Tech

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

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Kicks Off 2022 with Growth

SevenRooms Kicks Off 2022 with Growth

by David Klemt

Restaurant worker using SevenRooms on tablet

SevenRooms continues their growth by kicking off 2022 with the announcement of a new, crucial addition to the team.

Today, the hospitality technology company announces the hiring of Brent-Stig Kraus. Formerly the senior vice president of sales for ChowNow, Kraus will take on the role of chief revenue officer at SevenRooms.

As CRO, Kraus will play a crucial role in further accelerating SevenRooms’ impressive global growth. The company’s new CRO will accomplish this goal by identifying and pursuing partnership opportunities, targeting high-growth sales, and scaling sales globally.

Steady Growth

In March of last year, SevenRooms brought on Pamela Martinez as the company’s chief financial officer.

By September of 2021, the platform announced a multi-year partnership with TheFork. In particular, this was major news for operators throughout Europe and Australia. Additionally, this partnership illustrates how SevenRooms is pursuing long-term global growth.

A month later, in October of last year, the company entered into a partnership with Olo. In doing so, SevenRooms ensures clients who also use Olo can capture their off-premise customers’ information. That data then creates profiles for those customers automatically, meaning operators can learn more about and effectively market to customers who engage with them via online orders.

In December of 2021, SevenRooms and ThinkFoodGroup—the hospitality company behind Chef José Andrés’ portfolio of restaurants—announced their partnership. Interestingly, this partnership sees ThinkFoodGroup joining SevenRooms in an advisory role.

And it’s not just filling crucial C-suite roles and entering into partnerships that benefit operators and the industry that are examples of SevenRooms’ rapid growth.

Along with hiring Martinez as CFO, the platform launched Direct Delivery in March 2021. This online ordering solution helped operators eliminate third-party fees; retain control of guest data; and fulfill guest desire to order from restaurants directly and seamlessly.

Finally, the company ended 2021 by sharing their 2022 trend predictions.

Why this Matters

Tech innovations are crucial to the long-term future of the hospitality industry. Restaurateurs, bar owners, and hoteliers, were once wary of adopting new tech.

Now, they’re investing more to streamline operations; automate reservations, online ordering, and marketing campaigns; and improving customer and staff relationships.

However, without growth a platform eventually becomes outdated. When that happens, the investment made by an operator to include it in their tech stack becomes a burden and liability.

As SevenRooms continues their growth, they prove worthy of an operator’s support and investment. We continue to support SevenRooms—without receiving any compensation for doing so—in large part because of the platform’s growth.

In addition to their available tools, we’re always eager to see what they’ll release next to make life simpler for operators.

Image: SevenRooms

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Hotel Trends to Watch in 2022

Hotel Trends to Watch in 2022

by David Klemt

Unlit hotel sign against blue sky background

Partially driven by the pandemic, in part driven by the march of innovation, these are the hotel (and motel) trends to watch in 2022.

As is the case with restaurant and bar trends from the last two years, these trends are likely to quickly evolve into industry standards.

Once slower on the uptake in comparison to other industries, hospitality is now embracing tech innovations rapidly.

Of course, not every 2022 and beyond trend relies on tech. However, most of the big changes involve tech in some way.

Below are the trends (soon to be standards) to watch and adopt next year.

Digital Room Keys

We do everything on our phones. So, why shouldn’t we access hotel and motel room keys via the devices always in our hands or pockets?

Many tech-forward hotel properties have made it possible to unlock hotel rooms via phone apps. As consumers feel more comfortable that it’s safe, secure and reliable, we can expect physical room keys to become obsolete.

One can also make the argument that doing away with millions of plastic keycards is a more sustainable practice.

Your Face is Your Passport

Points* to anyone who gets the movie I just referenced. (*Points have no value and are not redeemable for anything. But we think you’re cool for racking them up regardless.)

Some properties will make it possible to access a hotel room via biometrics. CLEAR travelers will already be familiar with this tech process.

In short, a guest will be able to unlock their room with their face. In terms of personalization—a guest expectation that’s only growing—facial recognition tech can instantly deliver on a guest’s temp, lighting, and other preferences.

I can also see this technology permitting guests to access clubs; club levels; health centers; pool areas; and order and pay for everything from food and beverage to their entire visit.

Of course, this form of tech relies heavily on people’s comfort levels concerning privacy. So, operators will need to prove themselves responsible with guest data.

Touchless Everything

Convenience works both ways. Guests want frustration-free visits. Operators and managers want to eliminate pain points wherever possible.

Guests are becoming familiar and comfortable with checking in via their phones or kiosks. In some hotels, guests navigate the lobby without ever engaging with an employee.

With the proliferation of digital assistants in homes, guests are already comfortable with voice-based functionality. Ordering room service, turning on the TV and streaming, playing music, drawing automated shades, adjust room temperatures and lights… Digital assistants eliminate several more touchpoints.

