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National Restaurant Association - 5 tech trends at the NRA Show

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5 tech trends at the NRA Show

Technological solutions geared toward foodservice operations were plentiful at this year’s NRA Show. Here’s a look at five technology trends from the exhibit floor.

Online and mobile ordering

There's no more valuable real estate these days than in a customer’s pocket, according to John Valentine, vice president of sales, at LevelUp, which builds mobile payment and loyalty apps.

Diners are increasingly interested in ordering and paying for their food online and through their mobile devices. NRA research shows that a third of all adults and more than half of 18- to 34-year-olds say that they would use mobile or wireless devices to pay restaurant tabs at full-service restaurants if given the option.

LevelUp’s system integrates with most point-of-sale systems, allows customers to pay via mobile device, and integrates loyalty programs. EatStreet offers customers a choice of 10,000 restaurants for pick-up orders. GrubHub has pick-up and delivery options, with a large portion of orders coming from mobile devices.

Read NRA’s four tips on researching mobile payments systems.

Digital menu boards

Digital display menu boards continue to grow in popularity. Why? The technology keeps improving while prices keep coming down. Today’s digital menu boards offer operators the flexibility to change the content by day segment, change prices, and add nutritional information. The ability to include calorie counts will be especially valuable to restaurants as the new federal menu labeling law is implemented.

Tabletop technology

NRA research shows that tabletop tablets are the top technology trend for 2014. Tabletop technology, such as an iPad or other tablet mounted to the table, can benefit both restaurant guests and operators, according to John Regal, chief marketing officer at Ziosk. Ziosk’s tablet lets customers view menus, order food, play games, sign up for loyalty programs, post updates and photos on social media, and pay their check. It integrates with existing POS systems and can provide data on customer behavior.

iWaiter takes this technology off the table and put it into guests’ mobile devices. Guests can order food and pay from their phones. The system also collects analytics on servers and lets operators compare service across locations.

Loyalty and reward programs

As technology improves, restaurant operators are looking for ways to build better guest loyalty programs. Many technological solutions being touted at the show integrate loyalty and rewards programs. For example, Ziosk’s tabletop technology boasts a ten-fold increase in loyalty program sign-ups among restaurants using the system. WiFast collects email addresses when guests sign into a restaurant’s WiFi. It then tracks customer visit patterns, so that restaurants can email tailored offers to customers.

Workforce management software

With restaurant labor costs averaging around 30 percent and a high employee turnover rate in the industry, technology companies are coming up with ways to more efficiently manage a workforce. People Matter, a company that provides workforce solutions for service-industry brands, previewed software that looks for inefficiencies in the hiring process throughout a brand’s locations. The software identifies problems impacting turnover and can provide information to fix hiring problems, according to Jordan Rackie, director of sales.

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