Tech

by krghospitality krghospitality No Comments

2023: Year of the POS Systems?

2023: Year of the POS Systems?

by David Klemt

SpotOn POS system on laptop

Image from SpotOn press release

According to SpotOn, the industry could be in for a tech revolution next year as independent operators pursue more powerful POS solutions.

The results of a survey conducted by the cloud-based POS platform are rather revealing. In an effort to better understand where the industry is heading, SpotOn surveyed 300 independent and small-chain restaurant operators.

Both full-service and limited-service (LSR) concept operators participated in this SpotOn survey. Intended to identify the challenges operators face currently, the results reveal much more.

Below, the picture these survey results paint for the industry.

Legacy vs. Innovation

This isn’t the first time I’ve stated the following: Our industry hasn’t been the fastest to implement new technology.

However, we did appear to turn that around in 2021. Now, heading into 2023, our industry may be pursuing cutting-edge tech solutions even more fervently. Today’s guest expects more tech, and your team likely wants access to more modern tech that makes their jobs easier.

Per SpotOn’s survey, 81 percent of independent operators still use so-called “legacy” POS systems. These are “traditional” systems from companies that have been around for quite some time.

It’s not difficult to understand why the vast majority of independent operators continue using legacy systems:

  • Investing in a new platform requires expenditures of money and time.
  • Introducing a new POS platform requires staff training.
  • Staff need to grow adept at using the new system.
  • It can be daunting to research the available platforms and implementing change.

So, independent and small-chain operators have a choice to make: Stick with the familiar or invest in the future. Change can not only be intimidating, it can be expensive.

However, it seems that most operators are ready to throw comfort to the wayside and embrace innovation.

State-of-the-art Benefits

Should the SpotOn survey prove to be accurate snapshot of the industry, 75 percent of operators will implement new tech next year. According to SpotOn, this is largely in response to growing labor challenges, such as scheduling and retention.

The restaurant, bar, nightclub, and food truck platform found that operators are spending as much as 20 hours per week on administrative tasks. State-of-the-art POS systems can slash those hours by:

  • streamlining operations;
  • making scheduling simpler;
  • calculating tips and payout for payroll; and
  • managing overtime, an increasingly common task.

More modern POS platforms can automate labor management tasks, saving operators time, money, and frustration. Automation and streamlining give operators something invaluable: time.

In particular, innovative and helpful tech solutions provide an operator with time to focus on growing their business. When weighing whether to keep a familiar but less feature-rich POS system or invest in a modern platform that seamlessly integrates many solutions, ask yourself a couple important questions:

  • What’s my time worth?
  • What am I focusing on every day?
  • Am I growing my business or stagnating?
  • Is my current POS system helping or hindering my team?
  • Does my POS system streamline and automate any tasks?

Image: SpotOn

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Your Guests are Likely Ready for More Tech

Your Guests are Likely Ready for More Tech

by David Klemt

 

Raspberry Pi motherboard

After the past few years of innovation and implementation in our industry, guests are probably ready to use even more technology.

Driven in large part by operator adaptation to ever-changing restrictions in 2020 and 2021, guest-facing tech is far more prevalent than ever. This is particularly true in the quick-service restaurant space.

Of course, tech has certainly become a crucial operational component in the full-service space as well. However, operators many FSR operators find themselves walking a fine between tech innovation and providing personalized service.

Restaurants Canada addresses QSR and FSR tech implementation in their 2022 Foodservice Facts report. Click here for your own copy of the report.

QSR vs FSR Implementation

One benefit of updating a given operation’s tech stack is automation. After all, more tasks handled automatically via tech solutions means a reduction in labor costs.

In theory, removing mundane tasks from front-of-house team members should equate to guests receiving more personalized service. Equally as impactful: Many guests would rather have more control over their visit in the names of convenience and speed.

A couple of examples are placing orders and paying via tablet or other table-side device. For some guests, this is more convenient than the traditional method.

As stated above, QSRs have been quick to embrace and implement tech innovations. And according to a Restaurants Canada survey, nearly three-quarters of QSR operators will wade deeper into tech waters within the next two years. Almost half—49 percent—of QSR survey respondents “probably will” increase their usage of technology by April 2024; a quarter “definitely will.”

On the FSR side, operators are a bit more cautious in their approach to their tech stacks. Of these survey respondents, 37 percent will probably adopt more tech within the next two years, while 15 percent say they “definitely will” do so.

Per Restaurants Canada, the three main concerns of operators relating to implementing more tech are:

  • cost;
  • guest acceptance; and
  • people being able to relate to the equipment (which to me seems directly tied to guest acceptance).

However, FSR operators have also indicated another concern: the perception from guests that tech innovations are leading to a loss of personalized service. So, individual operators must decide not just what tech solutions to embrace but how they may impact the guest experience in negative ways.

Guest Expectations

When Restaurants Canada looked into tech in the restaurant space, they didn’t just focus on operators. The restaurant industry advocacy organization also surveyed consumers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 18 to 34 age group appears to be the most eager to embrace new tech in restaurants. However, they’re not that far ahead of the 35 to 54 group. Interestingly, the 55-plus demographic is less tech-resistant in at least one area than one may assume.

Let’s take a look at Restaurant Canada’s survey results, broken down by tech solution.

