see that their success will continue.

What can ShopKeep do for you?

Make Everything Easier
One of the reasons most restaurants stick with their old, tired POS system is because it’s simply too time-consuming to install, set up, and train staff on a new one. ShopKeep knows this, which is why their biggest selling point is ease of use.

ShopKeep boasts a POS system that’s so easy to set up that “you should be able to do it yourself.” And from a staff standpoint, ShopKeep also believes that “training cashiers and managers should take minutes, not hours,” so you don’t have to worry about your business suffering while your team gets up to speed on the new POS.

Take a Deeper Dive Into Your Business
With its built-in business analytics, ShopKeep lets you track every aspect of your restaurant’s performance. If you want to know what menu items are selling and which ones aren’t, ShopKeep can tell you, allowing you to adjust your inventory and orders. And if you want to track your restaurant’s sales, ShopKeep can manage that, too. 

Keep Your Data Secure
One of the drawbacks of cloud-based data management is the worry that if something goes wrong with the cloud, you’ll lose all your business data. But, as ShopKeep points out, “while traditional POS systems that run on PC-based computers are vulnerable to viruses and malware, cloud-based iPad POS systems are generally more secure.”


Best of all, their customer support is readily available to assist with any issues, allowing you to spend less time troubleshooting computer problems and more time ensuring your restaurant is running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.


Honorable Mention: Mainstreet Menu Systems — Overall Score of  270.23

Mainstreet Menus

While not a POS system, Mainstreet Menu Systems is worth mentioning as well. Mainstreet specializes in POP/digital menus and signage/kiosks, offering a wider range of customizable display options than any of its competitors.

Mainstreet has been the driving force behind the menu revamp at Noodles & Co., the Mrs. Fields store in Chicago, and menu boards for Coca-Cola in stadiums and arenas across the United States. Mainstreet’s commitment to offering affordable, innovative and creative signage and digital menu options to its clients has earned the company a place on this list.

 
 

WHY YOUR RESTAURANT NEEDS WI-FI AND HOW IT BUILDS YOUR BUSINESS

By Mae Velasco, Associate Editor

Phones are no longer accessories. Consumers are attached to these pint-sized information powerhouses, almost as if they were another limb, checking for messages and news from the moment they roll over their pillows to every waking moment there is a break in the day. And if it’s not for entertainment, mobile allows people to get to place-to-place via a car lift app or meet “face-to-face” with corporate partners around the globe. You’d be hardpressed to find someone who isn’t connected to the omnipresent Internet.

Technology has changed our everyday interactions — and that means in dining, too. With these digital advancements allowing for remote lifestyles, offices are not the typical cubicle. Students scribbling essays and businesspeople skimming through emails are taking to their favorite restaurants. For those looking to unwind, there’s more than shared conversation around the table. The modern diner is also a food photographer, sharing a few shots and engaging with fellow foodies online before digging in.

So, what does this mean? Your restaurant will need more than a server catering to your guests — you’ll need a web server. Yes, technology means many changes, but for your restaurant, it also means many opportunities. Here’s why your restaurant needs to serve up some Wi-Fi on the menu and how to maximize on your customers’ digital habits for your success.

Wi-Fi as a New Age Hospitality Tool: Challenges and Rewards

In short, a study by Devicescape in 2014 found three things: businesses including mom-and-pop restaurants, chains, bars, and coffee shops that offered complimentary access to Wi-Fi saw increases in foot traffic, time spent on the premises, and  — as a result — more money spent by their customers.

But if Wi-Fi is such a win-win, what holds some restaurants back from getting tangled up in the web?

Zenreach, a leader in Wi-Fi services that provides metrics and customer data back to businesses, empowers restaurants by collecting information on their audience and showing them another way to understand their marketing. Here is what their experts had to say when it comes to those who choose to disconnect.

A handful pin it down on added costs that build up over time, especially if the restaurant needs an additional phone line or router to handle the technical challenge of hosting many users. Others are worried about lower table turnovers, especially if patrons come with the intent to work instead of dine, or are concerned that spotty connections could turn guests away more than no Wi-Fi at all would.

“Wi-Fi is often unreliable and difficult to manage. Most establishments don’t see the return on it and it’s often another sunk cost,” Ian Bishop, Zenreach director of sales, said.

