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National Restaurant Association - Technology key to building business

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Technology key to building business

The National Restaurant Association’s recent Restaurant Innovation Summit offered operators a taste of how the newest trends in technology and marketing could improve restaurant performance.

The summit, held in Atlanta Oct. 28 and 29, focused on trends such as the shift to mobile payments, using mobile applications to drive traffic and sales, and the relationship between “big data” and customer loyalty.

“This is the place for industry leaders to get the latest technology information impacting their businesses,” said Phil Kafarakis, the NRA’s chief innovation and membership advancement officer. “We are proud to have developed this exchange of ideas to help restaurants capitalize on emerging technology.”

Seth Priebatsch, founder and CEO of mobile-payment platform LevelUp, opened the summit by telling attendees they should embrace mobile technology.

“The shift to mobile is happening,” he said. “It’s not a question of whether [technology] will enable behavior to shift so we pay with our phones; it’s already happening. The question you really have to ask is, ‘How do I win that shift to mobile?’ By adopting the latest technologies, you’ll give your customers the best experience possible.”

Priebatsch said Apple Pay technology, introduced during Apple’s recent iPhone 6 roll-out, would change not only the mobile-payment industry, but the way restaurants operate. The use of online web beacons, or pixel tags, would track the navigation of a single website or a series of websites monitored and by third-party traffic services. The beacons are used with cookies to better understand consumer behavior and potentially could give restaurateurs information on purchasing habits and loyalty.

“Don’t underestimate beacons as just a messaging tool,” he said. “It’s going to give merchants the upper hand in tracking customer info.”

The summit also focused on how collecting big data, or the collection and management of a variety of information, such as consumer behavior patterns, can help restaurateurs grow their following of loyal customers.

“Mining big data is a must-do for restaurateurs,” said speaker Sameer Mungur, CEO of Zipscene, a company that collects customer data in order to target messages. “Being able to directly manage communication with your customers gives you a lot more control in terms of driving frequency or growing that customer’s average spend.”

Annica Kreider, vice president of brand development for the Mellow Mushroom pizza chain, shared her experiences in building her company’s mobile app. She told attendees to do their homework.

“An app is great for building sales and exposure, but laying the groundwork first is the most important thing you can do,” she said. “It is important to understand what it will cost, what the ROI is going to be and what success will look like in the long term. And most important: don’t do anything that will hurt the guest experience.”

Top right: LevelUp's Seth Priebatsch said new mobile technology will change the way restaurants do business.

Above right: Zipscene's Sameer Mungur, center, talks about the importance of collecting big data.

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