Last week I attended the 20th annual MURTEC Conference in Las Vegas, where operators from almost 200 multi-unit restaurant groups and chains assembled to compare notes, talk solutions and discuss key trends.
As with all good conferences, there were some pretty interesting statistics sprinkled throughout the presentations. I’m sharing a few here that I think reflect top-of-mind topics for the audience.
Payments: According to new research from Hospitality Technology magazine, 51% of multi-restaurant chains say they will increase IT spend in 2015 relative to 2014, with payments driving a lot of new IT initiatives. 37% said they plan to invest in accepting mobile payments, while 29% will invest in NFC (near field communication) and 29% will spend on tableside payment devices in readiness for the shift in credit card liabilities in October. Given that a recent guide to payments technology included a staggering 151 different mobile wallet solutions, clearly there is no end of choice — or complexity — in the space for restaurateurs.
Loyalty and Apps: TGI Friday’s has over 1 million app downloads, according to the chain’s Senior Director of Loyalty and Relationship Marketing Michelle Malish. Loyalty was another huge driver of conversation at MURTEC, with many restaurant groups and chains pondering whether or not to build their own app as part of a loyalty strategy. Clearly if you have the scale and relevance of a TGI Friday’s, there might be merit in pursuing that path. However, some new research I presented at the conference shows that only 6% of US consumers are “very likely” to download the app of a specific restaurant or restaurant chain, which means your resources might be better focused elsewhere. For instance…
Diner Behavior: From the same soon-to-be-published OpenTable research: 86% of consumers “always” or “frequently” check out restaurant menus online before they dine out, and 59% habitually look at pictures of the restaurant (whether interior, exterior or food). If restaurants spent more time thinking about how to optimize their existing presence for mobile – making their website mobile-responsive, ensuring their presence on aggregator apps visually sells their restaurants and simply keeping their online menus and specials current – that might be a better use of time than burning resources on building an app that few will download.
Guest Expectations and the POS: Per Hospitality Technology magazine, 38% of restaurants say they face a major challenge in that guest expectations are outpacing their own technology developments, up from 33% a year ago. POS companies have a part to play here in enabling the flow of information. During the final panel of the conference, a few operators had a gentle go at them, encouraging them to adopt open architecture, enable API integration and embrace the cloud. When evaluating POS players “We look for someone we can dream with,” as one of the operators put it.
Social Media Management: “An email address is worth 100 times what a follower is worth.” All right, so this one may not be a measured statistic, but keynote speaker and author of Unmarketing and Unselling, Scott Stratten, believes that social media is great for stimulating community and conversation, but less relevant for driving sales and marketing. If you’re on social media, you need to be highly responsive because the speed of your reply almost trumps what you say. If you can’t be timely, it might be better to not be there at all.
All in all, MURTEC proved to be a great opportunity to hear how some of the leading multi-unit restaurant groups and chains are tackling key issues like payments, loyalty, social media, and fulfillment of guest expectations. Good luck tackling these key issues at your restaurant!