Technology Looms Large

Restaurant Technology

The flood of technological innovation hasn’t made the kind of dent in the restaurant business as it has other enterprises, but Ben Salisbury of the consulting firm Salisbury Creative Group hopes to change that a bit during the two panels he leading at the upcoming VIBE Conference. One panel, called Technology Solutions You Can Use Monday Morning, will gather three marketing and promotion agency reps to discuss how to make technology more useful, while the panel Technology Tools and Tactics for Today (and Tomorrow) brings together three technology service providers for a nuts and bolts discussion about what’s new and how operators can employ them.

VIBE spoke with Salisbury to get the inside scoop on some of the latest technology trends that will be discussed at the conference.

Two panels, two different groups discussing technology - why split them up this way?

There’s so much going on, and as you know restaurant business is rather low tech, so we’re going to address some of the same questions to both panels as a way to discuss only what’s relevant to restaurateurs. For example, we’re going to ask them, now that consumers that are dining and drinking in their establishments are more tech savvy than ever, how are operators keeping pace? We want to get all these agency folks who are experienced with marketing and supporting chain restaurant operators on education and training, how do you use technology to scale that in a big company. Promotions are a very big topic and with technology, better tracking and results analysis of real time data is required to get the most for your dollar.

What’s a particular area that’s important today?

The BYOD phenomenon - bring your own device - will come up on both panels, because most consumers today are walking into restaurants using their smart phones while there. A lot of the current technology out there is customer-facing apps, so we want to talk about a few of them and how they can be used to enhance the customer experience and increase loyalty and engagement with the operator.

Consumers adapt to technology quickly, but operators not so much.

Our “Monday Morning” panel will focus on that dilemma: restaurants are a little behind on technology compared to consumers who dine there, so we’ll look at some of the ways that can be improved, what are the tools being used now, and how to use all that data available now that in-house data systems are more sophisticated, how to employ that data on the food and beverage menus. If I were an operator, the reason I’d come to the agency panel is because they need help implementing technology with promotions including customer-focused, consumer-facing technology.

Your second panel features technology providers - how will this be different?

The “Tech Tool” panel is more meat and potatoes - these folks represent different types of technology companies, and here we’ll be talking about what the current technology tools are, what they can do for your business, how they engage guests, drive sales, cut costs and make your business more efficient. These won’t be sales pitches but more an explanation of how to engage with technology. Both panels, of course, have something to sell, but we have provided a tech room to take a closer look at the tech tools and what they do, so the panel isn’t the place. We’ll be talking about actual tools, how to adapt to these technologies, their costs and barriers. One of the products - Ziosk - is consumer facing, Uncorkd is part guest facing and part internal facing, while Beverage Metrics is all internal. So we’ll discuss how the various pieces work and there may be ways these tools can be used you might not think about; everyone comes to these types of panels thinking they know what’s going on, but at this one, I expect people will walk away saying “I had no idea.”

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