  • Order and pay via tablet at FSR: 18 to 34 (55%), 35 to 54 (54%), 55+ (41%)
  • Place an order for food that’s prepared by automated method, either robots or other systems: 18 to 34 (27%), 35 to 54 (17%), 55+ (11%)
  • Order food that’s delivered on-premises by an automated system or a robot: 18 to 34 (32%), 35 to 54 (28%), 55+ (18%)
  • Place an order through a ghost or virtual kitchen: 18 to 34 (34%), 35 to 54 (26%), 55+ (13%)
  • Order food that’s then delivered off-premises via robot or self-driving car: 18 to 34 (36%), 35 to 54 (29%), 55+ (19%)

Considerations

Looking at the above data, most guests are already comfortable placing orders and paying through a tablet. Interestingly, the age group people think of as most tech-averse seem to be open to the idea of robots preparing and delivering their orders.

The keys to implementing tech solutions are deceptively simple: initial costs, subscription costs, maintenance fees, ease of use by staff, and ease of use by guests.

With inflation driving costs up, operators are likely most concerned with what it will cost to add to or upgrade their tech stacks. However, there may be a significant reduction in labor costs that justifies the initial costs. Additionally, some solutions can be leased rather than purchased up front.

But the comfort levels of guests must also receive careful consideration. If a solution is going to alienate or drive away a significant portion of guests, it’s likely not worth the time and cost of implementing it.

Your guests likely want more tech in your restaurant, but it has to be the right tech. Solutions need to deliver convenience and speed without failing to deliver on hospitality.

Image: Harrison Broadbent on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Date Night Desires and Dealbreakers

Date Night Desires and Dealbreakers

by David Klemt

Reserved seats at a bar

Focusing on date night, guest experience and retention tech platform SevenRooms is sharing their latest data-driven report.

Their “Date Night Diner Report” is another successful collaboration with YouGov. Previous reports from this partnership include:

One of the reasons we at KRG Hospitality appreciate and recommend SevenRooms is their dedication to data. The platform’s commitment to sharing the data they collect to the benefit of operators is impressive.

“A resurgence of the American date night is here, and these date night diners are flipping the script on what that experience should look and feel like,” says Allison Page, co-founder and chief product officer at SevenRooms.

So, operators who want to succeed with date night should review this new report. In fact, all operators would be wise to read this report. After all, it addresses reservations, waitlists, walk-ins, and much more.

Released today, this brand-new report can be downloaded here. Read the press release here.

Date Night Details

A lot has changed over the past two-plus years. What hasn’t changed are the two most popular date nights in the US: Friday and Saturday.

Both Friday and Saturday night are preferred by 26 percent of the 763 survey respondents who go on dates. In total, SevenRooms and YouGov surveyed 1,153 individuals.

Generally speaking, these dates are return visits. People who go on dates tend to make reservations at restaurants they’ve dined at previously.

However, 46 percent of such guests are open to reserving a table at a restaurant they haven’t visited before. And speaking of those tables reservations, 53 percent are for two people.

Looking at two major populations, tables for two are the most popular reservations. In New York, they account for 50 percent of reservations. That number increases to 56 percent in Los Angeles.

Interestingly, however, is this bit of date: 53 percent of Americans don’t make reservations for date night. Rather, they’re walk-in guests, meaning they’ll likely become waitlist guests.

Date Night Desires

So, now operators know that the majority of today’s date-night reservations are for two. That doesn’t mean setting aside two-tops and side-by-side seats at the bar is enough for success.

No, there are also guest expectations to consider. SevenRooms identifies the following as the top date-night desires:

  1. A complimentary cocktail or dessert. (33 percent)
  2. Ability to earn extra rewards (24 percent), highlighting the value of loyalty programs.
  3. Incentives that encourage repeat date-night visits. (23 percent)

Furthermore, personalization continues to be a key factor in the dining decision. One-third of guests consider the ability to personalize their dining experience more important than factors such as menu variety or receiving their order quickly.

Date Night Dealbreakers

Of course, if there are desires there are also dealbreakers.

According to SevenRooms, the following are the dealbreakers operators must avoid:

  1. People on a date receiving their meals at different times. In this case, more than ten to 15 minutes apart. (45 percent)
  2. The restaurant being so loud the guests on their date can’t hold a conversation. (43 percent)
  3. A restaurant not having the menu items the guests were looking forward to ordering. (31 percent)
  4. Being sat too close to another table. (31 percent)
  5. Sitting next to a table speaking “too loudly.” (26 percent)
  6. The restaurant being so crowded that a guest can’t find their date. (24 percent)

How important is it to avoid these dealbreakers? Well, the survey respondents say they won’t return to a restaurant if they experience any of them.

To read the full report, click here. And to learn more about SevenRooms, listen to Bar Hacks episode 24, featuring SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel.

Image: Dmitri Nesteruk on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

iPourIt Releases Fourth Annual Pour Report

iPourIt Releases Fourth Annual Pour Report

by David Klemt

Black and white beer taps

Self-serve beverage platform iPourIt’s informative fourth annual Pour Report identifies their top beer and wine pours from 2021.

iPourIt is a pioneer in the self-serve space, enhancing the guest experience and boosting revenue. However, their annual reports are another key reason operators should consider this platform.

Unlike other industry platforms, iPourIt doesn’t limit their resources to clients. Nor do they place resources like their annual Pour Report behind a pay wall. So, this is a transparent company that clearly views their relationships with clients as partnerships.

