Sunday, March 15, 2015

SXSW is Restaurant ‘Digital Casual’ The Next Big Thing?

From time to time we invite guest authors and today our blog comes courtesy of my friend Rick Zambrano.
Fast-advancing technology is changing the relationship between apps, computers, software and the restaurateur. And that dynamic is evolving and accelerating each and every day. Many restaurateurs are getting left behind. How will the restaurant experience change as we come to terms with the rise of the machines? This is a recent LinkedIn Pulse blog I wrote and posted.

We knew the machines were taking over. And it wasn't when we finished watching the movie “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” it was surely before then. It was much earlier when we knew our businesses had to be on this search engine called “Google.” Or perhaps it was when we realized that without our keyless remote, we wouldn't be able to get into our car to drive off to work. Without a computer running the elevators in our office building, we might be forced to walk up several flights of stairs to get to our desk, cubicle, or office.

Perhaps then we realized the machines had taken over.

Behind the machines is the software that governs them. The advent of technology allows consumers to order up entrees from their favorite restaurant by pushing a few buttons on their smartphone. It started this way, and now one can order a chef’s meal, raw or cooked, or even the chef herself, at the touch of a button. The biggest competitor to the local taqueria in my neighborhood is my smartphone and my tablet, not the Chipotle just a few blocks away. (I wrote about this trend in my 2015 predictions in an industry blog).

Mobile devices are typically where 50% diners and I find a myriad of choices for our very unplanned, not-so-thought out dinner occasions.

Flex-format and no-format restaurants

Technology is revolutionizing the way of we make decisions about our dining choices, whether we like it or not. It’s also helping managers redeploy labor at chain restaurants by giving customers the ability to order, pay the check and tip without the assistance of a waiter or an order-taker. It’s helping customers get the most out of their lunch hour, by allowing them place a standing order ahead of their trip out from the office and then picking their lunch up at the precise time that they’ve ordered. Pundits are calling for fast-food robots to cook and deliver our meals to us— the same pundits who undoubtedly clamor for a “real person” to hear their gripes about food quality or service when they dial up the customer care department of their more often-frequented chain restaurant.

With the ushering of technology for the foodservice industry, the buckets we've created to define categories of restaurants will also change. If we call a restaurant “fast casual,” then why can’t we call a restaurant that optimizes technology to make the dining experience totally wonderful and awesome, “Digital Casual”? After all, we've beaten up casual dining chains for being “Casual Dining.” On LinkedIn, I see users posting news articles about “fast casual consumers.” Would this odd statement be defined like this?
Greeter: “What would you like today?”

Customer: “Well, I’m a fast-casual consumer so I’ll take the gourmet burger with gouda cheese and arugula.”
I’m certain this particular customer would just want fresh food.

Ghosts in the machine 

This year, we can walk into a restaurant, order up from a kiosk and pick up our order from a counter with no interaction with a human at all. We’ll be able to walk into a restaurant that has table service on one side of it, and no table-service at all on the other side of it. The concept of “servers” will soon disappear because technology will allow all of the restaurant’s employees to be servers when needed Employees that tend to customers during their meal might one day be called "meal hosts."

This year, through geo-fencing, we’ll be able to automatically “check in” to a restaurant. In addition, we will be able to request our standing order without an aid of any restaurant worker. We’ll automatically be awarded our loyalty program points. We will, at the touch of a button, pay for our order, without tying up the busy waiter or manager. In these restaurants that will leverage and optimize technology, will we become “digital-casual” consumers then?

The day of the machines, or more precisely, the programs running the machine, has arrived. And we’ll use these programs to leverage technology to create a new type of restaurant altogether. Restaurant customers will interact directly with the restaurant’s computers, leaving behind a whole cadre of technology middlemen.
Then these restaurant customers will do it again the day after, and the week after that, because it will work for them. It will make their restaurant experience the best it can be. The computer won't grow old; the computer will remember their name, have their order waiting for them and award them their loyalty points without the need for customers to take anything out of their purses or wallets.

Rethinking the compatibility of digital and the restaurant experience

This blog isn't about replacing hard-working restaurant workers with machines. This blog is about rethinking the digital restaurant experience in all of its different dimensions. The restaurant competition has already begun with using technology to lure customers away. The mega caterers that use technology and drivers today to keep entire companies from going out to lunch at their local restaurants, the apps that let you order up food experiences in your home, and the future kiosks that may take your commissary-delivered order as you enter the subway and have it at your door when you get home to your house or apartment — these competitors won’t think twice about leveraging technology for their own growth.

Too contact Rick directly Email Rick Zambrano at  specializes in outsourced business development. We can help you identify, quantify and qualify additional food retail segment opportunities or a brand leveraging marketing integration strategy.  Foodservice Solutions of Tacoma WA is the global leader in the Grocerant niche and has been since 1991 Contact:

1 comment:

  1. I am Rabbi Sardar
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