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National Restaurant Association - 5 tech trends from the NRA Show

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5 tech trends from the NRA Show

Restaurateurs packed the NRA Show’s Tech Pavilion looking for cutting-edge solutions to help them increase sales, manage business, and improve the customer experience. Here are five restaurant technology trends straight from the NRA Show floor:

Digital menus

NRA Show exhibitors said they expect more restaurants to move away from paper menus over the next few years as the cost of digital menus comes down and more customers embrace the technology. A number of digital ordering tools were on display in the Exhibit Hall.

“Our product replaces the paper menus, said Ryan Lynch, a Chicago-based reseller of Menuvative, which focuses primarily on fine-dining establishments. “We don’t want to pull away from the personal touch. We want to put information in the guest’s hands.”

Menuvative features PairingPro, which uses an algorithm that offers wine pairings based on the characteristics of the food guests order. Many restaurants using the platform have seen their sales increase, said Eric Arsenault, president of Imenutech, which developed Menuvative. “Guests order more, to the tune of 10 percent, based on what we’ve seen.”

Restaurants are finding that digital menus are providing cost saving over time, because they eliminate the need for reprinting and increase sales, said Paul Veltri, a national sales consultant for eTouchMenu, which offers a tablet-based ordering and payment platform that also encrypts the payment information being sent and received during each transaction. And customers report that the tablets are improving their dining experience, he said. “It’s about enhancing service,” he said.

Personalized marketing

The more restaurants know about their guests, the more they can improve the guest experience. Several exhibitors offered tools to help restaurants customize their offerings based on past guest behavior.

Newton, Mass.-based Paytronix was exhibiting a system that integrates with restaurant POS systems and allows restaurants to market to individual guests via e-mail, text or social media, based on what the guest prefers. “If you make your marketing more relevant, you’re going to have more significant returns,” said Jim Guest, a sales representative for Paytronix.

Media integration

Many operators want the advantages of technology without the headaches of managing multiple systems and hardware. BrightSign representatives were on hand promoting their solid-state media players, which allow restaurants to integrate digital signage and menus, automated order taking, social media, music and other functions. Brightsign products allow the restaurant operator to control all of the functions without a PC.

“We focused on driving the cost down and the reliability up,” said Robert Gardner, BrightSign’s vice president of product services. “This is so straightforward. It’s something anybody can use.”

Electronic scheduling

Planning a restaurant schedule and balancing last-minute changes and employee requests with guests’ needs can be tricky. Restaurants are looking for digital tools that can make the process far easier and more friendly for both managers and employees.

“Most of the people who come to us are using either paper or Excel,” said Dan Olfelt, chief technology officer of When I Work, which allows restaurant managers and employees to set schedules, request time off, swap shifts and view the schedule via smartphones and tablets.

Data security

Recent high-profile data breaches at major retailers have restaurants concerned about making sure their customers’ payment information stays secure. Seal Beach, Calif.-based MagTek demonstrated its payment system, which immediately encrypts cards when they’re swiped and sends immediate alerts when a card may be fraudulent. Rather than focusing on card numbers, the system reads the unique pattern of magnetic particles on cards.

“The strip on a card is a painted slurry of magnetic particles,” said Pete Philomey, MagTek sales director. “No two cards have the same pattern.” MagTek’s technology is able to identify with near certainty whether the card that has been swiped is the true card or a copy, he said. When it suspects a fraudulent card, the person who swiped the card is told that the card is potentially fraudulent, and asked whether they’d like to continue with the transaction.

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