Tech

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

Extend Your Reach with a Loyalty Program

by David Klemt

McDonald's French fries close up in package

It’s increasingly important to stay top of mind with your guests. Now more than ever, that means finding yourself on their screens.

For likely the one-billionth time, allow me to point out something we should all know by now: We’re all on our phones and tablets all the time.

From texts and emails to app notifications and social scrolling, there’s always a reason to check screens.

So, how can operators invade people’s devices? By collecting guest data via a loyalty program.

Fluctuating Support

Not so long ago, industry experts bristled against the mention of rewards and discounts.

Guests, the thought was, had zero interest in signing up for loyalty programs. People would soon frantically seek out “unsubscribe” links after receiving one too many marketing emails.

However, people are quickly thawing, warming to the idea of loyalty programs. Once thought of as too invasive, now marketing experts believe “too intrusive” doesn’t exist.

After all, businesses need to ensure they’re highly visible. Operators must meet guests where they are. Where are they? Their devices.

Rewarding Loyalty

Your staff aren’t the only people engaging with the incentive economy.

Today, it appears that a guest liking your brand isn’t good enough to ensure their loyalty. They want rewards beyond experience, consistency, and delicious food and beverage.

With so many brands competing for your guests’ dollars, you have to stand out to keep them coming back.

Now, there are still industry experts and operators who will tell you to avoid discounting at all costs. Offering a discount, they argue, starts you down the road of devaluing your brand.

Well, the great news is that when creating your own loyalty program, you can offer whatever you see fit. If you fall into the Never Discount camp, none of your rewards have to be discounts.

Free is Better than a Discount

So, let’s remain in the Never Discount realm. What else will encourage guests to sign up for your loyalty program—and actually engage with it?

We can use the loyalty program launched in July by a global fast-food juggernaut as a great example.

Over the summer, McDonald’s launched MyMcDonald’s Rewards. How successful was the launch? More than 12 million people opted into the program.

In exchange for signing up, agreeing to receive alerts, and handing over their data, guests received a free medium French fry.

McDonald’s selected 66 loyalty program members to receive one million MyMcDonald’s Rewards points. One lucky member also received free French fries for life.

Create Your Program

“But David,” I hear some of you arguing, “isn’t free even worse than a discount?”

The short answer is no. A discount can devalue a brand because guests get used to paying less for select items or entire visits. Over time, they perceive the lower price as the standard price. Soon, they’ll wonder when the next discount is coming. You’ll have to either further discount your food and beverage or work harder to re-engage your guests some other way.

If a rewards program is structured correctly, members will have paid for any free item they earn several times over. Most commonly, guests receive points in exchange for dollars spent. They can then exchange those points for a free menu item. This doesn’t devalue the brand, it incentivizes program members to become loyal, repeat guests.

Operators not quite ready to build their own apps can utilize text messages and emails. Of course, the former is the most intrusive (in a good way). Texts can inform members of promotions and encourage them to visit or place an order online. Emails can let members know their current balance and what incentive their close to earning.

Additionally, be generous. Don’t exclude your guests’ favorite items from the program. Why would a loyalty program member remain loyal if they can’t exchange their points for “the good stuff”?

Structure your program correctly and you’ll increase visits per guest and spends per visit. Couple your guest data collection with a platform like SevenRooms and you’ll truly supercharge your revenue.

Image: Brett Jordan on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Modernize Your Scheduling Today

Modernize Your Scheduling Today

by David Klemt

2021 calendar on cell phone

Scheduling platforms and apps modernize restaurant, bar and hotel team management, streamlining and simplifying several processes.

When it comes to improving communications, the benefits of updating and upgrading how you manage scheduling can’t be overstated.

Of course, in our tech-heavy world, several scheduling platforms do more than just inform your employees about their shifts.

Today’s options handle payroll; assign specific tasks to particular team members; help leadership provide feedback; give staff a platform to provide feedback to leadership; and much more.

Staff Retention

Now, we’ve addressed how our industry has been much quicker to embrace new tech innovations over the past couple years.

We’re bringing up the topic of scheduling platforms for a specific reason. We all make mistakes, and we can learn from those mistakes. And we can also learn from others’ mistakes so we can do our best to avoid making them as well.

On today’s episode of the Bar Hacks podcast, Chef Brian Duffy shares a story about a scheduling issue.

During his return appearance, Chef Duffy explains that his 20-year-old daughter provided two months’ notice about days off she needed to her former employer. “Former” is key here.

It’s clear that the hospitality group property at which she once worked either didn’t utilize a scheduling app, didn’t communicate well, or both.