You can check out their resources for yourself by following this link. To download a copy of the 2021 Annual Pour Report, click here.

Below you’ll find key datapoints from the latest iPourIt report. I encourage you to download and review the report in its entirety.

Key Demographic Information

When it comes to men and women using iPourIt self-serve systems, men are respsonsible for 64 percent of total ounces poured.

On average, men served themselves 6.4 ounces per pour and spent $14.21 on iPourIt per visit. For men, the top pours were IPA, Lager, Cider, Hefeweizen, and Sour.

Conversely, women served themselves nearly 11 million ounces via iPourIt systems. That’s 36 percent of total ounces poured.

On average, women served themselves 5.3 ounces per pour and spent $11.95 per visit. For women, the top pours were Cider, IPA, Sour, Lager, and Hefeweizen.

Interestingly, the top pour for both men and women was Michelob Ultra.

Key Beer Takeaways

The 2021 Pour Report analyzes data from more than 300 iPourIt systems, over 8,800 taps, and 49 million total ounces of beer and wine poured.

In total, patrons consumed nearly 14,600 total products. Further, the data above represents 1.9 million guests served 3.1 million pints. Compellingly, that’s $26.2 million in revenue generated by iPourIt systems.

In terms of iPourIt systems and patrons, cider claimed the number two slot for the top 15 poured beer styles. Perhaps unsurprisingly, IPA claims the top spot. In fact, iPourIt systems served more than 10 million ounces of IPA.

As far as beer styles that are growing in popularity, three styles are on the rise. These climbers are Belgian, Cream Ale, and fruit beer. Conversely, Lager, Red Ale, and Witbier slipped down the list. Interestingly, Witbier slid four slots on iPourIt’s top 15 beer styles list. For the first time since iPourIt has been releasing reports, Seltzer made it onto the list, claiming the 11 spot.

Another interesting bit of data concerns consumer preferences. IPA may be the beer style seeing the most pours but domestic Lagers and light Ales are the top-selling products across iPourIt systems. The platforms interprets this as consumers trying small samples of IPA but going with Lagers and Ales for full serves.

Top Beer Pours by Category

Helpfully, iPourIt breaks down their Pour Report into several categories. So, let’s take a look at the top five from several of their lists.

As for the top products poured overall, Michelob Ultra claims the top spot. In descending order, it’s followed by Bud Light, Golden Road Mango Cart, Ace Pineapple Cider, and Modelo Especial.

For domestic pours, numbers one and two are the same as above. However, Coors Light, Miller Lite, and Pabst Blue Ribbon. The top five import products are Modelo Especial, Delirium Tremens, Rekorderlig Strawberry-Lime, Stella Artois, and Dos Equis Lager Especial.

Switching gears to craft and microbrew, Mango Cart claims the number one spot. Numbers two through five are Space Dust, 805, Kona Big Wave, and Big Storm Oak & Stone Snowbird Pilsner.

Of course, the report goes much deeper than just those four categories. There’s also the top 25 IPAs, and the top 15 Lagers, Ciders, Hefeweizens, Sours, Stouts, Blonde Ales, Pilsners, and Pale Ales.

New for the annual Pour Report are the top 15 fruit beers and Seltzers.

Key Wine Takeaways

Before we proceed, iPourIt systems aren’t limited to beer and wine. If it’s a beverage without pulp or sediment intended to be poured cold, iPourIt can handle it.

So, cold brew coffee, kombucha, sodas…these are all revenue-generating serves to pour alongside beer and wine.

Now, onto the 2021 report. The key wine takeaway focuses on sparkling wine. In short, sparking wines have proven popular with iPourIt patrons. So, the platform suggests using their systems to offer guests build-your-own Mimosas, as well as promoting self-serve as an enhancement to brunch.

Addressing the top-performing wines for iPourIt systems, the top five overall in descending order are:

  1. Boca Barrel Boca Frizzante
  2. Starborough Sauvignon Blanc
  3. Carletto Prosecco (up two spots)
  4. Stemmari Pinot Grigio
  5. Archer Roose Bubbly

Boca Frizzante is a “Prosecco-style” white wine sparkler. Archer Roose Bubbly is also a Prosecco-style white. An actual Prosecco climbed the top 10 to reach spot number three. Essentially, three Proseccos are among the top five most-poured wine products for iPourIt patrons.

Interestingly, the top five are all white wines. In fact, there are only two reds among the top ten, both of them Cabernet Sauvignons.

Image: Josh Olalde on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Self-serve Beverage Brands to Know

5 Self-serve Beverage Brands to Know

by David Klemt

Neon beer mug sign

If you’re an operator who wants to leverage the popularity of self-serve beverages, these are the brands you should consider.

There are several reasons to invest in self-serve beverage solutions:

  • Reducing costs
  • Reduction in waste
  • Guest convenience
  • Guest experience
  • System customization
  • Real-time system management and reports
  • Security

Truthfully, had I been told ten years ago that guests would want to serve themselves beer, wine, and other drinks, I would have raised an eyebrow. It’s possible, sure, but I would’ve been skeptical.

Well, it turns out that I would’ve been wrong. Indeed, today’s guest seems to enjoy pouring their own drinks from self-serve systems.

From convenience to control over their experience, these platforms are proving popular with consumers. An appealing factor appears to be the ability to sample a range of beverages to discover new favorites. And, of course, they can do so without having to purchase full drinks or asking a bartender or server for a sample.