“For many operators, they think it’s another hassle to setup and manage. You need to train your waitstaff to field questions about passwords,” Zenreach Director of Marketing Alexandra Kane added.

Still, there are reasons to reconsider not offering this service.

“[More] and more guests are expecting free Wi-Fi...and more and more POS and in-house systems are reliant on Wi-Fi. It’s quickly becoming evident [that] offering Wi-Fi is becoming an expected amenity that will do more than just tick the box on Yelp,” Kane said.

The numbers don’t lie. Technology and consulting firm Yankee Group discovered that 96 percent preferred businesses that offer free Wi-Fi, while 79 percent of participating businesses agree that it keeps the customers happy while they wait for service.

“Free Wi-Fi has a huge part in driving repeat visits. In fact, one study showed that 60 percent of guests say that offering Wi-Fi plays a part in deciding which restaurant they will visit,” Zenreach EVP of Business Development Ron Lapierre said.

He also cited Zenreach as an example showing that setting up Wi-Fi doesn’t have to feel like putting together a puzzle. The company’s product has a simple installation process and a plug-and-play router that is high-powered and ready-to-go for guests.

But more so than a hospitality tool for guests, Wi-Fi is even more of a gift to the restaurant as an unparalleled marketing tool.

In Zenreach’s case, the platform collects information on guests as soon as they agree to log onto your restaurant’s custom-branded WiFi service, keeps track of customer’s contact information, demographic, and visit history so that clients know just how to market to their patrons, and even sends automated, personalized messages to returning guests. The service takes less than five minutes to set up. Plus, with the platform’s seamless email marketing integration, businesses won’t need a third-party CRM program. Another useful element? Zenreach also reports on how many customers return after receiving an email reachout.

Now ambiguous Wi-Fi use can be measured and clients can determine a tangible ROI on the investments they made on a Wi-Fi infrastructure.

“So many other services like Groupon or Yelp provide gimmicks for showing real-world ROI on online marketing spend. Only Zenreach can actually tie and email or online marketing campaign to an actually in-store visit. That’s really compelling,” Bishop said. “Using WiFi can be a huge anchor in your marketing efforts, able to tell you the offline results of online efforts on FB, Google, or Yelp.”

Best Solutions for Your Brand

Jumping aboard the Wi-Fi bandwagon? Here are some tips for making Wi-Fi work for your restaurant. Providing Wi-Fi without requiring email, social, or a mobile phone number for login is missing out on huge opportunities, so Lapierre highly encourages leveraging a captive portal.

“Most people see offering up some piece of contact information a fair exchange for free Wi-Fi! Make sure you capture emails, Facebooks, or phone numbers. You can incentivize signups by offering coupons or in-store promotions,” Kane agreed.

Advertising customer specials, secret promotions, and loyalty programs through a custom-branded network draws in a slew of customers, who feel they also have received special treatment in addition to a solid connection.

However, it’s not just about bonus points for technology. To succeed as a restaurant, you have to go from digital to brick and mortar and from the tweet to the till.

How can you — as Zenreach puts it — “close the online-to-offline loop”? One of the biggest economic challenges is that while majority of consumers spend a lot of their time researching and planning their purchases online, 95 percent of the actual purchasing still takes place in the physical store, Lapierre said. How do you bridge those two worlds together?

With the power of Wi-Fi and a focus in innovative digital marketing tactics, restaurants can further bridge that gap, further connect with customers, and better serve their guests.

“Big data is increasingly prevalent. Being able to stay open and robust and to include more and more data inputs into business decision making will be the key to growing with the times,” Bishop said. “Bars and restaurants are currently lagging as an industry, so keeping an open mind and continually engaging with new technology will be evermore important!”

 

BEST GUEST-FACING AND TABLETOP TECH

By Adria Valdes Greenhauff, Editor-at-Large

In today’s fast-paced digital world, consumers have come to expect things on demand. From opting for self-checkout at the grocery store to pre-ordering their morning latte using their smartphones, it’s never been easier to make a purchase.

The restaurant industry is no exception. Today’s restaurant chains have been tasked with finding new ways to streamline the dining experience, while also giving customers more control over how long (or how short) their restaurant experience becomes.

The result: a wave of tabletop technology that’s catering to a new type of customer – one who’s a little less willing to wait on a busy server trying to juggle multiple tables on a Friday night.