At any rate, Chef Duffy’s daughter received constant phone calls from management during her vacation. Obviously, that would be infuriating.

Even worse, after she quit that job—she had provided two weeks’ notice—this former employer called to ask if she was coming in for “her shifts.” Well, no—she had quit, with notice.

Clearly, there are other issues with that leadership team beyond a lack of clarity in scheduling. However, a powerful, easy-to-use staff management tool could possibly have kept Chef Duffy’s daughter from quitting this job. A powerful platform, for example, like the four below that are mentioned on episode 53 of Bar Hacks.

7shifts

When choosing a scheduling platform, one crucial element is integration. 7shifts integrates with several major POS systems, such Toast, Harbortouch, Heartland, TouchBistro, Micros, Upserve, and Clover.

In addition to scheduling, which is a given feature for all these platforms, 7shifts offers robust features. Leadership can send one-on-one messages to staff or create group chats. The app itself is a timeclock and handles payroll. And more inclusive packages provide operators with labor budgeting, sales forecasting, labor alerts, and even state-based compliance tools.

7Shifts is free for single locations with up to 10 workers. At the Appetizer level, 7shifts costs $17.99 per month, per location, for up to 20 team members. For $39.99 per month, per location, operators with up to 30 staff can take advantage of the Entrée level. The Works is $69.99 per month, per location, and manages an unlimited number of staff.

HotSchedules

One of the key features of HotSchedules is labor forecasting. Per the platform’s website, HotSchedules “labor forecasts are based on activity, historical data, and specific business rules” to reduce costs and increase revenue.

On the leadership side, scheduling is streamlined and simple to use. Managers can approve—or deny—shift requests with a single click. They can also message individual team members or send messages to a single location.

On the team side, staff can give away, swap and pick up shifts via the convenient app. Staff can request time off, and HotSchedules integrates with their Google Calendars. Upon arrival, staff can clock in through the HotSchedules app and track their attendance and pay.

OpenSimSim

At the surface level, it may seem like OpenSimSim isn’t as robust as the company’s competitors. However, it’s powerful and efficient.

One of the best OpenSimSim features is the open shift invite. Using this feature, team members can be invited to apply for an open shift once one becomes available. In addition, staff can set their profiles up to be auto-approved for open shifts.

Of course, OpenSimSim offers features similar to other scheduling platforms. For example, leadership receives real-time open shift, overtime, and late clock-in notifications. Users can also direct message and group chat via the platform.

Schedulefly

Last on this list solely because I organized these platforms alphabetically is Schedulefly. When you look into this platform, you’ll notice immediately that it’s powerful enough to manage concepts with multiple units.

Managers can quickly and easy navigate each unit in their chain to handle scheduling, broadcast messages for individual locations, message specific team members, and more. Is there a shift that needs to be filled at a specific unit? Schedulefly makes it easy to target the appropriate location and get it filled.

Similar to 7shifts, Schedulefly offers pricing based on staff size. There are no contracts, no fees, and each “level” offers all the same features and services:

  • 19 staff or fewer: $30/month
  • 20 to 39 staff: $40/month
  • 40 t0 59 staff: $50/month
  • 60 to 79 staff: $60/month
  • 80 staff or more: Contact Schedulefly for pricing.

It should go without saying that scheduling is crucial. Understaffing, overstaffing, staffing frustrations, failing to listen to staff about scheduling, and not simplifying the process can increase staff turnover.

Outdated approaches to scheduling also leads to significant decreases in revenue.

At its core, scheduling is a form of communication, a vital one. Commit to improving your communication today by upgrading your scheduling. Your leadership team and staff will thank you.

Image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Announces Olo Partnership

SevenRooms Announces Olo Partnership

by David Klemt

Cheeseburgers and French fries in takeout containers on pass

SevenRooms continues to grow and develop innovative partnerships.

The platform’s newest partnership benefits the hospitality industry, operators, and consumers.

In joining forces with Olo, SevenRooms further helps restaurants, bars, and hotels position themselves to succeed in an increasingly digital world.

The Bleeding Edge

Olo, which literally stands for “Online Ordering,” predates the iPhone.

In fact, the company launched before smartphones were more than niche devices.

Upon its inception, Olo’s service consisted mainly of sending mobile coffee orders to restaurant printers via text message.

Like SevenRooms, Olo seeks to stay ahead of the consumer behavior curve:

  • 2005: Olo launches, anticipating coffee drinkers will eagerly embrace mobile ordering.
  • 2008: The company predicts fast-casual restaurants will become faster than fast food.
  • 2012: Olo envisions the redesigning of kitchen restaurants to include pickup windows.
  • 2015: The platform sees the future for foodservice is delivery.

