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Technology on the Menu

In a recent article from Nation’s Restaurant News, National Restaurant Association consumer research reports that over half of U.S. adults (63%) have used restaurant-related technologies. When asked what they’d done in the past month, those surveyed were most likely to have looked for a restaurant location and directions on a mobile device and also to have viewed menus, ordered food, or made online reservations on a computer. When it comes to the technologies consumers would use if offered, the same two top the list: looking up a restaurant location and getting directions and using a computer to view menus, order, or make reservations.

It was recently reported that Applebee’s intends to install 100,000 tablet computers in more than 1,800 locations nationwide by the end of 2014. Julia Stewart, CEO, DineEquity (Applebee’s’ parent company), said customers had been telling them for some time that they don’t like waiting for a check and that tablets will present the company with a unique opportunity and competitive advantage. This technology will allow customers to pay at the table, order, and play games, giving Applebee’s another way to engage and communicate with their guests. Similar devices are being used by other casual dining restaurant chains, including Chili’s, Red Robin, McDonald’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings. While upscale and white tablecloth operators are continuing to evaluate the use of tablets, some are having success using tablets for their wine lists. “Our Fleming’s WiNEPAD has helped customers engage with wine, discover new ones, and get advice on pairing with food,” explains Craig Sheppard, National IT Training Coordinator, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, hq Newport Beach, CA. “It’s helped increase satisfaction and sales.” Rocky says BR Guest has been looking at an iPad wine list but is concerned that it might increase time between table turns as guests become fascinated by it; however this has not been an issue at Fleming’s, according to Craig.

While not in the pipeline currently, Rocky says that BR Guest has been looking at mobile payment options, even though their guests are not screaming for it. “Right now it’s like the ‘wild west’ – there is no standard yet. There are some handhelds and a bunch of apps, such as LevelUp and TabbedOut. Some of these technologies interface directly with POS systems and use the same credit card payment ‘pass thru’; some do not interface and are their own credit card processors or use third-party processors.”

“We recommend looking at your restaurant listing on Google+ Places to confirm the information listed is correct and that you’ve added as much to the listing as possible (menus, photos, etc.). Then use that same information as a template for all other directories such as Urbanspoon, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Bing,” advises Chris. Steve Brooks, Director of Information Services/Business Analyst, Tumbleweed, Louisville, KY, says they’ve hired a company for about $65 per store to clean up their online presence – checking maps and addresses, opening and closing times, etc. “This way we know customers are receiving correct information when they’re searching for us.” Chris says services like Yext update and sync geodata and content automatically for $50-$100/month. “If you’re doing a good job of regularly updating menus and photos, that’s a great value.”

Another way the restaurant industry is evolving in through the technology being developed for BOH management. MenuMax is a leader in recipe management, food costing and nutrition analysis. The tools you need to efficiently operate your restaurant are available through this cloud based application. The user-face enables you to store your data online so that is accessible from any computer with an internet connection. MenuMax helps reduce waste and control costs by keeping an accurate count of inventory and up-to-date food pricing. For more information visit or call 1-877-MENUMAX

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