Food for Talk
Imagine sensors warning you of out-of-stocks, apps ensuring foodservice equipment is safe.
A deeper issue, Heinen believes, is one of balance. Sometimes giving people too much information can lead to overload and inertia. “Everyone has a slightly different work process,” Heinen says. “So we give customers the tools to define what level of granularity they want …. and who gets [the data] so it’s actionable.”
March Toward Connectivity
The move toward connectivity may be inevitable, according to Haaser of LonMark. In California, retail operations over a certain size will soon be mandated to have devices that can be accessed digitally, he says. It’s part of the state’s energy regulation mandates and the need to connect with devices that require high energy use.
Worldwide, 50,000 to 80,000 pieces of kitchen equipment are already network-enabled, he says, with evidence of growing connectivity predicted to emerge in the second half of 2014. Retailers will also start to see more connected devices and related dashboard and reporting solutions at next year’s trade shows.
A major effort by Oak Brook, Ill.-based McDonald’s Corp. may also influence the pace of connectivity. The fast-food giant has been conducting worldwide trials with connected devices and will make a “go or no-go” decision in the first part of next year, Haaser says.
With momentum building for device connectivity within businesses—whether via sensors or apps—the question quickly spins to the evolution of foodservice apps aimed at consumers. Jason Toews, co-founder of OpenStore by GasBuddy, Gaithersburg, Md., says much of the current work tied to c-store apps has centered on pricing, store location and digital coupons, with mobile payment becoming more of a priority for retailers.
Using the app to order food is probably a function that will develop further down the road, he believes, saying integration challenges between the point-of-sale (POS) and kitchen equipment stand in the way. Having said that, he points out how the industry is clearly moving into foodservice, which may hasten app evolution.
And while food ordering may not be on the menu for foodservice apps today, Toews says c-stores are finding value with apps in general.
“It’s a great way to connect with people on the go,” he says. “If they want to get … information on a brand, then an easy way to do it is with an app.”
Taking Temperature on an App
One family of products may help retailers better visualize what a foodservice app would look like, as the bigger picture involves a series of devices and software solutions.