The tabletop kiosks or tablets, which have already been popping across big chain restaurants like Chili’s and Olive Garden, allow diners to do everything from ordering their meal to splitting the check between friends, without having to flag down a busy server.

The technology is mutually beneficial for restaurants with faster table turnarounds and the ability to include surveys on customer experience. This not only gives great insight from the very people who eat at your restaurant, it’s an effective way to capture contact information and build your mailing list.

Still, tabletop technology is a big investment for any restaurant, and with so many new products constantly on the market, it’s important to understand what each one offers to determine which is best for you.

With this in mind, we did some research and scored the best overall guest-facing and tabletop technology. Scores are based on a 300-point system that takes sentiment, brand perception, and engagement into account.

Editors’ Choice Award Winner: Ziosk — Overall Score of 275.69

Editors' Choice

Although it technically had the second-highest score on our list, Ziosk was our big winner simply because the tabletop tablet trend is too difficult to ignore.

Ziosk, which developed one of the first pay-at-the-table and entertainment devices, has already established itself as a leader in this emerging industry, with major clients like Chili’s, Applebee’s and Uno Chicago Grill restaurants. 

“For some guests, I think the biggest plus that Ziosk offers is Pay & Go, so they are in control of the timeliness of their check and when they get out,” Jeanine Fisher, area director for Chili’s Grill & Bar, said in an interview with Microsoft

Putting customers in control has resulted in faster table turnarounds for many restaurants using Ziosk. 

“In a casual dining restaurant, you go through this dance where you have to find the server, then they have to go get the check, then you put your card in and wait for them to come back; it takes about 10 minutes on average,” said Austen Mulinder, CEO of Ziosk. “With Ziosk payment takes 60 seconds and the data remains secure as the card reader encrypts your card data at the moment of swipe.”

Ziosk tablets also come with built-in games, a major perk for groups and families.

Ziosk

“If you put good, fresh entertainment on a device like this, where you can communally consume it, as opposed to buried away in your phone in another world, a very high percentage of tables will consume it that way,” said Mulinder. “We put a lot of stuff on there that’s communal so you’ll see parents playing math games with their kids.”

Keeping customers entertained creates a positive dining experience, which, in turn, could entice guests to stay longer. According to one study, tablets like Ziosk may also increases impulse ordering — like a dessert or that second glass of wine. 

But perhaps Ziosk’s biggest benefit to restaurants is the data that’s being captured with each use. 

“We’re capturing a wealth of information, as you can imagine,” said Kevin Mowry, Ziosk’s chief software architect. “We can see information about transactions that were performed — actual sales information. And we capture guest feedback through surveys, as well. So this is hugely powerful, and this is really revolutionary in the industry.”


Runners Up: Buzztime — Overall Score of 252.74 | E la Carte — Overall Score of 250.37

Buzztime

For Buzztime, tabletop technology is an opportunity to improve the dining experience at multiple touchpoints. The brand, which has largely focused on offering games (available on both tabletop tablets and smartphones), has now integrated new functionality to improve ordering accuracy. 

“We’ve always been focused on the entertainment side and now we’re moving into service,” CEO Ram Krishnan said in a press release. “The combination, we think, is a great blend of fun and functionality for the consumer.”

With Buzztime’s new functionality, according to the company’s website, customers can easily customize orders, “whether choosing gluten-free options or simply requesting the dressing on the side.” And when a customer is ready to check out, “they can pay conveniently and securely with the Buzztime tablet.” They can also preset or customize the tip amount and verify their purchases before closing a tab for a quick, hassle-free checkout process.

Buzztime also allows restaurants to customize tablets with their own branding (logo, colors, etc.), highlight their signature drinks and dishes, offer promotions. and conduct customer surveys.

E la Carte

That same customer engagement is also a key component for E la Carte, creators of the Presto Smart Dining System. The system aims to capture more email addresses, engage with guests on restaurant social media channels, and maximize the business’ opportunities to upsell.  “Communicating with your guests when they're in your restaurant is the most valuable moment of truth,” the company shared on its website.

In fact, E la Carte says their operators are “already recognizing more than 10 times higher response rates compared to traditional survey methods, enabling operators to make smarter, data-driven decisions to boost efficiencies and enhance the guest dining experience.”