AI tech also means hotels can operate with smaller teams effectively. So, hotel design is likely to keep evolving: lobbies will look different, as will rooms, restaurants, bars, and other amenities.

Virtual Room Selection

Speaking of AI, what about VR?

Tech-savvy guests will appreciate being able to “tour” different room options in the virtual space. Such a feature can start a guest’s visit off on the right foot before they ever step onto property.

They’ll know they’re getting the features and views they want, setting up a positive experience. It’s likely VR room tours and selection will also help hotels upsell guests on rooms and features.

Cryptocurrency

There are already hotels and resorts out there accepting crypto. There’s no reason to believe this will fall out of favor any time soon.

In fact, it’s likely guests who prefer to pay via digital currency will be able to pay for every element of their visit with crypto. For these guests, a tech-heavy experience will be appealing:

  • Check out room options via virtual reality before booking;
  • Book their room in the VR space.
  • Utilize digital check-in, then unlocking their room via phone or facial scan.
  • Paying for premium amenities and F&B via crypto ties to biometrics.
  • Contactless check-out.

Guest Who

Unsurprisingly, business travelers were the first to return to hotels during the pandemic. A percentage of these guests sought out hotels that could offer them a work-from-anywhere option.

For the most part, these guests simply needed a fast, reliable WiFI connection. Of course, many of them chose properties for more leisure-focused amenities. This led to the coining of a new industry term: bleisure, a portmanteau of “business” and “leisure” travelers.

It’s likely hotels, motels and resorts will see more traffic from bleisure, solo, and staycation guests in 2022 and beyond.

Many guests will also make property selections based on a brand or group’s sustainability efforts. So, operators will need to ensure they’re being provably sustainable and not just green-washing to attract these guests.

As we can see, technology will feature heavily in the changing hospitality landscape. Initial outlay may be pricy, but as innovations become more commonplace, costs will be driven down. But offering the features that will increase traffic and guest spend? A healthy bottom line is worth it.

Image: NeONBRAND on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Square: 2022 Threats & Opportunities

Square: 2022 Threats & Opportunities

by David Klemt

Square terminal in restaurant kitchen

As all hospitality professionals know, the past nearly two years is imposing rapid change on the industry, necessitating rapid, strategic adaptation.

The key word in the above sentence isn’t “adaptation,” it’s “strategic.”

Of course, it’s hard to make strategic choices without as much information as possible.

To that end, we’ve reviewed Square‘s recently released “Future of Restaurants: 2022 Edition.” This is the company’s second annual Future of Restaurants report.

Square partnered with Wakefield Research, surveying 500 operators and 1,000 consumers to identify 2022 threats and opportunities.

Threat: Labor Shortage

Most operators aren’t going to want to read this prediction from Square. However, we can’t identify and adapt for opportunities if we don’t acknowledge threats.

Per Square’s report, the labor shortage may never see a correction. In other words, welcome to yet another new normal.

More than 70 percent of operators say they’re facing a labor shortage, per Square. Just over 20 percent of available positions were, at the time the survey was conducted, unfilled.

Instead, operators will likely, according to Square, need to make operational and work culture changes:

  • Improve working conditions. For example, encouraging and acting on team feedback. Another example? Modernizing scheduling.
  • Ensure workers are being mentored and not simply managed.
  • Hire, train, assign tasks, and schedule more strategically to operate with a smaller team.
  • Offering incentives that entice higher-quality candidates to work for you.

One participant quoted in the Square report claims that QR code ordering dropped their labor cost percentage by 150 percent.

Threat: Lack of Tech

As SevenRooms suggested when looking forward to 2022, technology solutions can lessen the burden of labor shortages. That leads us to another big threat: failing to embrace tech.

Some operators bristle at the word “automation.” For many, it conjures an image of robots in the kitchen and delivering food to tables.

Obviously, we’re opposed to replacing staff with any form of automation. However, we support automating tasks if that means team members are better utilized.

Why not automate inventory? Why not automate online order filling? If it improves operations and the guest experience, automation is less threatening.

According to Square’s report, 62 percent of operators think automation is appealing for managing online, delivery, and contactless orders. Ninety percent of operators say that back-of-house automation—if staff can focus on more important tasks—is a good idea.

More than 90 percent think automated inventory is an appealing solution.

It has taken a lot of time for hospitality to catch up to other industries in embracing tech. But Square reports that 36 percent of restaurants upgraded their business tech in 2021.

Of course, automation will become a threat if operators lean too heavily into it and stop paying attention to detail.

Phrased another way, be tech-savvy, not tech-reliant.

Opportunity: Omni-channel

Square see implementing an omni-channel strategy as the way forward. In fact, their general manager for Square Restaurants, Bryan Solar, said the following:

“We see the time of the dine-in only or takeout only as largely done forever.”

