Learning from restaurants who are winning in our new, digital world

By : Jessica Bryant

In an industry driven by change, there’s no better education than hearing from restauranteurs who are successfully navigating (and, in fact, leveraging) the dizzying pace of evolution. At the recent National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in Chicago, I had the opportunity to host a Tech Talk panel discussion with two restauranteurs who are doing just that: John Rosanova, Director of leading Chicago hospitality group Four Corners, and Tara Townsley, VP of IT for the gastropub chain Bar Louie.


We covered a wide range of topics and audience questions, from accommodating the preferences of different guest demographics to more effectively managing labor. Some key takeaways from the session include:


Getting third-party delivery right

Technomic reports that off-premise orders comprise 44% of all restaurant sales, and the explosion in third-party delivery services has helped many brands increase their reach beyond the walls of the restaurant and meet guests wherever they are.

But restauranteurs need to make sure to retain management and ownership of the customer relationship from beginning to end. No matter how an order is placed or fulfilled, it’s the restaurant brand at the forefront of the consumer’s mind, so choosing the right partners to accurately capture and route the order, support the kitchen production process and efficiently execute last-mile delivery – is critical to maintaining a positive brand experience.


Engaging staff better, to engage guests better

Both John and Tara shared how challenging it is to attract and retain great talent in tight labor markets where there are many other attractive employment options – the yearly turnover rate in the industry is estimated at 70%. Besides keeping a cadence of open communication with staff members, a crucial element to supporting employee satisfaction is to remove the friction in their everyday experience.

Technology can help, with labor management systems that include online scheduling and shift swaps, data analysis to help optimize staffing to boost overall site performance, synchronizing and automating processes (such as back of house and kitchen production), and more. Hospitality philosophy dictates that the customer experience will never exceed the employee experience, and these capabilities help management foster a happier staff, to in turn create happier guests.


Serving Millennials…alongside Gen Xers, Baby Boomers, and other generations

As the largest adult population in the U.S., millennials get much of the attention around consumer marketing and engagement. But it’s important to remember that not all millennials are seeking the same experience from restaurants, nor are they the only demographic group restaurants are serving.

Some guests may prefer a text alert when their table is ready while others want the host to approach them in person. Some may choose to interact solely through tablets at their table while others are seeking personal engagement from their server. Strategically using technology with purpose and as a complement to traditional guest-centric values allows restauranteurs to deliver flexible experiences that cater to a wide array of customers.


Increasing operational efficiencies as the role of restaurants change

Many restaurant meals are now consumed off-premise. Labor and food costs are on the rise. New channels for engagement, such as social media and third-party aggregators, are emerging. What this means for restauranteurs charged with running a business in a highly evolving industry is that they need to rethink a multitude of aspects of their operation.

This might mean shrinking front of house seating to accommodate the execution of off-premise. Automating core kitchen functions to reallocate labor to higher-impact tasks and mitigate waste. Balancing or improving data management and integration to retain loyal customers in an era where hyper-personalization is becoming the new normal.

Using solutions that help streamline these operations and make them seamless can lay a foundation for future innovation and position restaurants to easily grow and evolve as consumer expectations and market conditions change.


It was a privilege to be able to share the stage with John and Tara, and participate in an open discussion with so many restaurant peers. Hearing from leaders who are witnessing and addressing the trends and developments in the industry every day is invaluable and one of the key reasons the NRA show is such a unique, impactful event.



To learn more about other brands we’re helping navigate this digitally driven world, and the solutions that are helping them solve these challenges, please visit https://www.ncr.com/restaurants.