Fall is the time for companies to plan next year’s technology initiatives and the budgets that support them. It’s also a time to consider projects that fell by the wayside and how to further leverage the investments made this year.
The forum for exploring these issues is FSTEC, the conference that brings together tech-minded restaurant execs—and today, that’s just about everyone. We spoke with prospective attendees, presenters and exhibitors to glean the topics that’ll be top of mind as the conference convenes in New Orleans on Sept. 21. Here’s what they told us:
1. Beacons and location-based applications
The two technologies are different, yet go hand-in-hand much of the time. “Beacons” are devices placed in close proximity to a receiver to detect when a user of a particular piece of technology, often a smartphone, is nearby. It’s a marketing opportunity for businesses to sense when users are in range, and sometimes who they are.
If a consumer agrees to be detected by a beacon, location-based apps can deliver targeted, tailored messages and offers. The person may already be a member of your customer base or loyalty program. Or that person may be a stranger who drew a message because of factors such as frequently being in the area, online browsing habits and even their “take rate,” or how often they accept location-based offers.
2. Device autonomy
Ten years ago, applications needed to be developed for both the PC and POS screens and the Web. Today, any application you use must be able to run on any device: a PC, POS, kiosk, tableside device, tablet or smartphone, and even wearable technologies of the future.
3. BYOD (bring your own device)
Operators will rely not only on customers to use their own devices for functions traditionally performed on the establishment’s systems, but employees will be expected to wield their own technology, as well. The arrangement provides plenty of advantages, including lower investment costs for the restaurateur, greater flexibility, increased compensation for the employee (to whom operators may pay a fee) and more options for the customer. It also raises additional issues for data security that will have to be addressed.
It’s like the pilot light of old—when it goes out, the operation shuts down. Today’s efforts to stay connected to the Internet focus on bandwidth, data protection and overall security. With each guest and employee now routinely using two or three connected devices, and with data being gobbled by videos or large-file transfers, having sufficient and scalable connectivity is critical to consistent access. Providing it, along with the necessary security, is no longer a discretionary budget item.
Probably one of the most-used words and initiatives in foodservice today, it denotes all applications being provided and accessible via smartphones, tablets and more.
Clearly, there is a lot to think about for 2015 and beyond. The good news is that the infrastructure put in place by previous investments such as connectivity and data security enable these advancements. By choosing smartly, foodservice operators can budget for the things that enhance revenues, control costs and provide better customer service.