Which restaurant concepts are tops in tech?

Photograph: Winsight staff

As advancements in tech continue to alter the foodservice landscape, from front of house to back and everywhere in between, restaurant brands that embrace innovation and experimentation are winning customers, dollars and efficiencies.

Now in its fourth year, the Tech Accelerator Awards from Restaurant Business honor leading restaurant operations that have proven their business leadership in technology. The 2018 class of winners are: Domino’s Pizza, TGI Fridays and Zume Pizza

Chosen by the editorial team of Restaurant Business, with consumer-preference insights from research firm Technomic, the Tech Accelerator Awards honor tech-minded foodservice brands that innovate and advance back-of-house operations, data science, consumer-facing advancements, automation and more.


The 2018 Tech Accelerator Award winners will be honored at FSTEC, taking place Oct. 1-3 in Orlando, Fla. FSTEC is the foodservice industry’s top tech conference, presented by Restaurant Business parent company, Winsight. Learn more and register to attend >> 

One Tech Accelerator of the Year winner—a best-in-class honor selected from among the three honorees—will be announced at FSTEC. Past Tech Accelerator of the Year winners have included Panera Bread, Eatsa and University of Colorado Boulder.


“This year’s Tech Accelerator Award winners show that constant innovation in tech, whether through ordering, payment, customization or robotics, can enhance a customer’s experience and drive brand loyalty,” said Sarah Lockyer, SVP, Content, of Restaurant Business. “We look forward to celebrating with these leaders at FSTEC and seeing where they’ll take foodservice tech—and the restaurant customer—next.”

The 2018 Tech Accelerator Award winners

Limited service: Domino’s Pizza

Domino's logo

Domino’s has forever changed the way consumers order from and interact with restaurants, with nearly two-thirds of its orders already coming through digital channels. Former CEO Patrick Doyle has said that the chain will continue to push toward being an almost fully digital business. Delivery on that statement comes from its constant innovation, with the pizza chain even saying that it considers itself a tech company that happens to serve food. Of late, the chain has gained attention for tech-driven initiatives such as its expanded test of self-driving cars in Miami as well as its Hotspots delivery service, which allows customers to order pizza for delivery to parks, stadiums and other shared locations that do not have a physical address.

Consumers have responded favorably to the chain’s continued innovation: Domino’s has managed to nearly double its global systemwide sales since 2009, reaching $5.9 billion in 2017.

Full service: TGI Fridays

TGI Friday's logo

Digital technology has shifted restaurants’ relationships with consumers, so legacy brand TGI Fridays has turned to AI and data to improve its customers’ experiences. The brand has focused on both the online and in-restaurant experience to capture consumer information, leading to its ability to deliver a more personalized experience with data collected from the POS, social media posts, credit card transactions, mobile devices and bots. With that information, TGI Fridays can customize its messaging to specific customers.

The chain is also using data to extend that experience outside of its four walls, using digital tracking of trends and purchases to grow its off-premise business. That includes looking at different ways for consumers to order, including via Facebook, in-car OnStar devices with GM and through Amazon Alexa.

Emerging brand: Zume Pizza

Zume Pizza logo

While many joke about a future where robots run restaurants, Zume Pizza is closer than any concept to making that a reality. The concept has proven the disruptive potential of technology. Zume's pizzas are made with the help of robots, then cooked in mobile kitchens centrally located based on predictive demand, with last-mile deliveries made via cars and scooters. 

Now, following some tweaks to its system, Zume is in expansion mode, with the goal of reaching 26 units by the end of the year. It’s moving forward with what CEO and Chairman Alex Garden calls co-botics: a human-robot combination, with robots handling the repetitive work and carbon life forms doing quality assurance. And while Zume doesn’t plan to franchise at this point, it is planning to license the technology that serves as its foundation, working with the supplier of its truck equipment.

The winners will participate in a panel on the future of restaurant tech, moderated by Restaurant Business executive editor, Sara Rush Wirth. The panel is sponsored by NCR. 

Tech Accelerator Awards: Saluting the Leaders in Restaurant Technology

Restaurant Business recognizes companies that are revolutionizing their business model by using technology that results in operations improvements or an enhanced guest experience—and ultimately bottom-line growth. From among the three winners—one each from limited service, full service and emerging operations—one will rise to the top. Join us as we celebrate the innovations and accomplishments of Zume Pizza (emerging), Domino’s (limited service), and TGI Fridays (full service).  And then, of course, enjoy the excitement as we announce the Tech Accelerator of the Year! 


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