Top 10 tech stories of 2014

Technology changed the restaurant business this year, from back-of- house operations to fundamental consumer interactions. New tools became available to ease and streamline operations, operators weighed the replacement of conventional POS systems with tablets, and a looming change in standards had many places reconsidering how they handle credit cards. Apps saw round after round of updates with new advances, including cashless payment, yet mobile remained a puzzle many operators had yet to crack. And, as always, data security remained top of mind.

1. Data breaches force operators to look at network security

It was just a year ago that the cyber-attack on Target compromised approximately 110 million customers. Since then, numerous restaurants, including Jimmy Johns, some P.F. Chang’s locations and Tom Colicchio’s QSR ‘wichcraft, have been the victims of data breaches.

2. Chip-and-pin set to shake up payment systems

The October 2015 deadline to switch to EMV-enabled credit-card devices is fast approaching, whether or not operators want to believe it. Those who ignore it may be risking enhanced liability if a data breach should strike.

3. Location-based technology helps restaurants target nearby guests

McDonald’s is the latest chain to talk of expanding its test of iBeacon technology, offering in-store promos to get nearby guests in the door. Others, too, have found geotechnology a useful and relatively cost-effective tool to delivery hospitality in new ways. 

4. App all-stars of 2014

The proliferation of mobile apps has left consumers overloaded and reluctant to add more … or even to use all of the ones they have. No longer is it enough for an operator to simply have a mobile app. It has to be relevant, useful and a value-add for consumers.

5. Apple Pay hits the streets with an i-bang

Many have tried to establish their mobile wallets as the industry’s standard, but few prompted widespread adoption. At least, that was, until Apple announced the rollout of Apple Pay during its Apple Live event on CNET in September. Now, bell weather chains such as McDonald’s, Subway and Starbucks have partnered with Apple to put the mobile-pay option in their stores, and others are considering Apple Pay a top priority when updating their payment systems.

6. Millennials still yearn for high touch over high tech

We’ve heard time and again, especially from big data, that millennials want high-tech options to make the dining experience smoother. The goal has been what was christened frictionless service, without any metaphorical rubbing between guest and server. While millennials are more likely to use tech in restaurants than they were a few years back—and they’re more likely than their older counterparts—that doesn’t mean service is out the window. Human interaction is still key to winning this demographic, finds the National Restaurant Association.

7. Social media ideas to steal

Every company dreams of achieving Taco Bell’s God-like status across the social media platforms. But there’s no perfect formula, no guidebook for how to build a following. Some brands, though, have managed to create social media magic, and their successes provide lessons for all.

8. Tablets as back-of-house solutions

While much of the public buzz around tablets in restaurants refers to front-of-house applications—such as servers taking orders tableside, self-pay options and digital entertainment—the back-of-house capabilities have the possibility to make an organization more efficient and consistent at the unit level and companywide.

9. The next iteration of POS

Soon enough, operators are going to need new systems in order to accept chip-enabled credit cards. Additionally, consumer adoption of mobile payment may be pretty low, but it’s on the rise. And operators who don’t accept guests’ preferred method of payment risk losing customers. These impending regulations and new technologies are forcing operators to reconsider not only their POS systems, but whether they want to go with traditional terminals or tablets.

10. Panera 2.0 brings tech into big-chain operations

By 2016, Panera says it’ll have all of its stores upgraded to a new, more tech-heavy model, with upgrades including app-based ordering, a Rapid Pick-Up area to boost convenience, “status monitors” to show what stage an order is at, in-store ordering kiosks, large-order delivery placed through mobile and new display screens for the kitchen.

Restaurant takeout has proven a successful part of the business, so it’s no shock that others are trying to get in on what GrubHub has managed to build a business around. Car service Uber is relying on mobile technology for its new UberFRESH test in Los Angeles, where consumers can order meals via their Uber app and have it delivered by an Uber drive. Amazon also is testing restaurant-meal delivery in Seattle, running an AmazonLocal site not all that different from GrubHub.

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