So, below are some of the brands in the self-serve beverage world that operators need to know and consider.

Operator Benefits

In terms of P&L, your bottom line will thank you for embracing self-serve solutions.

First, the popularity of these systems increases sales. Guests can sample an array of drinks easily, choose a favorite or two, and serve themselves at their convenience. Additionally, guests tend to view self-serve systems in a positive light due to perceived value.

Second, an impressive self-serve beverage wall can be a sight to behold. There are venues with 100 self-serve taps and screens, which is an impressive sight. There are also all manner of designs not dependent on a wall. One great example is the rotating self-serve beer system at the Famous Foods Center Bar inside Resort World Las Vegas.

In other words, self-serve beverage systems help concepts stand out among competitors.

Third, self-serve systems allow operators to streamline operations and reduce costs. For example, labor costs can be reduced, as can waste.

And fourth, these solutions can lead to improvements in the guest experience. Not having to wait in line and being able to engage more with front-of-house staff aids in guest perception.

iPourIt

According to the brand itself, iPourIt installed the world’s very first beer wall. Since then, the platform has worked tirelessly to improve their solutions.

One way they’ve improved involves the security and usability of their system. As you’ll see with most self-serve brands that pour alcohol, guests are locked out of these systems without RFID access.

IPourIt offers several types of RFID solutions, from bracelets to fobs. Of course, other systems use similar tech. However, iPourIt prides themselves in offering touch-free RFID access and eschewing the need to leave cards in slots when pouring.

Another benefit is that as long as the beverage isn’t meant to be poured hot or doesn’t have pulp/sediment, iPourIt can handle it.

PourMyBeer

This company is iPourIt’s main rival. When you review how they can improve an operators’s bottom line, it’s not hard to see why.

PourMyBeer claims some impressive stats:

  • 45 percent sales increase
  • 50 percent increase in profits
  • 20 percent reduction to labor costs
  • Less than three percent waste

Like other systems, PourMyBeer can help operators leverage wall space. In addition, a single PourMyBeer screen can control four taps, so a wall doesn’t haven’t to be overloaded with screens.

Impressively, this platform also boasts the most POS integrations among the self-serve systems. Obviously, this is beneficial to the vast array of operators.

Table Tap

For operators looking for both a pioneer in the self-serve space, Table Tap may be the perfect partner. In particular, the use of “underage cards” by underage guests to access non-alcohol drinks is a nice feature. So, children up to early college-age students can get in on the fun.

Standing out from other platforms, Table Tap offers wall systems and table-mounted systems. Truly, offering a self-serve wall and a number of tables with the same tech is impressive.

In fact, if I were to install both solutions I would consider the tables a self-service take on VIP seating. And, I’d charge accordingly. Just something operators may want to consider.

Another cool feature relates to Table Tap’s software. While not the most mind-blowing functionality, guests can control an operator’s sound system via the TableTab ordering platform. Better yet, if an operator charges fees to select songs on their jukebox, TabelTab adds them to guest tabs.

To learn more about Table Tap, give episode 22 of Bar Hacks a listen.

Drink Command

“We do everything self pour, and more,” proclaims the Drink Command website.

Is an operator looking for a killer self-pour wall? Done. Table-mounted taps? Check. What about a self-serve tower, self-serve mobile kegerator, or a heavy-duty, mobile, self-serve counter? Drink Command has all three.

In other words, Drink Command makes it easy for operators to get creative and implement a range of self-pour solutions. Additionally, with mobile solutions, operators who want to expand into catering, pop-ups, and special events can do so easily.

For a list of other benefits—including foam-free beer pours, advertising interstitials, and consumption limits—click here.

Napa Technology

Makers of the TapStation, Napa Technology promises a boost to the guest experience. In part, this is because guests don’t have to wait in long lines at the bar.

Additionally, as stated prior, today’s guest enjoys using self-serve beverage systems.

Unlike other platforms, the Napa Technology TapStation doesn’t rely on wall installations. Instead, TapStation dispensers are available in two- and four-keg systems. These stations can be placed anywhere on the floor rather than a wall.

The TapStation can serve beer, wine, kombucha, and cold-brew coffee, ensuring it’s as versatile as the systems above.

Image: Brad on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Hotels, Guest Data and Guest Expectations

Hotels, Guest Data and Guest Expectations: A Chat with SevenRooms

Fountains outside Bellagio Las Vegas

We sit down with Austen Asadorian, vice president of sales at SevenRooms, to chat about pent-up demand for travel.

People are eager to get back out there and hotels, of course, play a crucial role in their travel plans. However, we’re not engaging with the same guests we were pre-pandemic.

No, today’s guest demands more from the hotels and resorts they select. And a key to delivering on guest demands is collecting guest data.

But while operators know they’re supposed to be collecting guest data, there’s some uncertainty about what to actually do with it. Enter: SevenRooms.

More accurately, meet Austen Asadorian of SevenRooms. Not only can he address meeting guest demands through tech, he can address how to use guest data responsibly and effectively.

Hi Austen, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role at SevenRooms?