Honorable Mention: Purple WiFi — Overall Score of 240.56

Purple WiFi

While tabletop technology certainly looks to be the future for larger restaurant chains, the investment might still be too much for smaller brands. Still, technology is something to be embraced, regardless of how big your restaurant brand is. 

With this in mind, we thought that Purple WiFi, which snagged the No. 8 spot on our list, was definitely a brand worth mentioning. 

This U.K.-based tech company offers a free WiFi platform through which businesses can monitor customer shopping patterns and habits, and communicate with these clients through targeted messaging.

So, how exactly does it work? Purple WiFi offers your customers an easy-to-access Wi-Fi network at your location, and in turn, you’re able to “take action when people are in your venue using our marketing tools to target users through email, SMS and customizable splash pages,” Purple WiFi states on its site. Analytics also allow for you to track foot traffic, dwell times, and bounce rates of your physical space.

Check out the Top 10 Guest-Facing and Tabletop Technology products below. 

 

BEST BACK-OFFICE AND HR TECH

By Jaclyn Morgan, FCSI, JM Foodservice Consulting, LLC, Foodable Industry Expert

Cell phone and smartphone ownership isn’t just abundant nowadays — it is ubiquitous. Almost 70 percent of the adult population currently owns a smartphone, and these numbers continue to trend upwards each year. For the past few years, restaurants have been focusing on social media data from the customer perspective, including reviews on Yelp, likes on Facebook, and deliveries through Grubhub.

However, 64 percent of employees say that mobile devices increase their productivity. The best tech companies foresaw the trend and created solutions across business sectors for ever-evolving professionals. They have also heard the cry from restaurant owners and operators looking for cost-saving and efficient solutions to everyday paperwork, from inventory management, taking customer orders, and labor scheduling.

A few tech solutions stand out from the crowd, offering a synthesis between data collection and profitability. The following companies highest overall score (combination of operator sentiment, brand perception, and engagement) based on the metrics provided by Foodable Labs. We’ll dig deeper into the top three companies, but first, check out the top six back-office tech below.
 

Best of the Best of Back-Office Tech

No. 1: HotSchedules — Overall Score of 276.35

Don’t let the name fool you. HotSchedules is an Internet of Things (IoT) Platform that amalgamates all relevant restaurant information, stores it on the cloud, and allows access to analyzed data through a variety of customizable products. The suite of products eliminates mountains of paperwork and creates standard procedures for single or multiple locations.Not to be confused with basic POS or labor software, the HotSchedules line of products generates a symbiosis with all current technology and even retrofits with old technology. Specifically, the Enterprise Back Office product, formerly known as Macromatix, helps control and analyze:

HotSchedules
  • Inventory
  • Workflows
  • Health and Safety checklists
  • Register or cashier reconciliation
  • Loyalty and gift card program management
  • Employee management, including export to current payroll systems
  • Reporting for business intelligence

HotSchedules offers personalized customer support, or accelerators, to assist the transition from paperwork and Excel files to digital logbooks and communications.  HotSchedules University provides either live or on-demand user training to ensure the success of any program rollout.

As a customer, choose to use HotSchedule’s proprietary apps, customize any application, or use third-party apps in conjunction in the way you want them to be used.

Creating seamless integration with solid technical support leaves more room for restaurant management to focus on the day-to-day operations and the customers, taking them off the precipice of the mountain of paperwork and the ground floor of increased service, sales, and profitability.

HotSchedules has solutions for both independent establishments and chain restaurants alike. Mobile applications for operators, management, and staff elevate productivity to a higher level.


No. 2: CrunchTime — Overall Score of 270.33

CrunchTime

CrunchTime offers a full suite of restaurant management software from waste tracking to inventory management to workforce management. The company has grown over the past 20 years and is a SSAE16-compliant company.  For a restaurant, that means the highest standards in data security and integrity. Like HotSchedules, CrunchTime and its multiple platforms also offer seamless integration with current POS, payroll, EDI, and accounting software.

A unique offering includes the KitchenSync food prep station. CrunchTime platforms are paired with the Transact AccuDate XL food safety terminal to track inventory levels and purchasing alerts.  It automates daily prep work based on historical sales and forecasts, prints labels for food safety compliance, and provides recipe instructions.  Additionally, plating instructions, recipe pictures and training videos can be uploaded to maintain kitchen consistency across shifts and multiple locations.

