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Startup Alley: Where the innovators are

Robots in a restaurant? Yes!

Where will you find the early technology adopters and disruptors? If InKind Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Miles Matthias is correct, it’s Startup Alley in the Innovation Hub.

InKind is one of 13 startups showcased in the area, who were selected by restaurant operators for their innovative, tech-savvy approach to industry challenges. The company’s co-founder and chief compliance officer, Andrew Harris, says they heard about the opportunity from a friend, and jumped at the chance.

“You can see all these amazing booths [on the Show floor], but those costs add up,” Harris explains. “As a startup, it’s hard to make that work.” He says that they’re glad the National Restaurant Association is offering the exposure to these companies. “They’re really trying to support and encourage startups.”

InKind is a digital tool that lets customers create a house account at a restaurant and purchase credits in advance at a discount. Not only can operators treat those valuable and loyal customers like the VIPs they are, but operators can also learn more about them and their purchase habits and apply that data to please and attract other guests.

Another digital tool in the Startup Alley that benefits both customers and operators is BigZpoon. Launched in January, the app lets restaurant operators create specials on the fly from surplus food at the end of the day or whenever they have leftovers. It then hooks them up with customers nearby who are looking for a bargain, who can then order and pay on the app. The developers say they wanted to help avoid food waste and provide a chance for restaurants to get new customers at the same time.

Also on display are apps for customers that streamline digital ordering, locate restaurants that can accommodate allergies, find the nearest eatery offering a certain menu item, or split bills. Other tools to help operators ease supply ordering and delivery, create a website, and analyze customer and transaction data from multiple sources are also showcased.

But what’s gaining the most attention may be a little robot named Penny. The Bear Robotics device serves as a food runner and busser and uses self-driving technology to navigate the dining room and avoid running into things.

Startup Alley is located next to the Innovation Theater, another hotspot for early adopters and those looking for what’s next in technology innovation.

Sessions on Monday and Tuesday include:

  • Hank and Harry’s: How to Win Your Customers with A Mobile Loyalty and Ordering Solution, a case study from a deli operator
  • Simplify for Growth: Choosing the Right Accounting and Back-Office Platform
  • A panel discussion on Transforming the Restaurant Experience for Diners and Wait Staff Alike

This post is sponsored by The National Restaurant Association®

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