Now, Olo is dedicated to making sure online ordering customers benefit from the industry’s digital transformation.

The Partnership

SevenRooms ensures clients who also use Olo can capture their off-premise customers’ information. That data then creates profiles for those customers automatically.

This partnership leverages SevenRooms CRM and marketing automation integration. Operators will be able to send post-order surveys to off-premise, online ordering customers automatically.

So, operators can learn what is and isn’t working off-premise; elevate the experience of off-premise customers to increase online order frequency; convert those customers to in-person guests; encourage repeat visits; and increase profitability.

Moving forward, SevenRooms and Olo users will get to know their off-premise customers better.

“To meet the ever-evolving needs of our hospitality clients, we’ve continued to seek out strategic partners who help us provide an even more comprehensive solution to operators,” says SevenRooms CEO and founder Joel Montaniel. “Our integration with Olo delivers on our promise of offering a 360-degree platform focused on helping operators build deeper, direct relationships across on- and off-premise experiences. This partnership facilitates better operational efficiency and online data capture, ultimately helping operators optimize the profitability of their delivery and takeout business while strengthening customer relationships. We are excited to welcome Olo to our partner network, and look forward to our continued collaboration to drive better, more streamlined solutions for the industry.”

Learn more about SevenRooms here. Click here to learn more about Olo.

Image: call me hangry 🇫🇷 on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Announces New Partnership

SevenRooms Announces Huge New Partnership

by David Klemt

Handshake emoji neon sign signifying partnership

SevenRooms announces today a major partnership that will change the game for operators in the UK, Australia, and across Europe.

The online reservation platform is entering a multi-year partnership with TheFork.

Fortunately, the hospitality industry, once slow to embrace new technology, is now adopting tech at a rapid pace.

This collaboration between SevenRooms and TheFork represents both a giant leap in tech innovation and support for our industry.

SevenRooms

By now, there should be no question that SevenRooms is among the most powerful tools an operator can wield.

On the surface, SevenRooms is “just” a reservation platform. In reality, the platform offers a full suite of guest engagement and retention tools; automated marketing tools; front- and back-of-house management; direct and third-party delivery management; and much more.

Additionally, the company has long been supportive of the hospitality industry. The founders didn’t just assume their reservation and engagement solutions were effective.

Rather, they spent time in the trenches. They took reservations, checked coats, and hung out with hospitality teams when their shifts were over.

During the pandemic, the platform studied the impact of third-party delivery on operators. To that end, they developed a launched a direct delivery module to help operators protect their bottom lines.

TheFork

Operating in more than 20 countries, TheFork is a TripAdvisor company.

Per TheFork, the company boasts more than 80,000 partner restaurants across the globe. Additionally, TheFork’s app has 28 million downloads and counting, and their site features over 22 million restaurant reviews.

In other words, TheFork enjoys a unique position in terms of connecting guests with restaurants.

The platform features a loyalty program; exclusive deals for guests who make reservations via TheFork; an “insider” feature that connects with guests with trendy and gourmet restaurants and entices them with a special offer; and more.

The Partnership

When one reviews how both platforms work, this partnership is a no-brainer. Going deeper, it appears the companies share similar values and commitment to the industry.

For example, SevenRooms subsidized more than $10 million in licensing fees to help operators during the pandemic. TheFork dedicated nearly $30 million to the industry within the 22 countries in which they operate.

This partnership is culminating in a two-way integration. Customers of SevenRooms will gain access to millions of diners who use TheFork to make reservations. In turn, TheFork now has access to SevenRooms’ marketing and venue management tools.

The result? Operators will be able to more easily and consistently fill their seats and attract new guests. The powerful tools that are at the disposal of SevenRooms customers will help to engage and retain those new guests, converting them to loyal regulars.

Hospitality seems to be steadily entering its Collaboration Era. Operators and platforms are seeking beneficial partnerships, all the while embracing more and more tech that enhances the guest experience and boosts the bottom line.

It will be exciting to see where we go from here.

Image: Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

6 Takeaways from HD Expo 2021

6 Takeaways from HD Expo 2021

by David Klemt

Lobby of Crockfords inside Resorts World Las Vegas

Crockfords lobby inside Resorts World Las Vegas

This year’s Hospitality Design Expo in Las Vegas reveals an industry set to undergo seismic shifts that will reverberate for years to come.

While the pandemic certainly plays a role in transforming the industry, it’s not the only factor.