Like its aforementioned sister, CrunchTime can synergize sales and labor data points to create personalized reporting.  If task lists and temperatures are of high-priority, workflows can be streamlined with common SOPs to track pertinent information. CrunchTime also provides education through a Learning Management System (LMS) to ensure training is consistent among all employees that use the applications.

Mobile applications are available and customizable to fit the needs of both small and large chain restaurant operations.


No. 3: Heartland — Overall Score of 269.21

Heartland

The third highest-ranked back-office technology belongs to Heartland, a company that also provides platforms for parking system payments, grocery store analytics, local municipalities, correctional facilities, K-12 schools, and universities.

While not solely focused on restaurants, Heartland offers not just a POS system, but also payment solutions for restaurant business customers. In today’s world of cyberattacks, hacking, and identity theft, securing a payment system that puts clientele at peace of mind should be a priority. Their extensive knowledge base about EMV (Europay, MasterCard, and Visa) chip card technology and secure mobile payments can deliver a safe solution for any establishment looking to stay on the cutting edge.

Founded in 1997, Heartland has continued to offer technology to supplement restaurant gift card programs, loyalty programs, along with basic sales analytics. When the customer is cared for, operators need to give the same consideration to employees.

Payroll processing and electronic employee files are at the core of Heartland’s offering for all business segments. They also offer customization of your HR services, to include assistance with building health benefits programs as well as 401(k) savings options.

This begs the question…

So, What About HR Technology?
If making the jump to a high-tech solution seems daunting, starting with a solid HR technology and basic scheduling solution is the best segway into the next generation of restaurant management. To boil it down:

  • Almost 57 percent of restaurants use manual procedures to schedule employees, including Excel programs and pen and paper.
  • Almost 50 percent of companies are using antiqued HR software.
  • In general, only 20 percent of businesses provide employees access to mobile HR apps.

The best back-office tech mentioned here have HR software and capabilities. For example, HotSchedules started in the late 90s, and its first creation was a terminal-based scheduling program. CrunchTime also has an extensive labor management software called Teamworx.

Other HR tech that is simple and easy to use exists, especially for small and independent establishments.

7shifts
7shifts is a labor management technology product designed with restaurants in mind. The interface is simple and easy to use for novices or experts alike. Best of all, it integrates with your existing POS system to help with scheduling accurately. Staff can submit time off requests and be approved with the click of a button or swipe on a mobile device.
Worried about the cost? Basic service starts as low as $24.99 per month. For the hours saved weekly developing schedules by hand, repayment can happen as easy as in the first month. 

Zip Schedules
Restaurant Technology Magazine rated Zip Schedules with the Editor’s Choice award for labor scheduling solutions. Schedules can be created in minutes in user-friendly formats. Mobile applications are available for employees and managers alike to streamline the scheduling and request-off format.

Not sure? Zip Schedules offers a free trial with support to test out the waters.

Invest in Tech and Save Money
After implementing a tech solution, operators realize bottom-line savings of up to 5 percent or more. The best tech solutions will keep management and operators in the dining room and expediting. While technology can create a symbiosis between people and data, the restaurant business will always be full of human elements and interactions.

Use selected technology as a catalyst for change to help keep serendipity between management and staff.  In other words, use tech to keep servers out of the weeds and to help chefs from 86-ing core dishes. Make the call and create a synergy to elevate and energize your establishment to its true potential.

 

EAT, DRINK, SNAPCHAT: MILLENNIALS AND TECHNOLOGICALLY ENHANCED-DINING

By Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, Drinks Editor

Human beings are communal animals. We naturally seek out companionship and social interaction. The food and drink world is a logical place to find this sense of connection; breaking the proverbial piece of bread brings us together. Of course, as the millennial mindset— community through technology, you might call it — becomes the de facto perspective, the concepts of connection, efficiency, and hospitality need to evolve in order to service the demands of this powerful demographic.

As the first generation for whom technology is a given, not a development, millennials expect a different type of dining experience than previous generations. Technology isn't of the "bells and whistles" variety. It is, or should be, integrated seamlessly into a restaurant's operation, whether fast food, fast casual, or even fine dining. While not every technology works in every situation, there are many ways the industry can create a tech-savvy environment.