Thanks, David! My name is Austen Asadorian and I’m the Vice President of Sales at SevenRooms. I first started my career in hospitality early in high school, getting a job at a local restaurant in New Jersey, learning everything from protein fabrication to catering and dealing with daily customers, even managing events. I continued working in hospitality through college, while going to the Culinary Institute of America for a degree in hospitality management, and ultimately, landed at Hillstone Restaurant Group where I ran back of house operations as well as the company’s Manager Training Program. Before joining SevenRooms, I worked as Peloton’s Director of Sales, leading their go-to-market strategy for retail growth and expansion from 2014-2017.

Today, I support SevenRooms’ global expansion efforts to accelerate our goal of being the best-in-class solution for hospitality operators around the world. Having previous experience in the hospitality industry, I joined SevenRooms because I was hyper aware of the pain points in the industry surrounding technology and the need for better guest management after having lived it day-to-day for several years. More importantly, I believe in SevenRooms’ vision and have a true passion for helping hospitality businesses, big and small, drive revenue, and create loyal guests for life.

Let’s talk hotels. What does the hotel industry look like two years after (or into) the Coronavirus pandemic?

When the pandemic struck, travel came to a complete halt and hotel occupancy in the US fell from 70% in March 2019 to less than 25% in March 2020—rooms were empty. Now, as the world is back to what we can consider a new “normal,” we’re seeing an extreme surge in travel and hotels are busier than ever.

However, what guests expect from hotels experience-wise has changed and they demand more. They’re making up for lost time and they want to make it count. Coming out of the pandemic, hotel operators are taking a harder look at their entire tech stack. It’s no longer optional to have a tech stack that is fully integrated from top to bottom across their operations—it’s a must-have—and technology providers are adapting to meet those needs. Additionally, operators have put a strong emphasis on the importance of ownership over their guest data. Both trends have positioned SevenRooms incredibly well within the hotel sector, as this has been our business philosophy from day one.

How can hotel operators and managers live up to these high expectations?

The simple answer is by taking advantage of technology solutions into their everyday practices and processes. These tech solutions can be anything from a QR code for mobile order and pay, allowing guests to order food and drink from anywhere on the property without ever needing a server to approach them, to an integrated customer relationship management (CRM) platform that speaks to and pulls data from their F&B CRM, easily sharing that information across teams at the hotel. For example, passing information along to a guest services team to ensure that in-room amenities don’t include nuts if a guest has a peanut allergy.

Operators and managers should also make sure they’re utilizing loyalty programs. According to a recent SevenRooms survey of American consumers, 44% say that loyalty programs play a part in their hotel choice and there are certain incentives that will bring them back.

For example, some want loyalty points to enjoy on property restaurants and bars, whereas others want a personal greeting when they check in, or a complimentary glass of champagne waiting for them when they get to their room.

Technology and loyalty programs both play into an exceptional experience and it’s important for operators to use both to create the total package.

You mentioned collecting guest data. Can you tell us a little bit more about why that is so important?

When we talk about data and hotels, we’re talking about using it to power a one-of-a-kind unique experience. We don’t mean taking or selling personal information, and that’s an important distinction.

The data we’re collecting for operators centers around a guest’s profile—who they are and what they like. This can be anything from their dietary preferences to their favorite table in the hotel restaurant’s dining room, to what dessert they order most often when they visit.

By having this data, operators can build a direct relationship with these guests and, in turn, build an incredible experience that keeps them coming back. For example, if a guest stays at a specific hotel on their vacation and takes full advantage of the pool cabanas, the data collected on those visits can then be used to retarget them with a special marketing promotion or offer to visit their local hotel property for a staycation, complete with a discount on a cabana day rental.

Creating these unique, personalized experiences not only increases revenue for operators, but also drives loyalty, as a loyal guest is more important than a one-time guest.

About Austen

Austen Asadorian is the Vice President of Sales at SevenRooms, where he is tasked with supporting SevenRooms’ global expansion efforts and accelerating the company’s goal of being the best-in-class solution for hospitality operators globally. Prior to joining SevenRooms, Austen was Peloton’s Director of Sales, leading the company’s go-to-market strategy for retail growth and expansion. He started his career at Hillstone Restaurant Group where he cut his teeth learning how to run efficient and profitable restaurants at scale. Austen was ultimately promoted into an executive role where he oversaw the company’s Manager in Training Program and Back of House Operations. Austen graduated from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

Image: Antonio Janeski

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Here Come the NFT Restaurants…

Here Come the NFT Restaurants…

by David Klemt

Blue and white NFT concept

It was inevitable, really, that after seeing cryptocurrency nightclubs we’d eventually see non-fungible-token-focused venues.

Not too long, in fact, a crypto nightclub set up shot in an ultra-lounge inside a Las Vegas casino. Members had access to a VIP section inside the venue provided they had minimum amounts of certain coins.

Bottles were popped, Instagram models made appearances, and the crypto contingent were given the VIP treatment.

Other such venues are in operation. However, the “new thing” leveraging the proliferation of the blockchain is the NFT restaurant.

Interestingly, two such restaurants are set to open in the US in two major markets. One is New York City, the other Los Angeles.

What’s an NFT?

Okay, bear with me here. I’m not an NFT expert, nor do I own an NFT. So, I’ll do my best to make this as simple as possible.

First off, the acronym NFT stands for “non-fungible token.”

Second, an NFT is a digital asset—quite often artwork—bought and sold online. Quite commonly, these assets are purchased with cryptocurrency. In fact, many sellers won’t accept any other form of payment for an NFT.