Here are six major takeaways from HD Expo 2021.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Hospitality—indeed, the world—is in the midst of reckoning with inequality. This is both long overdue and nowhere near complete.

Truthfully, we’re just at the start of the process. There’s much more work to be done.

However, many global hospitality brands and their partners are taking steps to be more equitable. The focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is holistic, spanning C-suites to fronts and backs of house.

Refreshingly, this commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t limited to hotel and restaurant chains. Smaller, independent operators are also up to the challenge of eschewing long-standing inequalities and toxic norms.

We have a lot more work to do but change is in the air.

Sustainability

Another widespread hospitality industry focus is sustainability. Again, global brands and equipment manufacturers to independent operators and small design firms are seeking to operate more sustainably.

Hotels, resorts, and restaurants are committing to design and operations that lessen their impact on local areas and the globe. Equipment manufacturers are doing the same.

While a smaller show this year, the HD Expo floor featured several exhibitors proudly pursuing LEED and other environmentally-friendly certifications.

Certainly, the hospitality industry has been focusing on sustainability, “going green,” and responsible operations for a few years. From what we saw at HD Expo 2021, the desire for sustainability and environmental design is only going to grow stronger.

Return to Nature

Intriguingly, many designers and boutique operators are changing how we think about resorts. Airstreams and intimate cabins that encourage guests to recharge and reconnect with nature are on the rise.

For example, Getaway intends their guests to disconnect and immerse themselves in nature. Ideally, a guest won’t even consider bringing electronic devices and trying to work or spend any time on their phone.

A quick exploration of the Getaway website makes the brand’s mission clear. Slides have titles such as “Getaway from Nashville” and “Getaway from Chicago.” The navigation bar lists Getaway locations under the heading “Escape From.”

Conversely, there’s Yonder. This resort in Escalante (more locations are on the way) also wants guests to disconnect. However, they do offer WiFi and aren’t about escaping from the world.

Rather, Yonder encourages guests to engage with one another. The Escalante property features a communal clubhouse and robust food and beverage program. A massive hot tub spans the length of the pool. There are no showers in the Airstreams or cabins—guests commune with nature when they bathe.

Of course, more traditional hotels and resorts, along with restaurants and bars, are also embracing the outdoors.

In terms of this design change, one can certainly draw a straight, well-defined line from the pandemic to outdoor spaces. Leveraging outdoor areas continues to be one of the most common solutions for navigating and surviving mandates and public health recommendations.

Nearly every panel discussion at HD Expo 2021 at least made a passing mention of maximizing the usage of outdoor spaces. Clearly, this isn’t a design trend—this change is here to stay.

Guest Tech

Increasingly, hotels and some restaurant brands are going out of their way to allow guests to control their stays through technology.

Want to order room service? A few clicks of your phone make that possible. Not completely comfortable? Adjust temperatures, lights, drapes and shades digitally.

From check-in to check-out, a guest can essentially control every aspect of their visit via the little device in their pocket.

This is, in part, a response to the pandemic. It’s also about adapting quickly to shifting guest needs and desires.

Hotel, resort, restaurant and bar, and entertainment venue guests are skewing ever younger. And each successive generation is ever-more technologically savvy.

If something can be handled via phone or tablet quickly and conveniently, a significant percentage of guests feel it should be handled that way.

Additionally, smart increases in tech implementation speak to another guest expectation: If they’re accustomed to having something from home, they want it at hotels and resorts as well.

In fact, Lee Shuman, vice president of construction and design for Peachtree Hotel Group, says guest expectation is impacting hotel pools. According to Shuman, pools “seem to be falling to the wayside” in favor of larger, better-equipped health centers.

Of course, this another change partly fueled by the pandemic. More and more people are focusing on their health. People are working out more and expect hotels and resorts to provide them with convenient ways to work out when away from home.

After all, a hotel is intended to be a home away from home.

Local Culture

As trends, locality and hyper-locality are growing stronger and stronger. Interestingly, a focus on local culture is impacting all areas of hospitality, not just F&B.

Several hotel, resort and design groups spoke to the importance of embracing locals in as many ways as possible.

Hotel and resort owners and groups are retaining the services of local designers. In turn, those designers influence exterior architecture, interior design, artwork, and a specific project’s color theory.

Who better, after all, to ensure a property fits within the landscape and speaks to locals? It’s only logical to work with local designers and artists—they’re immersed fully in a location and and its culture.

Local artists and artisans also imbue a property with its personality. They also help to attract local support.

We expect more hotel and resort groups to focus on differentiating one property in their portfolio from the next. Indeed, there are groups with portfolios wherein every property is unique.