Free Wifi

Wi-Fi Matters
Since millennials view technology as a given, not an intrusion, they seek connection through it. Even while dining with others, they want to share the experience on social media and keep in touch with friends during the process. Savvy restaurants have started to offer free Wi-Fi, a service that will likely become a given in the coming years. In fact, numerous studies over the past few years have shown that offering free Wi-Fi influences the dining choices millennials make. McDonald's and Starbucks figured this out a long while back. Other companies like California Pizza Kitchen and Applebee's have also hopped on the band (width) wagon.

App-etizers: Meal Delivery with a Story
Because Gen Yers want authentic experiences and seek to be in control of their experience, they will likely demand new models in meal delivery and ordering. Delivery apps let people order and pay online, streamlining the delivery and takeout process. Umi Kitchen, started by a West Point graduate, former VP of Tumblr, and restaurateur Danny Myer's daughter, has created an app that connects home cooks to those wanting meal delivery with a perspective. Umi vets the cooks, who frequently have ethnic food backgrounds, which appeals to the Gen Y desire for experience and story. Diners can choose from a variety of daily meal selections, place their order, and have it delivered ready to eat. This sort of experiential eating promises to grow exponentially as millennials seek context in all aspects of life.  

McDonalds Kiosk

Kiosks Streamline the Dining Experience
Already implementing vast changes in food quality standards, McDonald's is blazing a trail in how that food is ordered and delivered, as well. On November 19, 2016, CEO Steve Easterbrook announced the rollout of self-serve kiosks and table service at all of its 14,000 U.S. locations. The process has already arrived in major, "trendsetting" markets where diners can customize their order via touch screen, get a digital locator number, and wait for an employee to serve them at their tables. Next year, the company's mobile app, which has over 15 million downloads, will allow people to order and pay in advance.

Another example of the trend is Panera Bread, which has implemented digital self-service kiosks in some of its restaurants. Customers input their order in privacy, at their own speed, and with their own customization, thus giving them full control of their experience and allowing employees to focus on the customer experience.

mobile app

Make It Mobile
Numerous companies, especially fast food chains like Taco Bell, Menchie's, and Auntie Anne's Pretzels, have created mobile apps that can offer everything from loyalty program features to promotions. Mobile apps appeal to the millennial expectation of tech connectivity, as well as being part of a "group." Bottom line: Loyalty programs encourage return visits. And it's worth considering the millennial foodservice workforce as well, since they are supremely versed in all current technological modalities. Tablet POS systems help make front-of-house duties run more smoothly and efficiently, whether for waiters taking orders, check generation, or even perusal of wine lists.

Tablet Cafe

 

Connect with Tech
While millennials may be the ones who drive technological developments in the hospitality industry, many baby boomers appreciate and embrace these advances, according to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the NRA’s Research & Knowledge Group. In the upcoming decades, technology will continue to play a decisive role in our industry. While some people claim that too much tech cuts us off from one another, it also fuels the need for connection. And the transformative ability that food has to bring people together — whether ordering a latte at your local coffee house or sharing a five course meal — transcends even the most breathtaking Instagram post. 

 

About this Guide

Foodable's annual "Restaurant Technology Guide" is an ongoing, interactive guide that updates as the newest trends are analyzed, bringing you the most up-to-date and insightful resource. Foodable Labs analyzed more than 230 restaurant technology companies to compile this report. Last updated January 2017.


 
 

About Foodable Labs

Foodable Labs — powered by the Restaurant Social Media Index (RSMI), which has indexed 21K+ brands and 240K+ foodservice terms for almost a decade — provides global industry insights and one-of-a-kind overviews on chef, operator, and consumer-behavior trends. Our multiple reports and insight centers are focused on key-industry terms and trends driven from the most expansive social data.


 
 

About Foodable Network

Launched in September 2013, Foodable Network is a media organization founded by restaurant industry publisher and producer, Paul Barron. With the largest social media audience and reach in restaurant trade, Foodable reaches chefs, operators and brands nationwide and internationally in Canada and the U.K. through broadcast-quality production, strong editorial content, the Foodable Top 25 rankings, reports and insights, the Foodable Annual Tech Guide and events such as Foodable.io. Visit us at www.FoodableTV.com.