NRA 2015: How Technology is Changing the Restaurant Customer Experience — The Panel

On May 16th, at the National Restaurant Association Show held in Chicago, Jim Coyle lead a panel of restaurant operators in discussing “How Technology is Changing the Restaurant Customer Experience”

Panelists included:

  • Mark Braver, COO for Heisler Hospitality
  • Penelope Crocker, Director, Restaurant Marketing Strategy for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants
  • Scott Steenrod, VP of Restaurant Operation for Garces Restaurant Group

Top 5 Takeaways

#1 – “The expectation has changed before they even walk in the door,” says Mark Braver of Heisler Hospitality. Due to advancements in technology and social media like Yelp and TripAdvisor, customers already have set expectations.

#2 – If a restaurant or business does decide to implement certain technologies into their culture, there are things to consider. According to Penelope Crocker, it’s going to take a lot of training to implement these types of technologies, which cost time and money. Not only do you have to train employees, but also teaching consumers how to use these new technologies might be another obstacle to face.

#3 – Technological advances like using your mobile device for ordering may increase table turnover and make the interaction quicker, but impede on servers spending time with guests. “A big reason why they come through our doors everyday is to get the human interaction and service and a static electronic device, no matter how advanced it is, does not provide that benefit,” says Scott Steenrod. Technology is there to be a benefit, not to replace guest experience.

#4 –  Restaurants should be looking at ROI to determine if the specific technology is something customers really want.   Technology should be utilized as an enhancement and should not detract from a guests’ experience, “We are not going to use something that works for one market when really we should be looking at scalability across our entire portfolio” says Penelope Crocker.

#5  Although technology may be trending now and for a little while longer; eventually people will go back to human interaction. All of the operators felt that in 10 years people would still want to form interpersonal relationships when dining out. Penelope Crocker and Scott Steenrod both agreed that although these advanced technologies won’t take the place of humans, the service aspect for the customer would be more personalized because of technology.  There is constant change happening and as people and technology evolve. It is important to determine the right fit for a restaurant’s individual concept.

Listen to the full audio version of the entire discussion.

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Contact Coyle today if you’re looking to learn more about restaurant mobile payments and how they can impact your guest experience.

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