Technology

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

Alright, Seriously—WTF, Grubhub?

Alright, Seriously—WTF, Grubhub?

by David Klemt

Or, more to the point, stop working with “partners” who exploit our industry rather than support it.

In spectacular and entirely predictable fashion, Grubhub’s “free lunch” further reveals that third-party delivery platforms don’t care about restaurants.

Of course, they all say they support restaurant owners and operators. And, of course, they’re quick to pat themselves on their backs for being a pandemic lifeline.

But…no. Time and time again, mainly through their exorbitant and exploitative fees, they prove the opposite is true.

Restaurants and bars aren’t third-party delivery partners. Rather, these relationships are adversarial and detrimental. So much so, in fact, that some states passed laws to limit third-party delivery fees.

In Nevada, for example, Clark County Commissioners passed an emergency ordinance in August 2020 capping those fees at 15 percent. Clearly, we need to stop enriching companies that prove they don’t support the hospitality industry but cause it significant harm.

Free Lunch?

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Apparently, Grubhub really wants to prove that maxim true.

That’s one of the takeaways from their disastrous promotion. Last Tuesday, in what’s being reported as an attempt to claim the delivery throne in New York City, Grubhub offered “free” lunch to anyone who placed an order for delivery.

The requirements for this promotion? Place an order for delivery through Grubhub on May 17 between 11:00 AM and 2:00 PM and use the code “freelunch.”

Of course, customer orders weren’t entirely free. Rather, the code was good for a $15 discount. Still, a wildly attractive offer as the ensuing debacle reveals.

Unsurprisingly, the promotion made for some eye-grabbing and eye-rolling headlines. Buzzfeed News published the most attention-grabbing one: “GrubHub Was Getting 6000 Orders A Minute During Its Promo Today That Left Restaurant Workers Stressed And Customers Hangry.”

Six thousand orders per minute during a promotion with a three-hour window in a single market.

In addition, the outlet reported that one unsatisfied customer was number 3,630 in the Grubhub customer service queue. Apparently—and who can blame him—he hung up before he could speak with a Grubhub rep about his missing order.

Duh

Who could’ve seen this coming? Any of the restaurant owners, operators, or team members Grubhub “serves,” that’s who.

In fact, anyone who works in this industry with on-premise experience knew this was going to happen. So, too, any journalist who specializes in hospitality.

The fact that whoever came up with this promotion didn’t see this coming is revealing. Unless the creators of these apps and services have real-world restaurant experience, they don’t understand the business.

How can one effectively and properly serve an industry without an understanding of how it operates? Hospitality is about service. Shouldn’t the companies attempting to work within our industry work hard to serve alongside us?

Let’s be clear—this promotion was in no way designed to help struggling restaurants. It wasn’t intended to boost their traffic and revenue. Rather, it was solely created to serve Grubhub’s desire to be number one.

As we all know, we’re experiencing major staff shortages. There are also supply shortages making it difficult for operators to obtain product reliably. Grubhub made those problems exponentially worse.

Some restaurants stopped taking delivery orders. Others canceled orders. There were operators who closed in an effort to catch up with orders and prevent the situation from worsening.

According to news stories, some social media users posted that they planned to stop ordering through third-party platforms.

Negative Impact

If you’re new to KRG Hospitality, welcome. You’re likely realizing that we’re not fans of third-party delivery.

Those of you who are familiar with us have known for quite some time that we support direct delivery. That is, delivery controlled and executed by the restaurant itself.

It’s not that we’re against innovation. Rather, our dislike of these platforms, generally speaking, comes from our perception of their behavior.

In our opinion, they take control away from operators and cost them money. Again, speaking generally, they collect customer data that operators should control. Their fees are ridiculous in most cases. And when it comes to the customer experience, their inconsistencies and shortcomings reflect poorly on the operators far too often.

Studies show that customers who have issues with third-party deliveries often place the blame on the restaurant. Food the wrong temperature? Order arrive late? Packages in less-than-ideal condition? While those issues and others can be the fault of the driver, the restaurant often takes the brunt of a customer’s dissatisfaction.

Of course, there’s also the financial impact of third-party delivery on restaurants. A SevenRooms report from last year reveals how these platforms harm operators and their bottom lines.

The Solution

Look, we know operators have a ton on their plates. But protecting and boosting the bottom line is a non-negotiable element of this business.

Yes, it’ll take some time, effort, and money to set up direct delivery. However, it’s the best solution.

Direct delivery means the operator collects and control valuable data. Likewise, the operator can ensure consistency. Through direct delivery, the operator shapes and controls the experience.

Control. Inherently, third-party delivery takes some control away from operators. That’s not a good thing, and neither is their financial impact.