F&B Focus

It’s fair to say that, traditionally speaking, many hotel groups treated their F&B programming almost as an afterthought. In fact, some groups made it clear F&B was unimportant to them.

That’s changing.

Locality and hyper-locality are permeating F&B programs, and hotels, guests and locals are better for it.

It’s no longer uncommon to find local food items, beer, spirits, wine, and soft drinks on hotel restaurant and room service menus.

The pursuit of the local is very real and very effective. Locals are encouraged by some hotel operators to work, relax, play, dine and eat at their properties. In fact, many groups seek to make their hotels and resorts a part of everyday life for locals.

Interestingly, hyper-locality isn’t new to today’s restaurant operator. We expect this “trend” to gain a stronger foothold throughout the hospitality industry.

Image: Crockfords / Resorts World Las Vegas

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Vax Passports? Here Come Vax Kiosks

Vaccine Passports? Here Come Vaccine Kiosks

by David Klemt

Vaccine passport on phone sitting on map and passport

Some airports and hotels are already leveraging kiosk technology to confirm a person’s vaccine status.

It’s only a matter of time before we see this technology expand to hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

The question is, what will the confirmation process look like?

CLEAR Example

One of the simplest ways to imagine how these kiosks will work is via CLEAR.

The company uses a person’s unique biometrics to “transform your eyes and face into a touchless ID.” CLEAR can also use fingerprints.

Currently, you can find the service in more than 50 airports, stadiums and other locations. A person walks up to a CLEAR kiosk, it scans their eyes, face and/or fingerprints, and their identity is confirmed.

The company’s website shows a message explaining that CLEAR users can link their vaccine status to their account. At the moment, this appears to be one of the most seamless integrations in terms of tech and an individual’s identity.

One real-world example of how CLEAR works to prove vaccination status comes from the Las Vegas Raiders. To attend home games without wearing masks, people will have to download the free CLEAR mobile app. Using the Health Pass feature, they’ll be able to prove their vaccination status to go maskless at Allegiant Stadium.

Privacy Concerns

So, how else could these kiosks work? First, it’s incredibly unlikely that every major market will install such kiosks. The exception may be airports, of course.

However, some hotel and large restaurant groups may decide to use them, likely in cities like New York that already have vaccine passport apps.

In theory, using a platform like Google API, businesses could install kiosks that scan an app via QR code or other method to confirm a person’s vaccination status.

One glaring issue comes down to privacy.

Loyal CLEAR users trust the company or they wouldn’t use it. However, who would program apps that confirm vaccination status for kiosks? And who would own the data? How secure can that very personal data be?

Millions of people already believe being asked to wear a mask is an infringement on their freedoms. Millions also believe being asked to confirm their vaccination status is a violation of their privacy.

So, how will they respond to vaccine passports at hotels, restaurants, entertainment venues, stadiums, etc.? Whatever side of the debate you’re on, it’s clear that the divide between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is widening by the day.

As has been the case since 2020, lawmakers are punting on taking responsibility for how mandates and “recommendations” are enforced by businesses. As has been the case for well over a year, it’s the guest-facing workers who will bear the brunt of hostile encounters over mask and vaccine rules.

Image: Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How SevenRooms Improves Operations

How SevenRooms Improves Operations

by David Klemt

Reviewing and analyzing customer data on a laptop computer

It’s true that SevenRooms is a reservation management platform. However, it’s so much more powerful than that.

Simply put, if the platform wasn’t simple to use and integrate with other systems, they wouldn’t be celebrating their tenth year.

A recent interview via Clubhouse highlights why now, more than ever, operators need to seriously consider SevenRooms.

Background

Guy Clarke, founder of Sizzle Dining, spoke with two key SevenRooms team members in a casual but informative Clubhouse chat.

Allison Page, SevenRooms co-founder and Chief Product Officer, and Marybeth Sheppard, senior vice president of marketing, fielded Clarke’s questions.

Interestingly, Page admits SevenRooms took five to seven years to really fine-tune operations. In fact, she says that the team didn’t quite know exactly what they were offering for the first year or two.

Now, the “reservation” platform has truly hit their stride. The company doesn’t just manage reservations, it provides powerful solutions: a full suite of operational tools; table management; and guest experience and retention capabilities.

Of course, many tech platforms claim to help operators. However, SevenRooms is now enjoying a decade in business.

Their longevity is, in part, due to their approach to hospitality. As Page tells it, the founders didn’t just enter the industry believing they could “fix it” with tech.

Plenty of tech folks have identified problems in hospitality, boasted about their “common sense” solution, and exited after finding out how challenging the business is.

