While restaurants may lag other industries in adopting technology, today’s operations are determined to catch up quickly. “C-level folks have to keep technology top of mind,” Jim Mizes, president and COO of fast casual Blaze Pizza, said at this year’s Restaurant Leadership Conference. “It’s not part of who I am, but I have to do [it] in this industry to move our business along.”
The big problem: By the time you've caught up with today's tech, tomorrow's is already threatening to replace it.
Here are suggestions from experienced operators on how to get the right tech into your restaurants.
1. With tech, fail fast.
That’s the motto Clay Dover, CMO of PeiWei, follows. “If you wait six months, nine months, the whole game will change,” he said. That’s why it’s crucial, said a number of operators, to find vendor partners willing to adapt and work with companies as they grow. “It’s hard to find partners willing to work at an aggressive pace who are nimble,” said Jayson Tipp, chief development officer and SVP of technology for the Papa Murphy’s take-and-bake pizza chain.
2. Try to break new tech.
Before Blaze rolled out its app, it subjected it to a trial by fire in one store. Staffers were given the chance to bang on it as both a worker and a consumer. Next, they asked their friends to try it out. “We found 90 percent of the challenges were fixed and ready to go when we rolled out,” said Mizes. That’s crucial, said David Bliven, senior manager of restaurant systems for On The Border. “Make sure it works before it goes public. You have to move fast, but if you don’t properly test, you miss a huge opportunity for adoption … If an app doesn’t work, people will refuse to use it.”
3. Get advocates for implementation.
To get buy-in from franchisees for new waitlist technology, the First Watch breakfast-and-lunch chain tested it first with a respected member of that community. The operator tried it and became an advocate. At the next regional VP meeting, the franchisee expressed his positive impressions of the tech, saying that he’d pay out of his own pocket if needed. “It got others to sign up right away. They all got on board immediately,” said First Watch President Chris Tomasso.