Look into setting up direct delivery, take control, and protect your revenue ASAP. Friend of KRG “Rev” Ciancio and SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel each address delivery on the Bar Hacks podcast. Listen to episode 13 with Rev and episode 24 with Joel to learn more about delivery.

We need to stop rewarding companies that exploit our industry and take advantage of our owners, operators, and hard-working staff members.

Direct delivery is the answer. Take steps to implement it today.

Image: Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

by David Klemt

Interior of world's first crypto bar

Design driven by a story and narrative, technological innovation, and people’s desire to socialize are what’s next in hospitality design.

The influences above are factoring into the current approach to design in the F&B space. Be it a hotel or restaurant, the F&B landscape is going to look different for several reasons.

Five leading industry experts addressed this topic during HD Expo 2022‘s “F&B Trends: What’s Next?” panel.

Technology

Well, let’s start with arguably the biggest “trend” in F&B. Our industry is finally making major advancements in the area of technology.

It may not seem like it to some, but speaking generally, hospitality hasn’t always found itself on tech’s bleeding edge. That’s changing.

In fact, some industry experts feel we may be moving too quickly. For example, an interesting prediction from Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 is a more deliberate approach to developing and implementing hospitality-specific tech.

Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll see a significant slowdown in tech innovation. Rather, innovators may take a more calculated approach to truly relieve hospitality pain points.

For example, Adam Crocini, senior vice president and global head of food and beverage brands for Hilton, points to a few innovations now common throughout the industry. Digital order, digital pay, and the ability to deliver food essentially anywhere within a hotel, resort or casino property are tech solutions driving efficiency.

However, Crocini sees one segment in need of a specific solution. In the luxury segment, guests prefer in-person engagement with staff and tactile engagement with physical menus.

Ari Kastrati, chief hospitality officer for MGM Resorts International, seems to agree. Tech, says Kastrati, shouldn’t replace human connections. Rather, technology needs to enable and enhance.

The Experience

When it comes to design, much of the focus is on the impact it will have on the guest or consumer. However, the end user is hardly the starting point.

For Kastrati, a successful project begins with the development of a relationship. That relationship is between the designer, the operator, and the concept. If care isn’t taken to nurture that relationship, it will likely show in the final product.

In Crocini’s eyes, that relationship informs the development of the operator’s concept. How? Through the development of a story and narrative.

If the designer and operator can develop a story, the design can be grounded in said story. Further, every element of a design can be held up against that story to see if it “fits.” If it does, the design will deliver a holistic experience and engage the guest or consumer.

In terms of F&B, Kastrati and Crocini make similar points. Both feel knowing the guest and anticipating their needs is crucial.

Addressing design elements that impact the experience, Crocini believes design should start with lighting. A design without proper lighting, Crocini says, is like a Scorsese film without the score.

Alexis Readinger, founder of Preen, is focusing in part on unique floorplan design. In particular, Readinger likes features that encourage interaction between guests, such as communal loveseats. However, “protecting the introverts” is also important for some guests’ comfort levels.

It’s safe to say that Caroline Landry Farouki, partner at Farouki Farouki, agrees with Readinger and Crocini. Seating, says Landry Farouki, can create different levels of intimacy to engage extroverts and introverts, and lighting designers are crucial and can really tell the story.

F&B Trends

In terms of consumer trends, Kastrati points to something specific he’s seeing in Las Vegas. People are seeking out specialty restaurants and luxury retail. At least anecdotally, this confirms what many reports and experts have been saying for the past few years: Consumers are showing increased interest in luxury.

However, Kastrati’s focus in the F&B space isn’t solely on guests and consumers. Rather, he suggests that the next step is bringing people back to the workforce. As Kastrati says, there’s no hospitality without people. Kastrati believes all of us in the industry need to encourage people to pursue hospitality careers.

Switching gears, Jessica Gidari, director of design and concept development for Union Square Hospitality Group, points to an effective pivot as a possible industry trend.

At least one concept in the Union Square portfolio has pivoted from a restaurant to a cocktail bar. A menu with shareable plates leverages guest desire to socialize and share. Gidari also says doing away with some traditional two- and four-top tables and replacing them with communal seating can “rebrand” a space as a “convivial” lounge.

Landry Farouki thinks operators can count on two compelling trends in the F&B space. One is the return of the restaurant as “the bar.” As someone who lives and works in Las Vegas, I can attest to treating restaurants more as bars myself.

Another possible trend Landry Farouki predicts is “mature dining” replacing fine dining. Explaining mature dining, Landry Farouki says such a concept is chef-driven but doesn’t focus solely on the chef.

Trend predictions must be taken with a grain of salt. However, I only see upside for design that helps operators engage guests more from the start.

Image: LYCS Architecture on Unsplash

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