Instead, the SevenRooms team spent time in the trenches. According to Page, they took reservations, checked coats, and more. They spent time with hospitality workers after hours and got to know them.

What’s with that Name?

I’ve written several articles about SevenRooms. However, I’ve never addressed why the founders chose that name.

When asked by Clarke during the Clubhouse chat, Page provided the answer.

Turns out, the name is a loose nod to Graydon Carter’s “Seven Rooms Theory.” The theory speaks to navigating social status in New York City. In short, it posits that the NYC social scene consists of seven consecutive “rooms,” each with a secret door. Find the secret door, move to the next room.

Of course, SevenRooms isn’t about exclusivity. Instead, SevenRooms is helping operators reach the seventh “room,” which is a lasting relationship with a guest. The six previous rooms are a journey toward understanding that guest and making them loyal by delivering incredible guest experiences.

Why SevenRooms Works

If this seems like a shameless plug for SevenRooms, well, it sort of is. They didn’t pay me, Doug or KRG Hospitality to promote the platform; we just like what SevenRooms can do for operators.

In an industry that has until recently been slow to innovate when it comes to tech, the platform has been improving restaurant and hotel operations for years.

According to Page, SevenRooms has a simple operating philosophy that drives the company: “Make small big, make big small.” SevenRooms is driven to help small, independent operations punch well above their weight class. The platform gives independent operators the same capabilities as their large chain counterparts.

Conversely, SevenRooms gives enterprise operators an effective way to deliver the engaging experiences that independents offer their guests.

However, there are other reasons SevenRooms is so worthy of consideration: simplicity.

SevenRooms is all about collecting data. Of course, data does no good if an operator doesn’t know what to do with it. If they had to analyze and leverage it on their own, they’d need to employ data scientists and an entire marketing team.

Well, SevenRooms employs those people instead so operators don’t need to. An operator doesn’t need to be a data scientist to use the information they collect through the platform. Marketing campaigns are automated and engaging, and require little effort from the end user.

Reduce Costs, Increase Revenue

As Sheppard explains, SevenRooms manages and, more importantly, helps maximize a restaurant’s floor.

Looking to increase turns? Done. Want every seat to generate revenue? Smart seating makes that possible. According to Sheppard, SevenRooms’ auto-assign seating functionality is worthy of operators’ trust. Additionally, the platform’s CRM, table management and marketing tools help staff upsell guests.

Speaking of automated functions, Sheppard provides insight into SevenRooms auto-tagging. The platform assigns automated tags that make it simple for staff to understand the guests they’re serving. Some examples are:

  • Burger lover
  • Red wine lover
  • Big tipper
  • Loves expensive wine
  • No-showed twice

Just those five examples show how SevenRooms helps operators and their teams maximize the guest experience to generate revenue. So, how does the platform reduce costs?

First, investing in SevenRooms reduces an operator’s overall tech stack investment. It integrates with around 50 POS systems and offers several tools (modules), meaning an operator doesn’t need to purchase several platforms that may not integrate with one another.

Second, the reservation and table management tools streamline an operator’s business. When team members are focusing on revenue-generating tasks, the floor is being sat more efficiently, and guests are being wowed, costs are driven down and revenue is driven up.

Then, there’s the “hidden” benefit. As Sheppard says, hospitality is a passion-driven industry. Unfortunately, there are many “non-passion” tasks that must be accomplished for operators to make money and keep their doors open.

Those tasks can take a toll, leading to an operator to fall out of love with the industry and their own concept. Well, SevenRooms takes several of those tasks (sifting through data, creating marketing campaigns, figuring out how to maximize the floor, etc.) and automates them.

Therefore, operators have more time to program menus, mentor team members, forge relationships with guests by touching tables, and more.

To request a SevenRooms demo, click here.

Image: John Schnobrich on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Restaurant Tech Map Illustrates Innovation

Restaurant Tech Map Illustrates Innovation

by David Klemt

TechTable - Culterra Capital Restaurant Tech Map sponsored by Back-of-House

The hospitality industry’s embracing of new technologies is experiencing rapid and welcome acceleration in less than two years.

In comparison to the restaurant technology map by TechTable and Better Food Ventures from 2019, there are two entirely new categories: Shared / Ghost Kitchens, and Food Safety / Quality.

More than a dozen platforms on the 2021 map from TechTable and Culterra Capital (sponsored by Back-of-House) now fall into those two categories.

Changing Landscape

It’s a sign of current industry trends and what will matter to guests moving forward that ghost kitchens and food safety are emerging as separate tech segments.

