Three Food Service Trends from one of the World’s Biggest Restaurant Shows5 minutes
About 67,000 food services pros from around the globe converged on Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center for the National Restaurant Association’s annual trade show in late May. These are the people who own, manage, buy and sell for some of the industry’s largest brands, and those that we spoke to had questions about technology that blurs lines between business solutions and consumer electronics.
Major food service businesses are increasing investments in technology as a way to improve convenience and the customer experience. They’re also trying new digital endeavors to appeal to a fresh crop of eaters seeking better quality food and an experience that incorporates their gadgets. Whether it’s a tablet-based POS software or an app that allows customers to engage with restaurants on their mobile devices, restaurants are moving toward technologies that look more and more like the tech consumers use in their daily lives. Here’s a look a few other of the most interesting ideas from the show.
1. Co-operative innovation
Some very exciting ideas in food service come from startups, and Panasonic has a track record of working with small companies to provide end-to-end solutions to customers. It benefits the entrepreneur who has an innovation, but may be struggling to bring it to the marketplace or to introduce it to more customers. The small company gains exposure to the engineering and tech resources of a global organization. Perhaps the biggest winner is the food service provider because it sees a steady stream of solutions that can help to increase customer engagement. Panasonic’s work with entrepreneurs take different forms, from partnerships to investments to acquisitions. One such example is Quick Service Software Inc., known for back office software to manage information from the POS and aid in all aspects of managing a quick service restaurant.
2. Immersive tech
For example, those who visited the Panasonic booth this year were able to experience the company’s own twist on this concept with our LinkRay technology. Using visible light communication, LinkRay delivers mobile content by enabling ordinary smartphones to read IDs sent from LED transmitters, such as displays, signboards and spotlights, and to connect to associated mobile content. Applied to restaurants, this technology allows consumers to view expanded menus, nutrition information and even order from their smart phones.
3. Step savers and other productivity hacks
Upscale dining at the movies is a trend sweeping across the U.S., according to Nation’s Restaurant News, which reports that foodservice spending at movie theaters has risen 20 percent compared with a year ago. “Many major movie-theater chains now offer full chef-driven menus complete with alcoholic beverages and seat-side service,” according to the article. One such trendsetter is Flix Brewhouse, which welcomes people with craft beers, fresh and familiar food and blockbuster movies.
To simplify the serving process—and help prevent servers from interrupt action scenes on the big screen—Flix Brewhouse introduced to its locations a feature-packed tablet that would integrate with our existing network infrastructure and most importantly to have ruggedization—and to last–without trading off features.
By allowing its servers to present the check and take the payment all with the same device in a single stop at the table, it saves the time that goes into the back-and-forth between dropping the check, returning to pick up the payment, walking to the credit card machine and running the payment before, finally, dropping off the completed bill for the customer to sign and leave a tip. Matthew Baizer, COO of Flix Brewhouse, say that technology provided an opportunity to increase speed of service at their locations.
“We’ve seen our guest satisfaction and speed of service scores escalate a lot,” Mr. Baizer says.
With this technologies becoming more commonplace while also making transactions easier for both consumers and businesses alike, it seems a pretty safe bet that restaurant technologies will continue to make their way from the kitchen to the other side of the counter. Automation will become a larger part in creating a seamless experience for QSR customers.