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Tech roundup: What’s on restaurants’ tech wish list?

Three CMOs described the tech tools of their dreams. Also, Minneapolis makes its delivery fee cap permanent, Uber Eats goes to space and more.
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At last week’s Restaurant Leadership Conference, a panel of restaurant CMOs was asked what technology products they wished someone would build.

The CMO job is inseparable from tech these days, and their answers highlight some of the challenges (opportunities?) in the industry at the moment. Here’s what they wished for:

Ryan Ostrom, Jack in the Box: A Control-Alt-Delete button that gets rid of all legacy technology. 

If only it were that easy! Ostrom said the burger chain still has elements in its tech stack from the 80s and 90s, and that trying to uproot has been daunting. The process sounds a bit like "Jenga."

“You can’t get rid of anything, and you’re only as strong as your weakest technology in your entire stack,” Ostrom said.

Kelly Cooke, Salsarita’s: An automated data analytics system.

The Mexican fast casual has enjoyed an influx of customer data since expanding its ordering channels and launching a loyalty program, but crunching that data is still largely Cooke’s responsibility. She fantasized about software that would send her a notification every morning with insights gleaned from the previous day’s orders.

Jodi Boyce, Teriyaki Madness: A tool that can tie disparate technologies into a single system.

“Besides cloning people,” Boyce joked, she would like a better way to integrate the many technology products out there.

“We have so much data, but if systems aren’t talking to each other, it’s broken,” she said.

Minneapolis permanently capped third-party delivery fees. The City Council last week voted unanimously to permanently limit the fees charged to restaurants by delivery providers to 15%. 

It becomes the third city with a permanent cap, following San Francisco and New York. Delivery companies have sued the two cities over those measures.

The Minneapolis law includes a provision that allows delivery companies to charge more than 15% per order as long as a restaurant agrees to pay more for additional services.

Meanwhile, ChowNow is taking its own swipe at delivery companies. The online ordering and delivery marketplace last week unveiled a new tool for customers called the Diner Impact Score. It shows how much money a customer has helped restaurants save over time by ordering via ChowNow, which, unlike competitors DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub, doesn’t charge restaurants an order commission.

The score is calculated based on 20% fees for delivery and 10% for pickup. Delivery fees typically range from 15% to 30% or more. The score is updated every time a customer places an order.

Uber Eats made the first food delivery in outer space. The delivery company partnered with entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa to bring ready-to-eat canned Japanese meals to the International Space Station on Saturday, a journey of 248 miles and more than eight hours. As part of the publicity stunt, Eats will offer $10 off orders of $20 or more to the first 248,000 customers who use the code SPACEFOOD through Dec. 19.

Uber Eats in spaceYusaku Maezawa at the ISS for Uber Eats. / Photograph courtesy of Uber Eats

Nextbite launched its first Asian virtual brand. The to-go-only Lucky Dragon Fried Rice features just three menu items: Classic Fried Rice, Spicy Fried Rice and Yum Yum Fried Rice, made with a special Yum Yum sauce. All include a combination of rice, vegetables and a choice of protein.

Notably, none of the recipes are set in stone: Nextbite encourages restaurants to change up the ingredients for Lucky Dragon as they see fit. “Don’t like our spec’d meats? No problem: use your own. Not into our recommended rice? All good: use your rice,” its website reads.

Chefs Tom Colicchio and Spike Mendelsohn are launching a line of NFTs. (That stands for non-fungible tokens—one-of-a-kind digital assets that can be bought and sold online as collector’s items.) The chefs’ collection goes by the name CHFTY Pizzas. It will feature 8,888 images of cartoon pizza slices wearing different outfits and accessories. The NFTs are still being developed, and the price for each has not yet been announced. But the images will apparently have some real-world tie-ins, including pizza parties or dinner with famous chefs, according to the CHFTY Pizzas website.

Reef Technology hired a chief product officer. Dylan Casey, a former tech leader from Goldman Sachs, Yahoo and Google, was named to the newly created role in which he will lead product development and “instill a product-led ethos” at Reef, said CEO Ari Ojalvo in a statement. The ghost kitchen operator has hundreds of locations in the U.S. and abroad.

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