Obviously, the pandemic didn’t create the ghost kitchen category. However, it did fuel a meteoric rise in delivery and takeout. In turn, ghost kitchens are more prevalent than ever.

After all, a former Uber executive Travis Kalanick owns CloudKitchens and Applebee’s is testing a ghost kitchen pilot program.

What was once the domain of murky, unpermitted virtual brands is now its own successful business model.

However, today’s guest isn’t concerned solely with convenience. In general, guests now take their health and safety more seriously since the pandemic

Tech platforms that can ensure the food guests are consuming is safe will ease some concerns.

Increase in Platforms

Again, in comparison to just two years ago, the acceleration in new tech for the industry is astounding. It’s also long overdue.

As a whole, the hospitality industry has been surprisingly slow to take on new tech. Although, it’s fair to say that there wasn’t much new to adopt until somewhat recently.

Now that there’s more to try out, operators seem keen to embrace tech that can help them streamline operations; improve inventory monitoring and ordering; hire employees and manage teams; engage with and market to customers intelligently; and much more.

Even better, the above map doesn’t include all of the available platforms. That’s excellent news as it means operators have an increasing number of choices to help improve their business in every category of operation.

For example, Barventory isn’t listed within the Purchasing / Inventory / Ordering segment. The platform makes taking inventory, gaining a real-time inventory snapshot, and efficient ordering a breeze. Barventory also features the world’s first live keg scale.

It’s challenging to find positives from the past 14 to 15 months. However, one good thing may be the leaps in technology our industry is experiencing.

If they continue, these innovations may make it easier for operators and their employees to recover.

A concept’s tech stack is crucial to operations and will only grow more important moving forward. Whether opting for a full KRG Hospitality package or the Momentum program, we can help operators make informed tech selections.

Map by TechTable and Culterra Capital, sponsored by Back-of-House

Featured image: Pepper by SoftBank Robotics (photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash)

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

McDonald’s Facing Privacy Lawsuit

McDonald’s Facing Privacy Lawsuit

by David Klemt

Statue of McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald waving

A McDonald’s customer in Illinois, a state with some of the strictest privacy laws in America, is suing the fast food giant.

The largest fast food chain in the world is testing artificial intelligence in select drive-thrus throughout the Prairie State.

In theory, the technology will become a valuable operational element and enhance the guest journey.

However, one plaintiff in Illinois says McDonald’s is violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA).

AI-powered Drive-Thrus

Two years ago, McDonald’s made two significant technology company acquisitions.

In March of 2019, the fast food company purchased Dynamic Yield for a reported $300 million. Six months later, McDonald’s acquired Apprente.

The former acquisition brought “decision tech” to the QSR, using its digital billboards and ordering kiosks to make recommendations to guests depending on preferences, item popularity, and time of day.

The latter purchase is intended to bring automated voice ordering to McDonald’s drive-thrus through artificial intelligence.

Per CNBC, McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski says AI is delivering an 85-percent order accuracy rate in its test stores. Currently, AI is taking 80 percent of the orders at ten Illinois McDonald’s locations.

Clearly, McDonald’s is investing in tech the company believes will enhance and speed up the guest drive-thru experience.

Lawsuit

Shannon Carpenter’s class-action lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s “violated BIPA because it failed to obtain proper consent prior to collecting and disseminating Plaintiff’s and the other class members’ voiceprint biometrics who interacted with its AI voice assistant at its Illinois locations.”

Carpenter filed the lawsuit after visiting a McDonald’s location last year in Lombardi, Illinois. The location is one of ten test stores.

The complaint also says, “McDonald’s AI voice assistant goes beyond real-time voiceprint analysis and recognition and also incorporates “machine-learning routines” that utilize voiceprint recognition in combination with license plate scanning technology to identify unique customers regardless of which location they visit and present them certain menu items based on their past
visits.”

In short, the plaintiff is alleging that McDonald’s is violating Illinois’ BIPA law by:

  • collecting biometric information (voiceprints in this case specifically) without consent;
  • not making the company’s data retention policies public;
  • failing to declare how long customer biometric data will be stored; and
  • not starting how the company intends to use the collected biometric data.

So far, McDonald’s has not released a statement addressing Carpenter’s lawsuit.

Customer Data

How much is one’s privacy worth? The price of a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder combo?

Guest data and user privacy is a hot-button topic. For example, Apple made big news this year with the rollout of iOS 14.5 and its accompanying privacy features.

Carpenter’s lawsuit against McDonald’s carries implications for how businesses can collect and use guest data.

However, it also highlights an element of operating a restaurant in our tech-driven world.

