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The future is now—yikes!

Consider this issue a wake-up call to the advances reshaping your business, like it or not.

We apologize in advance if this issue raises your dry-cleaning bill. The risk of spitting out coffee is definitely at Wet-Nap Four, and not because of surprises plumbed from the gee-wiz file.

The whole magazine consists of dispatches from the vanguard of technology, but we spared you the usual future-shock accounts of delivery drones, burger-flipping robots and face-recognition time clocks. You’re more likely to shoot latte out your nostrils when you read of the near-term realities that should have been on your Need to Address list months ago. Now they’ll likely be fattening your oh-damn folder. To wit:

True or false: The way you’ve traditionally settled the check of a guest paying with a credit card will soon go the way of VCRs, stick-shift cars and Macaulay Culkin.

True or false: You think the answer is definitely “true” because of the infiltration of tablets as tableside ordering and guest-payment devices.

True or false: You didn’t know the up-ending will come before October 2015—that’s about 12 months from now, bunky—because of a federal security mandate. As of that date, you’ll be legally required to provide a new generation of technology that can handle chip-and-pin credit cards—“smart” plastic that doesn’t leave the guest’s hands. Full-service places will be bringing the processor to the customer.

Give yourself extra credit if you knew that technology is required this minute of restaurants elsewhere in the world. It’s already a reality. That’s why it’s a good bet to read page 27.

All of this might be a bit taxing on the heart, but that’s good cardiac prep for the operators of franchised restaurant chains. For them, new technology could be a pulse quickener of a different sort.

Lawmakers and regulators are redefining the relationship between franchisor and franchisee, eager to shift more power to the licensee. In California, for instance, the legislature will likely pass a bill that limits the circumstances under which a franchisor can terminate a franchise.

The measure has already passed the state Assembly, and the Senate approved a similar bill last year.

Technology has frequently been a strain that lands franchisor and franchisee in a tug of war. The home office wants field-level operators to invest considerable capital in new systems for boosting sales, capturing info and feeding it to headquarters. Franchisees don’t want to be badgered into spending money that seems primarily to improve the top line and the ways of measuring it, thereby helping the party that already gets hefty royalty and marketing fees.

As you’ll read while sopping coffee off your shirt, technology took a quantum leap in recent months. Even more jaw dropping are the changes those digital advances are enabling. Maybe we won’t see flying delivery cars in the next 12 months. But that change would be ho-hum compared to what’s happening in restaurants near-term.

See for yourself. But, please, put your coffee down first. 

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