Going omni-channel (diversifying) in the restaurant space means making online ordering and delivery important elements within the overall business strategy. To that end, Solar posits kitchens will grow in size to better handle online orders.

Square’s survey reveals some intriguing numbers:

  • 13 percent of consumers say they’ll avoid restaurants that don’t offer online ordering.
  • Among restaurants with online ordering, those channels generate 34 percent of their revenue.
  • Over the past year, 54 percent of restaurants either added or expanded online ordering channels.
  • Online ordering is likely here to stay: 69 percent of respondents plan to offer it post-Covid-19.
  • 24 percent of operators are planning to allow guests to order alcohol from them online.

Another interesting set of numbers pertains to first- and third-party delivery. As we’ve stated several times, we much prefer operators offer first-party or direct delivery. According to Square, 49 percent of operators plan go direct delivery. More than half—62 percent—will pursue third-party delivery. That suggests that some operators will offer both.

Opportunity: Direct Ordering

When it comes to engaging online guests, operators need to control the experience. As I wrote for another publication years ago, a restaurant or bar’s website is still very important.

This statistic proves that statement true: Per Square, 68 percent of online guests want to order via a restaurant’s website or app, not a third-party.

More than likely, a significant portion of those guests want to know they’re supporting a restaurant and its staff directly. Hence the importance placed on ordering via the website or their own branded app.

So, operators would do well to ensure their websites feature an ordering widget. Or, they can opt to have an app built (or at least skinned) for their business.

Opportunity: Kiosks

According to Square’s survey results, 79 percent of consumers prefer ordering from kiosks over ordering from staff.

Most consumers and operators likely associate ordering kiosks with fast food restaurants. However, other categories can also benefit from these devices.

Close to half—45 percent—identified it as a preference when ordering at a casual-dining restaurant.

And fine dining isn’t immune to the convenience of tech. A little over 20 percent of consumers prefer to order via kiosk in the fine-dining space.

Overall, kiosks speak to the guest desires for convenience and safety. More than a third indicated that ordering via digital menu is appealing because they don’t have to touch a menu someone else has touched. And 37 percent like a digital option because they don’t have to wait for a server to bring them a physical menu.

Eleven percent of Square survey respondents will avoid a restaurant if they don’t offer digital menus.

Nearly half (45 percent) of restaurants are planning to offer QR code menus post-Covid-19. Another benefit of digital menus is dynamic pricing. As costs fluctuate, operators can increase or reduce prices easily without printing new menus.

Outlook

Representing a stark contrast from 2020 survey results, nearly 60 percent of operators say the survival of their restaurants is a concern in 2022.

That’s still a high number but vastly lower than how operators answered about 2021. Last year, 92 percent of operators surveyed said they were worried about survival.

According to Square’s report, operators are looking past surviving and making long-term plans. That’s a welcome sign that confidence is improving.

To review Square’s “Future of Restaurants: 2022 Edition” report in its entirety, click here.

Image: Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Predicts 2022

SevenRooms Predicts 2022

by David Klemt

SevenRooms guest data image

As we near the end of a tumultuous 2021 we must look ahead to 2022 to set our industry up for best strategies, innovations, and recovery.

SevenRooms is doing just that, looking at what operators should consider to meet guest expectations next year.

In a blog post on the company’s website, SevenRooms reveals what they believe are the keys to success in 2022.

Let’s jump in.

More is More

The first quarter of 2022 will mark two years of the pandemic and its affects on the industry.

As SevenRooms says, some guests will not have been out of their homes for two years. The company predicts this contingent will be looking to unleash pent-up demand.

Of course, that represents an opportunity for operators. Another wave of pent-up demand can mean a boost in traffic and revenue.

However, guest expectations will be sky high. That cliché that less is more? Yeah, you can toss that right out.

More will be more for this contingent of guests looking to dine and drink out after feeling cooped up for month after endless month.

Sure, some guests are aware that operators are facing labor shortages, increased costs, and other pandemic-driven challenges. They know that workers are overwhelmed and finding themselves in hostile confrontations they certainly don’t deserve.

And sure, some guests are sympathetic to those struggles. However, they have their demands and expect restaurants, bars, and hotels to meet them.

What can operators do to meet those demands? In fact, what can they do to anticipate and overdeliver on guest expectations?

SevenRooms has a couple suggestions.

Collect guest data. At this point, this should be a given. How can an operator engage with and retain guests if they don’t really know anything about them?

Embrace more tech. Platforms like SevenRooms can handle a restaurant or bar’s reservations quickly and easily. This is a feature that, per SevenRooms, more than half of guests expect a restaurant or bar offer. Some platforms can also automate marketing; send guests post-visit surveys; and tackle review aggregation.

Convenience Reigns Supreme

Here’s a quick, impromptu survey:

Do you prefer a seamless restaurant, bar or hotel experience, or do you like frustrating dining, drinking and lodging experiences?

