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National Restaurant Association - Key takeaways from the National Restaurant Association Tech Tour

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Key takeaways from the National Restaurant Association Tech Tour

We took 38 restaurant industry executives last week on a tour of five Silicon Valley tech giants. As part of our second annual Tech Tour, we met execs from Google, Pandora, Twitter, OpenTable and a global powerhouse we can’t name because of a nondisclosure agreement. Trust us -- it was a good stop.

Throughout the event, presented by American Express, we learned how the latest tech innovations could apply to restaurant and foodservice businesses. See the photos, and discover key takeaways:


In their new visitor center, Google leaders explained the company’s innovative mindset. They discussed moonshot thinking and the “toothbrush test,” a goal to create products and services people use at least twice a day.

We learned that Google employees could spend 20 percent of their workday on new projects. Check out “Nat and Lo’s 20% Project” video series to learn more about it.

Many of our discussions focused on mobile solutions and easy-to-use inventions that make sense in a user’s environment. For example, restaurant brands can engage commuters and road-tripping consumers along their routes through location-based advertising on Waze, a community-based, traffic-navigation app.


In Pandora’s beautiful, open floorplan headquarters, founder Tim Westergren described how Pandora went from a scrappy startup “mapping [musical] tastes” to a mobile app leader.

In the music- and food-themed conferences rooms, we learned how consumers listen to more and a wider variety of music than ever, and how music creates in-store ambiance.

By rating songs on your Pandora for Business playlist, you can curate a mix to suit your brand. To target consumers outside your restaurant, personalized Pandora ads creatively acknowledge the listener’s musical taste, which can create a deeper customer connection.


Did you know there have been more than 2.6 billion tweets just this year about food and beverage? Twitter execs explained how to capitalize on them – and capture moments of magic. Follow these pillars to engage Twitter users and build your digital brand presence:

1. Own the everyday. Engage user where they are and when (such as breakfast, lunch, dinner).

2. Activate advocates. Connect with your most loyal fans by giving them tools to engage with you. For example, Taco Bell’s recent #TacoEmojiEngine invited guests to tweet taco emojis and an emoji of their choice to receive a customized taco image.

3. Put emotion in motion. Use Vine video and animated GIFs to connect with users.


As a testament to the company’s hospitality roots (about a third of the company’s employees have restaurant industry experience), OpenTable leaders greeted us with a rainy day treat – hot toddies and cookies – before an office tour and conversation.

More than 32,000 restaurants around the world use OpenTable’s services, which include reservation-management and access to a massive network of diner data. Seating more than 17 million diners a month, OpenTable uses email marketing and search-engine optimization to build ongoing relationships with restaurant guests. The company is exploring ways to help restaurants provide better customer solutions on mobile devices.

The Tech Tour began as a National Restaurant Association program for its Pizzeria and Fast Casual Industry Councils. Restaurant owners and operators interested in attending the 2016 Tech Tour should contact Anna Tauzin.


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