Ryan Williams
Jeremy Julian

NRF 2014 Recap

January 17, 2014

Good Morning! This is the Restaurant Technology Guys reporting Live from New York.  Jeremy and I have been here all week at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, the largest retail show in the country.  The show has been going on for 103 years!  Why are we here? Typically retail groups adopt this technology before the restaurant groups do.  Be it because their volume is higher or the profits are higher, usually, we’ll see retail adopt the technology first then it comes to restaurants.  We’re here on a scouting mission and we want to cover some of it and report it to you.

So let’s talk about the Top 5 things we liked best at the show this year.

Number 5: Mobile Payments

We came to the show knowing that there were 25-30 available mobile payment apps, meaning the consumer can pay from a tablet or pay from their phone and close their check and move on.  As mentioned in the blog before, we expected to see a lot of different mobile payment providers.  We were seeking them out, especially in light of the breach at Target and Neiman-Marcus; it’s something that people are asking about.  Everyone is asking how they get more secure payment and how can they enable the consumer to pay for their transaction without using a credit card.  It was odd that we did not see one clear leader in the mobile payment space.  We did, however, see many “me-too” products that didn’t really differentiate themselves and were really in the ‘basement-level’ of development.  This was probably one of the biggest disappointments of the show.  We are meeting with MyCheck, a service based out of New York that delivers a similar service, but this is something that we will revisit with you.  This is the future – with the latest breaches and the “consumerization” of mobile technology, mobile payment is something that has to be right around the corner.  We’ll report back so be sure to look out for that.

Number 4: Multi-Channel Sales

As you can see from the infographic we shared, 94% of shoppers find in-store shopping easy.  So 9.5 out of 10 customers is happy with their in-store experience and they found it to be easy.  74% of shoppers find online shopping easy, so still opportunity for improvement there, and 26% find mobile shopping easy.  So although we are at a retail show, the message to hospitality is that they have to adapt. If you take, for example, Chipotle, they have adapted to these changing landscapes and if you don’t take these into account your business will suffer.  I call it the “Amazon Effect” that they have to have multi-channel, especially in fast service and fast casual.  You have to meet the consumer where the consumer is shopping. If that’s online, if that’s on an app, if that’s call ahead, or online, you have to go to the consumer.  I’ve used it myself. It’s convenient when I don’t have time to stand in line for lunch.  Even down to the mom and pop size restaurants, restaurants need to adopt this eventually because it’s where consumers are and make it easy for them. Understanding there is an expense for this, you need to take that into account and plan for it, because the future is now.

Number 3: Digital Signage

As you can see, the left demonstrates a vending machine that leverages digital images of the applications.  The one there is a retail application, but there is something we tweeted about a few weeks back called “The Burrito Box”, a place in Los Angeles that makes custom burritos.  In Asia they have these concepts everywhere, but it can augment your brand.  Sprinkles Cupcakes uses this technology to get their cupcakes in front of people.  By engaging your guests and allowing them to see the product and potentially order products, that’s the key.  In the middle image, you can see a digital menu board with an accompanying video that creates a number of different marketing opportunities.  There’s a panel that addresses menu items and a third panel that offers another visual management.  This is further bringing to light that restaurateurs and retailers alike have got to embrace digital engagement.  In a way, it’s a visual representation of the things consumers already know about like social media.  Our minds already process this information quickly and we tend to be engaged by these types of tactics.  It’s been proven that the items linked with pictures always has higher sales, so being able to add more visibility and being able to deliver on these expectations could increase sales.  It’s huge. The picture on the right allows you to do full motion recording.  It adds such a powerful, consistent message for the brand.  This could be applied to the restaurant world by making a virtual greeter or the like. Digital is not going away.  It will continue to grow and engage consumers.  Consider buying a digital menu board next time you buy some signage.  It’s incredibly versatile and it can be very profitable and can have some good ROI.

Number 2: Tablets

One thing was super at NRF this time was although some of these tablets have some of their own booth, Microsoft filled their own booth with various manufacturers.  They did a good job of representing how their hardware works with the software and all of the other cloud-based solutions that are out there. The tablets are retail hardened with all the cases and scanners/mag readers if you need them.  There were probably 10 or so small form (7-8” devices) that can be held in an apron and taken to a table.  Almost all of them had mag-card readers.  It kind of goes back to that mobile payment idea… It’s all there and it’s coming.  We receive calls all the time about putting tablets in restaurants.  There are solutions coming from all of the major players. Most of the big players are taking consumer devices and partnering with case manufacturers to make workplace-ready units that will be vetted by our team and us.  If you’re interested, please contact us so we can arrange a free consultation to find the solution that would work best for you.

Number 1: Marketing Analytics 

The number one thing we saw was marketing analytics. The enormous tradeshow floor was filled with booths covering marketing analytics measuring consumer behavior from top to bottom.  We used experience as a good example of marketing analytics.  This company has about $50 billion dollars of backing and they are taking marketing analytics, combining it with POS systems and offering data for demographics, how the weather was for certain days, it compared sales to different aspects of the day so that you can dial in just what led to better/worse sales days. It integrated cameras to link with the POS system to do predictions and knowing that certain consumers are going to make particular purchase decisions.  There were 20-40 examples of companies doing this.  Amazon does a great job of this.  Not one Amazon homepage looks the same.  It changes for each person’s tastes and past purchase decisions. This is a little creepy, but as a business owner, it allows you to make impactful, personalized decisions on a level that has never been able to be achieved before. Our job as business owners is to make the experience more personal and this helps us do our job.

As a restaurateur, you may not necessarily see this technology coming to you in the extremely near future, but there are plenty of opportunities for these technologies to trickle into your restaurant.  Sooner, rather than later, these technologies will become commonplace.  These are the things you need to consider as a restaurateur when making decisions for the future.  Maybe you decide to purchase a digital menu board when your old backlit menu board needs to be replaced.  Being mindful of these innovations allows you to stay relevant and provide an outstanding experience for your customer.  Contact us today to see how we can help your restaurant implement some of these great innovations in your business!

…because the future is now.

Sound off in the comments about what you see coming to the restaurant industry in the near future!

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