4 ways to tackle technology disruption

Photograph: Shutterstock

Technology has been a boon to many restaurants. It helps streamline some functions, creating efficiencies and providing exposure that would otherwise not be possible. But technology is also challenging conventional procedures and threatening operators who don’t adapt.

Gwen Brannon, director of guest insights and analytics for Coca-Cola, dove headfirst into this topic at a presentation during the recent National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. She identified four key areas that are disrupting the established way of doing things and creating opportunities for restaurants.


At one time, rolling out an app was a big deal; today, the last thing many consumers want is another app. Instead, they want a way to use the technology already on their mobile devices to do business. So, restaurants should be adopting platforms that allow mobile orders, text orders and voice ordering from digital assistants.

To be effective, offering connectivity should resolve an underlying tension—in the case of restaurants, many guests are wrestling with time poverty, overscheduling, family obligations and other pressures that a prepared meal will help solve.


Restaurants are navigating the power and reach of social media, which continue to grow. Also on the rise: influencers, or social media personalities who aren’t conventional celebrities but who attract a loyal, engaged base of followers. Connecting with those influencers is the key to targeting and engaging audiences. “It’s a good place to get closer to consumers and show that you care,” Brannon says.

Remember that each social media platform has a distinctive voice; adopt that voice and tone while staying true to your restaurant’s brand, Brannon observes.


Customer loyalty is always the holy grail for restaurant operators, yet many loyalty programs provide little incentive for members to stay loyal, Brannon says. It’s estimated that more than eight million people don’t redeem their loyalty points because of complicated rules. Restaurants can learn from proven loyalty strategies, like Amazon Prime, that provide a benefit of value to motivate guests. “Amazon started by fixing a pain point—unreliable delivery—and now it’s much more than that, it’s a way to constantly engage with the brand and feel like a VIP,” Brannon notes.

Relevancy is key to any loyalty strategy, she adds. “People know you are capturing their data; they expect you to use it to personalize offers to them.”


Mobile ordering and delivery are projected to capture more share of restaurant dollars in the coming years. To handle the demand, operators need to streamline the process to avoid creating a new pain point. For instance, allowing a mother with young children to order via mobile solves one problem, but making her bring her kids into the restaurant with her to pick up that order generates a new one. Curbside pickup solves that problem, and so on. It is important to remember the human element of the mobile experience and make sure to see the entire occasion – not just the portion involving digital – end to end.  In the future, as in-home delivery becomes more seamless, so could planned delivery of prepared meals from restaurants—the next iteration of the meal kit.

Balancing speed, convenience and experience is also an important goal. Crews need to understand that takeout and delivery customers deserve the same hospitality as if they were in the dining room.

Regardless of how restaurants exploit technology, Brannon says, it is important to “innovate within your current constraints and make sure that your role in the digital-enabled occasion is feasible”

This post is sponsored by Coca-Cola


Exclusive Content


Older brands try new tricks in their quest to stay relevant

Reality Check: A number of mature restaurant chains are out to prove that age is just a number.


At Papa Johns, delivery shifts from its own apps to aggregators

The Bottom Line: The pizza delivery chain’s business with companies like Uber Eats and DoorDash is thriving while its own delivery is slowing. But this isn’t the beginning of the end of self-delivery, CEO Rob Lynch says.


How the shift to counter service has changed Steak n Shake's profitability

The Bottom Line: Sardar Biglari, chairman of the chain’s owner Biglari Holdings, details how the addition of kiosks and counter service has transformed restaurants.