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National Restaurant Association - Tech leaders to explore customer-engagement apps

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Tech leaders to explore customer-engagement apps

When Derek Nettles goes to the NRA Show, he’ll be spending most of his time in the Technology Pavilion.

Nettles, information technology manager, for Dickie Brennan & Co., will be accepting an Operator Innovations Award for his company’s new touch-screen check presenters. The other technology award recipients are Fig & Olive and Indiana University.

“Dickie and I always try to make our company tech-savvy,” says Nettles.
“We always try to be ahead of the game … how we can improve the guest experience and make waiters more efficient.”

At the NRA Show, Nettles plans to attend education sessions on mobile guest engagement, which he said was a huge topic last week at the NRA’s Information Technology Study Group in Miami. Dickie Brennan & Co. is interested using the technology to announce specials, happy hours and other events. He's also interested in solutions for Cloud POS, digital signage and PCI compliance.

“It’s something we’ll really be looking at when I get back from the Show,” he says.

Dan Cunningham, senior vice president, information technology, Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, also plans to explore customer-facing mobile apps, as well as technology to improve productivity and loyalty systems that work for all three of his company’s brands.

The customer-engagement apps are especially important as the breakfast business becomes more competitive, he says. Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks have great functional applications, he says, and Taco Bell is now moving into breakfast.

He’s also looking for ideas to help managers in the field. “We continue to move toward applications to solve business problems,” he says. “When our managers go out in the field, they don’t want to bring a PC.” Opening the laptop, connecting to the internets and calling up spreadsheets is cumbersome and wastes time, he says.

“We want to make it easier for them so they can work with staff on the in-store experience,” he says.

Cunningham is one of the speakers on the CIO Tech Panel, which will explore best practices, strategic business solutions and the future of foodservice technology. The last time he attended the NRA Show, he represented McCormick & Schmick on a tech session panel. At that time, the Technology Pavilion mostly featured point-of-sale and supply chain solutions.

“I’m excited to see how technology is making a bigger play in the Show,” he says.  

The Tech Pavilion houses the latest technological products and services in 24,000 square feet in McCormick Place’s North Hall. It also features interactive demonstrations and education sessions.

In addition to the CIO panel, education session topics include mobile payments, in-store experience, big data, patent trolls, PCI compliance and marketing.

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