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Taco Bell, Outback embrace new tech

Food used to be what drove folks into restaurants. But these days, it's also increasingly the technology behind it.

That's why two major restaurant chains, Taco Bell and Outback Steakhouse, will make marketing waves today, not with new product rollouts, but with industry-leading technology announcements.

Taco Bell will unveil an advanced mobile app that lets folks order and pay on their smartphones and then walk or drive in and pick up their food.

To draw social media attention and promote the new app, all of Taco Bell's social media platforms — including Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram — will go dark on Tuesday, revealing the new way to Taco Bell is #onlyintheapp. Each social media platform, as well as tacobell.com, will provide only a link to download the new app. For consumers with the previous Taco Bell mobile app, they will get an automatic update to the new mobile ordering app.

Outback today will announce plans to roll out an industry-first online reservations tool for mobile, iPad or laptop that shows real-time waits for seating at every Outback in the country and lets the user get a place in line.

New technologies are driving the $683 billion restaurant industry like never before. McDonald's and Starbucks both are spending huge sums on new technologies. So are Pizza Hut, Papa John's and Domino's. Most are aimed at Millennial consumers who would much rather interact quickly with their smartphones than stand in line waiting to order or to be seated. Chili's has technology that lets folks pay, order more food or play games on table-top tablets.

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