Their ownership is recorded, just like cryptocurrency, on the blockchain. It’s important to know that the purchase of an NFT doesn’t necessarily come with licensing rights, but that’s another issue entirely. So, yes, there are people who “own” an NFT but don’t actually own the rights to do much with it.

For now, what’s important to know is that NFTs are exclusive, unique digital assets. Oh, and the market (industry?), as of 2021, was worth a reported $41 billion. Not entirely surprising when one considers that a single NFT once sold for almost $92 million.

What’s an NFT Restaurant?

It is, perhaps, more accurate to refer to these hospitality venues as NFT clubs. Yes, there’s a restaurant component, but the main draw is a membership.

In New York City, for one example, the NFT is the membership. The planned venue is Flyfish Club by VCR Group, and it’s billed as “the world’s first member’s only private dining club.”

What does a Flyfish NFT membership get you? Well, the space isn’t open yet. However, the following benefits are expected:

  • Unlimited access to a 10,000-square-foot dining room.
  • Exclusive culinary, social, and cultural experiences.
  • An “iconic, New York City location” for the dining room, cocktail lounge, omakase room, and outdoor area.

It’s rumored that—dependent on crypto exchange rates, of course—the Flyfish membership will cost around $13,000.

On the other side of the country is another NFT membership. This concept comes from SHŌ Group and is slated to debut in 2023 on top of the Salesforce Transit Center.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any pricing information available (publicly) just yet for SHŌ Club. However, three tiers of membership have been revealed:

  • Earth: The lowest tier.
  • Water: The “core” membership.
  • Fire: Offers “ownership-like benefits.”

Per SHŌ, these memberships are not only verifiable via the blockchain, members will be able to sell or transfer their ownership of a membership.

If you’re curious about costs and a full breakdown of SHŌ Club benefits, you can sign up for notifications here.

Niche Concepts

Honestly, what else can we categorize these venues as besides “niche”? While both venues’ operations would likely be familiar to any hospitality professional, the NFT element certainly designates them as highly specialized.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Niche” isn’t inherently negative. In fact, identifying and servicing an underserved niche can be incredibly lucrative for any entrepreneur.

Indeed, the locations of Flyfish and SHŌ Club are telling. NYC is often labeled the finance capital of the world. And, of course, San Francisco is home to Silicon Valley, the tech capital of the world.

Obviously, many who work in finance and tech live in NYC and San Francisco. So, it makes sense that they’d be interested in these memberships and, as importantly, can afford them.

Clearly, VCR and SHŌ are targeting a group with a shared niche interest, and they’re doing so with upscale venues and experiences. Should these concepts come to life and their experiences live up to member expectations, they’ll have hit a homerun.

As an operator, you may not be interested in targeting the cryptocurrency or NFT crowd. However, the ubiquity of subscriptions in our lives may motivate you to consider a membership program.

If so, remember to offer value, avoid alienating non-members, and offer benefits authentic to the business.

Image: Riki32 from Pixabay

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Tech Shows Up in a Big Way at NRA Show

Tech Shows Up in a Big Way at 2022 National Restaurant Association Show

by David Klemt

NCR Aloha NRA Show booth

The number of tech platforms and solutions at the 2022 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago was a sight to behold.

Once seemingly technology averse, our industry is awash in platform integrations, apps, and smart devices.

Drive-thru signs are reading license plates and collecting data. Digital menu signs are implementing facial recognition software. Automation is taking on more and more tasks.

Amazingly, the digital paint on the innovations we’re seeing isn’t even dry yet. While some developments may have taken years to come to market, it feels like they’re only one or two years “old.”

Here to Stay

People are still talking about a “return to normal” when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic. To some, that means going back to their 2019 habits and lifestyles.

Well, that’s not going to happen in the restaurant, bar, or lodging spaces.

Delivery? Here to stay. Contactless payment? Not going anywhere. QR and digital menus? Commonplace at this point.

And contactless pickup? NRA Show 2022 attendees exploring the North Building encountered multiple pickup platforms.

To state the obvious, delivery is expensive. Combine inflation and rising gas prices with third-party delivery platform fuel surcharges and it’s only getting pricier.

Clearly, contactless pickup is becoming a more appealing solution for operators and their customers.

On the one hand, operators who invest in smart, contactless pickup lockers can avoid the exorbitant costs they incur from third-delivery companies. And on the other hand, customers know they can save money by picking up their orders themselves. Moreover, they know they can do so safely with contactless pickup.

Operators can now choose from an array of smart locker setups to leverage customer demand for safe, convenient takeout.

Your New Marketing Partner

Remember when people were blown away by QR code menus? Well, those are already old news.

As an aside, the fine-dining and luxury categories have been over QR codes for quite some time. However, they’re probably not going to be interested in the latest menu innovation. No, they’re much more eager to return to traditional, tactile, luxurious physical menus.

Other categories, though, will likely be interested in smart digital menus. As this tech gets smarter—perhaps terrifyingly so—your menu will be a supercharged sales associate.

There are digital menus coming to market that can recognize an operators guests…and then attempt to upsell them. The more a guest visits a venue with smart signs, the more the platform learns about them and their preferences. From there, the signs can attempt to sell them on a promotion like an LTO item.

Not long ago at all we learned that texting a consumer is a powerful way to market to them. Well, now we’re going to have the opportunity to sell them in a direct, interactive way straight from our menus.

