Last week at the 2017 Restaurant Technology Summit in Washington, D.C. – the second incarnation of the annual conference sponsored by CohnReznick – the theme was “disrupt, or be disrupted.” Panel after panel at examined how the featured players were shaking things up in the industry.
In the opening panel, “Spotlight on Restaurant Technology Innovators,” attendees got micro-pitches on five cutting-edge companies. Cofounder Prasoon Rungta of emoChili outlined how his company collates online reviews from across platforms into a single, easy-to-navigate dashboard that is searchable by keyword. The company generates weekly reports and monthly analysis of trends – from customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction to the ability to compare to competitors on metrics involving value for money, food quality, and parking options.
Later in the panel, C.J. Babb director of the D.C. region for Rooam (pronounced roam) talked up his service, which allows a guest to open and close their tab on their phone without taking out their credit card, though ordering is still done face-to-face. Founded in D.C., the company now has accounts in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami. And Cherian Thomas, co-founder and CEO of Spotluck, talked up how the company aims to “game-ify dining” and bring “yield management to the restaurant space to increase profits.”
For the second segment of the agenda, Paul McEnany lead a conversation with Jon Carter, head of digital for Snap Kitchen. “We are constantly asking, ‘What problem can we solve for our customers?’” says Carter. “Ultimately, we want to create zero-friction living for them.”
The roundtable, “A Driving Force: Mobile Technology in Today’s Restaurant,” included Scott Jampol, OpenTable’s senior vice president of marketing, who revealed that 55 percent of reservations are made via the mobile app, while half of diners book their reservation for the same day. He was joined by Michael Doneff, chief marketing officer of ThinkFoodGroup, Shyam Rao, founder and CEO of Punchh, and Brandi Scaramella, interactive community manager for Rubio’s Restaurants, who all shared how they’re leveraging mobile marketing to drive foot traffic, increase profits, and ramp up online engagement.
After a break for caffeination and networking, attendees came back for another roundtable, “What’s Cooking? Trends in Operational Technology,” featuring Josh Patchus, chief data scientist for CAVA, Brian Wayne, vice president of customer success (definitely our favorite title of the day) at QSR Automations, and Konstantin Zvereff, CEO of BlueCart.
The program wrapped up with “Maximizing Your POS: Percentage of Sales,” moderated by Cindy McLoughlin, a partner at CohnReznick, and featuring Christian Guidi, controller for Clyde’s Restaurant Group, Justin Rosenberg, founder and partner of Honeygrow, Paul Rubin, chief strategy officer for ParTech, Inc., and Christopher Sebes, president of Heartland Commerce. The pros and cons of kiosks were debated, including a robust discussion that weighed their efficiency against their innate inability to deliver human-level hospitality.
By the time conference goers headed out – to eat dinner, of course! – a lot of ground had been covered. New relationships were forged and new ideas were sparked – and everyone was already looking forward to next year’s conference.