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National Restaurant Association - Wow Bao’s Geoff Alexander talks about tech

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Wow Bao’s Geoff Alexander talks about tech

Since its inception, Wow Bao has been an early adopter of restaurant industry technology. The fast-casual Pan-Asian chain introduced an ordering app in 2010, making it one of the first restaurant brands to offer one. It’s had self-ordering kiosks since 2009, and today its newest stores have no cashiers or expediters; after customers place their orders, they find their food in a one of a dozen cubbies.

Here, Geoff Alexander, Wow Bao’s president, talks about technology, tech vendors and our Restaurant Innovation Summit, where he will moderate a discussion on kiosks and other ordering technology. Here are his thoughts on what to expect at the Summit and on the state of technology in general.

What should operators consider when it comes to investing in technology?
The price they have to pay. I’m not just talking about money, but how it affects operations and what they have to be ready for. Technology is a headache. Think about it; whatever phone or device you use, there are going to be some pain points. You have to be willing to put up with that. It’s the same with restaurant technology. If you accept that there will be pain points and a learning curve, you’ll do better, make better decisions. You also have to know what’s right for your concept. There are limitations to the systems. For example, if you offer a fully customizable menu, you have to make sure your kiosk can accommodate it. If not, it’s a miss.

How do you balance technology with hospitality?
Everyone is using kiosks. They’re in hotels, airports and supermarkets. But there are still customer-service people for those who don’t want to use them.

What do you hope to learn from your panelists at the Restaurant Innovation Summit?
I’ll talk with kiosk and tech vendors to find out what they think about the future of kiosk technology. Technology has always been important to our brand. That’s why we stay updated with what’s happening.
     We also want to know about its evolution. In our automated units, we’re keeping people in the store to heighten the hospitality. We’ve eliminated the cashier and expediter, which, in some cases, can turn things into a less-than-great experience. That’s why we’re keeping someone out front, to maintain a high level of hospitality. If you lose sight of hospitality, you get hurt.

Do you have a wish list for tech suppliers?
Technology is either really good or mediocre. It must be designed so the client ‑‑ the restaurant operator ‑‑ can update and use it with their systems. It needs to integrate with the rest of the operation’s systems. Manufacturers have to build it to be able to make changes, and also accept feedback on it. It sounds simple, but that’s the most complicated part.

The Restaurant Innovation Summit is Nov. 7-8 in Dallas. Register now!

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