Oh, and if this isn’t impressive enough, there are digital sign platforms capable of displaying surge prices. In the blink of an eye an operator will be able to leverage this type of pricing and revenue generation.

More Powerful POS

There were no shortage of powerful POS systems at the 2022 NRA Show. If anything, there are almost too many options out there for operators to consider.

However, we don’t think this is a bad problem to have. In fact, tech stack selection is one of KRG Hospitality’s key services.

Now, I’m not saying operators need to chase the newest, shiniest POS on the market. If what an operator has is working smoothly and they’re getting the most of their POS every day, there’s no reason to invest in a completely new platform.

But along with POS developments come powerful integrations. Case in point, Lunchbox. In simple terms, Lunchbox is an online ordering, marketing, loyalty, and guest subscription platform.

Lunchbox 2022 NRA Show booth display

Recently revamped, this fun brand (one of the coolest booths at the show, if not the coolest) boasts an average increase in same-store sales of 52 percent. Additionally, Lunchbox customers (per the company) experience an average of 42 percent month-over-month revenue growth.

As impressive is the fact that this platform integrates with several top POS systems, including Toast, Oracle’s Micros, NCR’s Aloha, and Revel.

What a time, eh?

Photos taken by and property of author

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Dining Room Tech on the Rise

Dining Room Tech on the Rise

by David Klemt

Printed circuit board with gold details

After years of restaurant technology adoption moving at a glacial pace, the industry now appears to be embracing innovations at light speed.

In fact, in just two short years some in the industry think it may be time to slow down. New tech can be exciting but jumping on every “innovation” is expensive, time consuming, and inefficient.

However, slowing down doesn’t equate to hitting the pause button.

Dining room tech was a topic of discussion at the 2022 Restaurant Leadership Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. The two speakers agree that our industry needs to ease off the tech throttle a bit.

However, they also feel that tech innovations in the restaurant space will continue at a faster rate than they did pre-pandemic.

Session host Raymond Howard, a co-founder of Ziosk, interviewed Chris DeFrain and Hernan Mujica about dining room tech. DeFrain is a CPA at Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, which operators 21 Red Robin franchises throughout Pennsylvania. Mujica is CIO for Texas Roadhouse.

Red Robin

Industry professionals and consumers alike should be familiar with Ziosk. After all, Red Robin has been a client with tech company since August, 2012.

Anyone who has visited a Red Robin has certainly interacted with a Ziosk terminal.

According to DeFrain, there are some interesting consumer behaviors taking place in Red Robin dining rooms. When it comes to tech, guests appear satisfied to place orders for appetizers and desserts via Ziosk terminals.

As DeFrain sees it, the guest would rather not wait for a server for ordering those types of food items. However, guests do seem to prefer ordering entrees from a server.

That’s a positive in DeFrain’s opinion, as he believes that ordering must remain the domain of servers. While he contends that the tech-based ordering process needs streamlining, DeFrain doesn’t appear interested in taking it out of servers’ hands completely.

This makes sense; the server as an integral element of the guest experience. How can a casual dining restaurant build guest loyalty and deliver a memorable guest experience without an engaging front-of-house team?

Of course, dining room tech should do more than accept orders, summon a server, and offer tableside payments. Today, data is king. Powerful platforms collect as much useful data as possible.

To that end, DeFrain appreciates that Ziosk provides data Red Robin leadership teams can share with staff. For example, a server can be shown how much they’re making in tips during their shift.

Finally, DeFrain says that guest usage of Ziosk terminals is improving feedback and comments.

Texas Roadhouse

In comparison to Red Robin, Texas Roadhouse took longer to sign on with Ziosk. In part, interestingly, this was due to the redesign of the terminal itself.

Turns out, Texas Roadhouse waited for a Ziosk terminal that took up less space and looked better on the chain’s tables.

Per Mujica (and any Texas Roadhouse guest), the in-person experience is core to the brand. Therefore, dining room tech must be an enhancement, not a detriment.

Like Red Robin, the chain has no interest in adopting tech that replaces FoH staff.

Another consideration regarding dining room tech should be important to all operators: The tech must be user friendly. According to Mujica, restaurant guests are happy to embrace tech innovations—if it’s easy to use.

So, operators must be careful and deliberate when choosing their tech stack. Generally speaking, native tech users (Gen Z) will likely be much quicker to learn how to use a particular technology than a Baby Boomer or even Gen X counterpart.

As such, operators must know their guests in order to adopt tech that enhances rather than alienates.

Another reason Texas Roadhouse chose Ziosk, per Mujica, comes down to mobile pay. In short, the chain didn’t like the mobile pay guest experience.

In terms of the future, Mujica predicts that handheld, tableside ordering is the future of dining room tech.

Takeaway

Like Mujica says, operators have now seen what tech innovations can do for them. In short, there’s no turning back.

And I agree with Mujica and DeFrain: it’s likely (and necessary) that tech development will slow a bit moving forward. Honestly, we all need room to breathe, consider the innovations available currently, and decide what works best for a particular business.

Likewise, I agree that tech can’t be allowed to alter the service model. Technology shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for staff.

Interestingly, restaurateur David Chang addressed this very subject during a 2022 RLC conversation. In his opinion, tech won’t replace restaurant roles, it will streamline them. At most, said Chang, tech will replace small, repetitive tasks, such as the physical flipping of a burger.

