This week, we joined restaurant industry leaders at TechTable 2017 for a day of discussion around the intersection of technology and hospitality and how operators can harness tech to streamline processes and improve diner – and employee – experiences. Here are five key learnings from some of the most compelling conversations.
Restaurants Are Tech Companies
Lazy Bear chef and founder David Barzelay touched on the similarities between eateries and technology organizations, noting, “When you solve problems using new systems, you are creating technology.” The acclaimed Lazy Bear was designed to keep people from getting bored. Systems were put into place to accomplish just that, including providing diners with field notes during dinners, having cooks in the dining room to describe dishes, and inviting diners into the kitchen, among others. “The quality of solutions determines the quality of the restaurant,” Barzelay said. At his restaurant, they are constantly creating highly technical solutions to deliver world-class hospitality.
There’s Power – and Savings – in Numbers
BOKA Restaurant Group founder Kevin Boehm hosted a panel discussing technology solutions that help brick and mortar restaurants grow their revenue base. Participants included Nick Miller of Gather, Krystel Mobayeni of BentoBox, and Adam Price of Homer Logistics. Boehm, whose company includes 17 restaurants, advised the entrepreneurs that when engaging with groups, they should be prepared to negotiate. “[To get the best pricing from vendors], we’re going to leverage as much as we can,” referring to the number of properties under his company’s umbrella.
Use Technology and the Industry’s Methods to Improve Your Restaurant
Josh Patchus and Brett Schulman of the fast-casual eateries CAVA use a number of in-house and out-of-box technology solutions to address opportunities within the company, from maintaining food safety, improving customer wait times, and tracking inventory. Schulman was careful to note, however, “We’re trying to use tech to enhance hospitality – not replace it.” He recommends starting with the problem and not the solution. And be sure, like all good techies do, A/B test those solutions before committing to one.
Employee Communication Is Evolving
There’s a move away e-mail and casual texting to stay in touch with restaurant staffers. Jocelyn Mangan of Snagajob (and formerly of OpenTable) moderated a chat with Seth Harris of HuddleUp and Leslie Ferrier of Momofuku. As hospitality brands grow, communicating with employees needs to be a top priority. Whether creating a proprietary system as Momofuku has or using a service, such as HuddleUp, organizations need to understand how employees want to communicate and choose a solution. “Use technology to eliminate paper and enable more human interaction,” Ferrier advised.
Entrepreneurial Success Isn’t Tied Solely to Enthusiasm
Randi Zuckerberg of Zuckerberg Media urges start-ups to avoid being blinded by their own fervor. “It has to come from a place of passion – but you can’t be so passionate that you are blind about data.” Similar to points raised by the CAVA team, looking at key data points with a discerning eye will serve you well.
Photo credit: Brian Ach.