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06.24.19

The Right (and Wrong) Ways For Restaurants To Deploy New Tech

by Allyson Klineman

The pressure is intense for restaurants to adopt and implement new technology quickly because customers now expect it. With brands like sweetgreen and Chick-fil-A raising the bar for what an experience should be, technology has never been more critical to a restaurant’s success.

Adding to the pressure is that consumer technology expectations now extend well beyond websites and apps to encompass interactions in the store and beyond with the rise of off-premise sales.

As kitchens get smaller and restaurants experiment with kiosks and ghost kitchens, in-store experiences are changing, as well. That means new technology is altering operations, from delivery cars making pizza to modern layouts with a drive-thru in the front along with designated lanes for app orders and delivery drivers.

Knowing what to do starts with knowing what not to do.

AVOID THE EVIL TWINS

With so much noise in the space, restaurant operators often fall prey to one of two evils.

The first is getting frozen with analysis paralysis because there are too many options (and more entering the market every quarter). This leads to inaction that pushes the brand farther behind the technology curve.

Its evil twin is getting impulsive and making a series of hasty, often disjointed, decisions made worse by re-upping at the expiration of each 24-month vendor agreement. The result is a swiss cheese experience for customers and falling further behind brands who are more purposeful and comprehensive in their approach.

TECH FOR CUSTOMERS, NOT FOR TECH’S SAKE

With our clients (and other brands), we’ve seen that a human-centered approach to your restaurant’s digital experience is critical. This ensures that technology implemented is based on what customers want, need and truly find useful.

Making a decision, even a fast decision, should not be feared or viewed as an inhibitor to success but rather as an accelerator to help accomplish your goals. To push past paralysis or one-offs and make informed decisions, it is important to have a clear, actionable strategy and a pragmatic roadmap to get there. By pragmatic, we mean within budget and additive to both your customer experience and existing technology.

Just look at the ground McDonald’s has made up for in the last two years with its acquisition of Dynamic Yield and its algorithmically-driven decision logic technology, the introduction of McDelivery, the renovation of its flagship Chicago location and the grand opening of a three-story Times Square location. McDonald’s is committed to continued investment in digital and technology. And it’s working. McDonald’s stock continues to steadily increase.

A ROADMAP TO GET STARTED

At T3, we build brands differently. They must do, then say. That’s because customers do not differentiate between experience and brand. One reinforces the other. To that end, here are three recommendations we consistently make to our clients. (I’ll explain why.)

  1. Continue to execute on what you already do well. Don’t replace a solid base with a shiny object. If your customers are accustomed to direct mailers and value coupons, then don’t replace them. Instead, incorporate this into your broader strategy and find digital touchpoints to complement what you’re doing now.
  2. Create an actionable strategy that builds over time. Don’t miss the critical step establishing a roadmap to build out new capabilities in a purposeful manner that allows for continuous innovation. Accelerate what you can against a long-term plan.
  3. Always remember to optimize today. Be it a new app, website, kiosk or a ghost kitchen pilot, new deployments take time. In parallel with any new technology initiatives, brands should assess existing configurations and identify opportunities to reduce friction immediately and drive incremental revenue in the process. Example: If you have an underperforming app, evaluate your supporting strategy, messaging and promotional ecosystem to diagnose and understand any failure points. Are the experiences you built connected with relevance and creativity?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched brands deploy technology to check a box for the sake of checking a box. Mistake. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for every restaurant. That route leads to a hash of inconsistent experiences that frustrate customers and can damage your business.

The better approach is strategic. Embrace the uniqueness of customers and brands. Build from what’s working. Optimize. Then purposefully bring on the mix of technology solutions to thrill your customers and exceed your same store and overall goals.

Allyson Klineman

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