In closing, when deciding on the tech stack, operators should consider the following: ease of use for guests, ease of use for staff, streamlining of operations, and cost.

In this space, tech should never be embraced simply because it’s shiny and new. Not only is that costly in terms of investment, it can cost guest loyalty and visit frequency.

Image: Vishnu Mohanan on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Leadership Facepalm: Don’t Do This

Leadership Facepalm: Don’t Do This

by David Klemt

Close-up shot of person texting on phone in a restaurant

Here’s a hot take on the employer-employee dynamic: Don’t text staff at 3:00 in the morning demanding they come in on their day off.

In fact, let’s compress this piece of advice. Don’t text staff at 3:00 in the morning.

Really, I shouldn’t have to explain the myriad reasons that doing so isn’t acceptable. However, a post on Reddit shows that this topic needs addressing.

Are You Serious?

Yes, I’m using a Reddit post as an example of what not to do. And yes, I’m going to assume the post is legitimate for the purposes of education.

Owners, operators, and members of leadership teams need to lead. Micromanaging, assuming staff is at their beck and call, and domineering behavior only lead to high turnover.

A high staff churn rate is costly, and not just financially. Yes, it costs thousands of dollars to replace a single member of staff. However, immediate financial costs shouldn’t be the only concern.

Churning through staff also damages a restaurant, bar, hotel, or owner’s reputation. Should they become known as a bad employer—word gets around quickly in this industry—and eventually an operator won’t be able to hire rock star talent.

Over time, they’ll only draw in workers that chase away their guests. After that, the operator will be closing the doors.

“You Need to Be a Team Player”

Interestingly, the Reddit post that’s inspiring this article isn’t brand new. The post in question is about six months old.

But these days, with the shift in the employee-employer dynamic that’s taking place, stories of “epic” or “savage” quitting garner attention.

Again, there are myriad reasons people are drawn to these stories. Rather than read through those, let’s take a look at this quitting story.

A bartender took to Reddit (again, I’m assuming this is a fact) to share texts from his (former) manager. The timestamp on the first text? 2:59 in the morning.

“I need you to come in from 11a-10p today,” starts the text. The reason? Only one bartender is on the schedule for an event that day.

In response, the bartender says, “No thank you,” stating it’s their day off. And then the manager makes a demand using a term that gets thrown around far too much when some people in a position of authority don’t get the response they want (in my opinion).

The bartender is told they need to be a “team player,” and that “it isn’t all about you.” On a positive note, the manager does then say “please” and asks the bartender to come in.

Putting their cards on the table, the bartender says they’ve had a few drinks and don’t want to work an eleven-hour shift with a hangover. Personally, I don’t think the manager was due that explanation but okay.

This doesn’t sit well with the manager, who now attempts to police the bartender’s personal time. According to the texts, the bartender needs “to stay ready for work.” This is apparently because “getting too drunk is not a good look if you can’t stay prepared.”

“Fed Up with You”

After a few more texts back and forth, the manager fast-tracks this situation’s escalation. The bartender is told that they’re going to talk about the bartender’s “attitude” when they “come in Sunday.”

Well, it’s highly unlikely that conversation ever took place. According to screengrabs of the texts, the bartender replies, “No we’re not.” They then proceed to remind the manager that “dozens” of places are hiring bartenders. They’re happy to go work for one of those businesses.

Unsurprisingly, the manager attempts to backpedal. They say that the bartender is making a rash decision “because you’re drunk” and will regret it the next day. That approach doesn’t work.

Now, there’s one sentence that suggests to me, if this situation is real, that the owner needs to address this manager. Or, if this manager is the owner of the business, that they need to work on developing leadership skills.

That line? “I’m fed up with you.”

Sure, they could mean they’re fed up with them in this instance. However, the line follows the bartender saying that their are several other places they can find work instead.

My interpretation is that at a minimum, these two have a problem with one another. Worst case, this manager isn’t doing the owner (or themselves) any favors with their “leadership” style.

Just…Don’t Do This

Please, please, please, don’t text or call staff at 3:00 in the morning. There are perhaps a tiny handful of reasons to ignore this advice. As I see it, those reasons all involve emergencies.

And no, being short-staffed for an event the following morning is not an emergency worthy of texting or calling an employee to cover a shift so late at night/early in the morning.

There are several leadership and scheduling solutions that can prevent this type of situation. In this particular instance, since the bartender was “fed up with” this manager, they were going to quit sooner or later.

Which brings me to my first point: Operators need to know what their leaders are doing. How are they treating staff? How does the staff perceive the leadership teams?

Secondly, how do the operator and other leaders perceive one another? Is everything running smoothly or is one “leader” not really leading?

And finally, scheduling technology. These days, there’s really no excuse for many kinds of scheduling problems. Several scheduling apps integrate well with popular restaurant, bar, and hotel POS systems.

For example, HotSchedules gives staff the ability to give away, swap, and pick up shifts. Another example is OpenSimSim, which provides an open shift invite feature. Staff can also set their profiles to auto-accept shifts as they become available.

7shifts and Schedulefly can also help fill shifts. And like HotSchedules and OpenSimSim, leaders can message groups and individuals, and vice versa.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway here is this: The maxim, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers,” is accurate. Leaders need to respect their team members and their personal time.

Image: Alex Ware on Unsplash

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