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From Tablet Ordering to Food Delivery, Technology Is Everywhere

I'm a bit of an odd duck when it comes to technology. Especially when compared to my millennial cohort, which is so closely linked to the rapid ascent of all things tech. 

I was last among my friends to buy a smartphone (and I still only use it for email and Google Maps), I'll take my worn copy of "Atlas Shrugged" over a Kindle any day, and I'd rather talk to a person in just about every instance when that's an option. The one exception is the grocery store. I'll always choose self-checkout over the cashier line, but I think that's just because during high school I worked at the supermarket near my hometown with several friends, and ringing up my own groceries reminds me of the fun we all had together. 

Humans are underrated, in my opinion, and so I was particularly intrigued when coworkers Beth Ewen and Tom Kaiser told me they were going to try out tablet ordering at three metro-area restaurants. Tablets and kiosks are one way restaurants are trying to speed the ordering process and in some cases boost check averages, but this form of automation is still finding its footing in the restaurant industry.  

Beth's and Tom's experiences were both insightful and entertaining, and they kept a running diary of sorts, with Beth making remarks such as, "When you have your average interaction with a low-skilled, unmotivated person, I’m like, ‘bring on the tablets,’ but when you have a delightful interaction with a person, that can never be replaced." How did tablets fare in this humans versus machines exercise? Turn to page 18 for the full story.

Operators are also turning to technology and restaurant analytics to better understand their business and their customers. But as Nate Nordstrom tells me, "It's just data unless you do something with it." 


Signage at Panera invites customers to avoid the line and order via the kiosk, but is ordering from a person actually faster?

As the founder of BrandHoot, Nordstrom and his team help restaurateurs and other business owners turn data into actionable insights to better target their messaging and ultimately increase profitability. It's easy to get overwhelmed, he points out, but there are so many ways to use this information to your advantage, such as knowing which menu searches are most frequently associated with your restaurant and creating dishes tailored to what customers want.

Technology is pervading every aspect of the foodservice industry, and perhaps nowhere is that more true than in food delivery. Customers are demanding food when, where and how they want it, and a slew of delivery services, mobile apps and ordering platforms are popping up promising to be the solution for restaurants looking to tap into this market. Amid the shiny promises of new revenue, however, are issues such as logistics, point-of-sale integration, payment processing, menu management and branding. These topics merit further study, which is why we've launched Food on Demand, a new regular feature debuting this month to explore every aspect of the mobile-food phenomenon (page 23). 

Food delivery is a topic we'll also tackle during the Foodservice News Restaurant Business Summit on Tuesday, April 12. Our panelists, including Max Runke, general manager with Bite Squad, Amol Dixit of Hot Indian Foods and restaurateur Molly Broder, will discuss how restaurants can expand their brand and increase revenue through delivery. They'll also address the challenges that can arise when partnering with a third-party service. 

The summit will also include a discussion of best practices in financing, operations and design, along with how to stay relevant when you're no longer the new kitchen on the block. To close out the morning we'll be joined by Vincent Francoual, who'll talk about his new role as culinary director of Cara Irish Pubs. 

Summit registration is open at

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