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Technology

Tech to keep and kill

I may be the in-house tech expert at Restaurant Business, but this month—as RB’s Future Issue drops—I return to you with dispatches from my experience as a new kind of restaurant consumer. 

Earlier this year, I ate at restaurants a few nights a week and socialized over cocktails and apps. You know, the “typical millennial” habits. Then I had a baby in May, and my lifestyle did a 180. Now, takeout has become a staple. 

Many of the advances in restaurants are related to the boom in off-premise, to which I am now a big contributor. And there are a lot of innovations for operators to choose from when it comes to consumer-facing tech. So, with that in mind, here’s one new mom’s unsolicited and consumer-y opinion on what restaurants should keep on the tech road map—and what to kill.

Cashless LSRs

Keep it, or at least have a cash-free line. Yes, some people still use greenbacks. But speed is my top priority. We’ve all been stuck behind a slowpoke counting cash; the stakes rise exponentially when your newborn is on the verge of a meltdown. 

Mobile apps

In my opinion, fewer restaurants need branded apps. I’ve admittedly downloaded a few apps that offered free food for signing up, collected said reward and then promptly deleted the app. Unless it’s a restaurant I hit multiple times a week, I’d rather save the space for an excessive number of baby pics. 

Online ordering platform

Just because I don’t want to download your app doesn’t mean I’m not constantly on my phone. It’s crucial to have seamless, mobile-friendly online ordering available. And a surprisingly large number of restaurants don’t, so I’ve learned.

Third-party waitlist apps

Heck yes. I don’t go to FSRs regularly enough to download their apps. But when my parents offered a few precious hours of babysitting, my husband and I hopped on one of these apps to check the wait at our favorite spot, then put our name in the queue remotely. We watched our position in real time and left home with just enough time, instead of having to wait at the restaurant. 

Third-party delivery app partnerships

Keep it, cautiously. When I’m sleep deprived, it’s easier to open one app delivering for multiple brands than think of the entire restaurant ether. Yes, there are cost considerations, quality control issues and a potential thinning of partners as the trend matures. But the platform warrants my smartphone space, simply for cutting some of the thought process. 

Beacons

The “creepy” factor is fading, as consumers seem to be more accepting of  restaurants collecting data on them. It would’ve been nice if, when driving to a doctor’s appointment, a note popped up on my phone to remind me that I’m near Sub Shop X and, oh, by the way, it’s sandwich happy hour for the next 60 minutes.

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