It has been suggested by some business experts that the adage “cash is king” should be replaced by “data is king.” And yes, customer/guest data is incredibly valuable.

But so is reassuring guests that their data is safe with a given business. Operators, therefore, should be transparent about what guest data they’re collecting and what they intend to do with it.

And, as the McDonald’s lawsuit makes abundantly clear, there are laws governing the collection and handling of guest data. Operators should ensure that they and their partners are handling guest data legally, ethically, and responsibly.

Image: Vijaya narasimha from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Prepare for a Luxe Life Summer

Prepare for a Luxe Life Summer

by David Klemt

BMW M cars parked next to private airplane

When we think of restaurant and bar tech and platforms, we tend to think of POS and inventory solutions. But what about guest-facing services?

We’re all familiar with online ordering, reservation, and review platforms. What I’m talking about is guest-facing tech that focuses on the luxury lifestyle.

For those living the high-roller life, every convenience is at the tap of an icon, including private jets, helicopters, yachts, and luxury and exotic vehicles.

What does any of this have to do with hospitality? Anyone who serves or courts high-net-worth guests needs to understand how they live and what they expect. This is even more important as summer approaches, vaccine rates improve, and pandemic guidelines relax.

Additionally, there are partnerships and marketing opportunities for operators and luxury lifestyle platforms.

Flight

Flying private isn’t solely the domain of those who can afford to shell out several million dollars for the plane of their dreams.

The proliferation of the sharing economy means people can hop on a charter flight for a fraction of the cost.

Blade

Do you hate waiting in traffic, even if you’re not the one doing the driving? Wish you could just jump into the air and leapfrog a sea of cars keeping you from, say, an airport? With Blade, you can summon a helicopter and make your flight in minutes.

JSX

Formerly known as JetSuite X, JSX serves the western region of America and Texas. If the thought of flying commercial is unbearable at the moment, JSX makes it easy to jump onto a 30-seat set via private terminals for non-stop flights.

NetJets

We’ve all been there: We want our own private jet but it’s just slightly out of reach at the moment (by many millions of dollars). NetJet gives people fractional ownership of private jets and provides top-notch, personal service. The company’s fleet includes everything from six-passenger Embraer Phenom 300 jets to the high-speed, long-range 14-passenger Bombardier Global 7500.

Wheels Up

This company offers three levels of membership: Connect, Core and Business. Wheels Up is more than a transportation app—they’re a lifestyle brand. The company offers membership perks such as exclusive events and concierge services, which should be of particular interest to hospitality operators.

Float

There are a couple of tropes that come along with boat ownership. One is that the two happiest days for a boat owner are the day they take possession and the day they get rid of it.

And then there’s the classic “definition” of a boat: “A hole in the water into which one throws money.”

However, much like one can dial up a helicopter or grab a seat on a Gulfstream, people can now charter a yacht for a fraction of boat ownership. Choose the yacht that meets your yachtin’ needs, board it, and crank the yacht rock.

Float

Any boat that someone uses for cruising, leisure, pleasure or racing is a yacht. So, the yacht life isn’t exclusively for ocean-going vessels. Float lets customers “rent the lake life,” connecting boat owners with people who want to rent boats on lakes. One of the best parts of Float is that it doesn’t, as far as we can tell, cost thousands of dollars per day to rent a boat via the platform.

GetMyBoat

This is a huge platform. We found more than 12,100 boats available in America, more than 4,400 in Australia, and well over 28,000 in Europe on GetMyBoat. Given the size of the platform, there’s a large swing when it comes to rental costs, which makes sense. For instance, there was a 21-inch Sea Hunt Ultra 210 for $44/hour (four-hour minimum) in Virginia and a 40-foot VanDutch Ultra Luxury Yacht for $4,000 for eight hours.

YachtLife

Serving an array of locations with a rather impressive portfolio of boats, YachtLife offers three membership levels catering to various needs. Beyond living the yacht life, the company provides perks and specials from their partners. This platform should be of particular interest to our Florida and Eastern Caribbean clients.

Four Wheels

So, someone grabs a helicopter to a private hangar, looking forward to lounging on the their rental yacht.

Sure, they could take a limo to the marina, or they could use the car service their plane or boat membership offers.

But they could also decide to drive themselves. Obviously, not just any car rental will do.

Turo

There are various Porsches and Mercedes listings on Turo that cost well under $200 a day. But for those looking for something exotic, a Lamborghini Huracan is around $1,000 per day, and an Aventador is around $1,400. You can’t show up to the marina behind the wheel of just anything, right?

Image: Jakob Rosen on Unsplash

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