I’m going to go ahead and assume you prefer the former option. In other words, you like what your guests like: convenience.

Well, SevenRooms is predicting that the desire for convenience will only grow stronger among guests.

Yes, delivering on the increasingly important topic of convenience will rely on collecting data. But rather than view it as just one more task, SevenRoom suggests looking at it in a more positive light.

A number of the conveniences guests expect can be automated. They can even help ease the burden of the labor shortage somewhat.

For example, contactless ordering and contactless pay are close to becoming standards. Offering those features to guests means meeting expectations, thereby delivering an excellent guest experience. On-demand ordering and paying can also ease some front- and back-of-house pressure.

Collecting guest data allows management and front-of-house staff to add personal touches before a guest is even seated. Again, seamless, excellent guest service.

Another convenience? Online ordering. SevenRooms isn’t the first to predict that on-demand ordering is here to stay. In fact, a suite of conveniences will be important moving forward:

  • Online ordering during in-person visits and for delivery or pickup.
  • A user-friendly reservation system that goes deeper than just picking a date and time. Why not allow guests to select seats and even request upgrades?
  • A virtual waitlist. Not only is this convenient, SevenRooms says this feature can boost walk-in traffic and reduce abandonment.
  • Contactless, mobile paying options.

There you have it. Two seemingly basic predictions—higher expectations and a desire for even more convenience—with the potential to boost traffic, loyalty, and revenue.

Image: SevenRooms

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

ThinkFoodGroup Partners with SevenRooms

ThinkFoodGroup Partners with SevenRooms

by David Klemt

Front of house staff member using SevenRooms

Reservation and guest engagement and retention platform SevenRooms and ThinkFoodGroup announce their new partnership today.

This announcement marks at least the third high-profile partnership involving SevenRooms.

One partnership from earlier this year is with online ordering platform Olo. Another is between SevenRooms and TheFork.

As is normally the case when it comes to SevenRooms partnerships, the relationship will be collaborative.

ThinkFoodGroup be onboarding the restaurants in their portfolio onto the platform. This maneuver will deliver several benefits through the full SevenRooms suite:

  • Reservation, waitlist and table management
  • Marketing automation
  • Online ordering capability
  • Rating aggregation

Additionally, ThinkFoodGroup will be joining SevenRooms in an advisory role. The platform will benefit from the expertise of Chef José Andrés and the ThinkFoodGroup team.

In short, ThinkFoodGroup will gain valuable insight into their guests throughout their entire portfolio. SevenRooms will gain valuable insights they can use to improve their platform and better serve the hospitality industry.

Interestingly, ThinkFoodGroup appears to have been using SevenRooms prior to this newly announced partnership. The platform is already in use at:

  • The Bazaar by José Andrés at the SLS South Beach
  • Bazaar Meat by José Andrés at The Sahara Las Vegas
  • China Chilcano in Washington, D.C.
  • China Poblano at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • é by José Andrés at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
  • Jaleo at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

From Joel Montaniel, CEO and founder of SevenRooms:

“With the hospitality industry returning to full-speed, it’s more important than ever for operators to prioritize technology platforms that are hyper-focused on helping restaurants thrive. We’re thrilled to welcome the ThinkFoodGroup team to our SevenRooms family, helping them build upon their incredible guest experiences across their properties. Most importantly, we look forward to learning from José and his team’s incredible expertise and unique perspective. Supporting and advocating for the hospitality industry has always been at the core of our business. There is so much work for us to do as the industry recovers, and we look forward to walking in lockstep with José and his team to build back better.”

From Chef José Andrés, CEO, co-founder and executive chairman of ThinkFoodGroup:

“Providing outstanding experiences for our guests has always been a priority. In light of the challenges brought on by COVID, we realized just how important it was to have a partner who can help us bring them to life in a seamless way. I am excited to bring SevenRooms into our restaurants globally, and for ThinkFoodGroup to also join the company as an industry advisor.”

From Sam Bakhshandehpour, President of ThinkFoodGroup:

“Pushing the limits of what’s expected in hospitality is at the core of our business. SevenRooms is completely transforming the restaurant technology platform, and we’re thrilled to partner with a like-minded company who thinks progressively and has the cutting-edge technology to challenge the status quo. Together, we will collaborate on building solutions that put operators’ success at the forefront.”

This year’s SevenRooms partnerships, announcement of a new CFO, and innovations (such as their Direct Delivery module), show the platform’s commitment to improvement and supporting the industry.

When operators are selecting the platforms to include in their tech stacks, ease of use and integration, along with growth, should be among their considerations. So, too, should be industry advocacy.

SevenRooms continues to prove that they deserve top marks for each of those crucial elements.

Image: SevenRooms

Quotes provided by SevenRooms via press release

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

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