Takeaways From the Takeout Frontier

Ordering going through digital shift, say FARE presenters

By 
Sara Rush Wirth, Senior Editor, Restaurant Business

FARE 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- “There’s a large shift in foodservice to food consumed elsewhere,” Noah Glass, founder and CEO of mobile-ordering provider Olo, said at this week’s FARE event in Nashville, Tenn. “There’s an idea of using restaurants as a surrogate home kitchen. Someone else preps and cooks the food, but you still eat at home.”

Yet the ordering process looks nothing like it did a decade ago. “We’re going through a digital shift, and not seeing that is extinction,” he told attendees.

Technology is rapidly making its way into the ordering process, but it’s still new and often confusing. Here’s what FARE presenters and attendees had to say about the development of tech impacting their businesses, especially with takeout.

1. Tech still has a lot of risk. The marketplace is changing at a fast clip, with new hardware and software rolling out constantly. But operators need to be careful that they’re not too far ahead of the curve, said Pizza Rev founder and CEO Rodney Eckerman, because the technology could become a financial and physical burden if adopted before consumers are ready.

Technology expert Rob Grimes went as far as to suggest smaller operators look to larger counterparts—which often have the fiscal wherewithal to conduct research and tests—to see what’s working before jumping in head first.

2. Have a digital roadmap. There’s a lot of technology being sold right now, said Eckerman. He’s found that there’s not a one-size-fits-all package that does everything he needs at PizzaRev. So instead, he suggests operators create a technology roadmap—a list of all the tech functions they’re hoping to incorporate—and find suppliers that fit all of their needs and work together to form an integrated web.

3. It’s about more than consumer convenience. Yes, convenience to the customer is a big driver behind the push towards mobile ordering and delivery, but these technology implementations also can help throughput, said Glass. He gave the analogy of open-road tolling taking the place of change collectors in tollbooths. You can get many more cars through with EZPass, versus having every single one stop. It’s fast and more efficient for all parties involved, he said. And those efficiencies can help with labor costs on the P&L, said Eckerman. “We’re adapting a lot of programs that allow us to do the same job quicker,” he said. “It is a necessity for us to find ways to do things more efficiently and eliminate manpower.”

4. Restaurant design will have to change to accommodate flux in digital ordering. Newer chains are laying out stores to accommodate the large number of guests who place orders ahead of time. But operators also need to keep back-of-house capabilities in mind, said Grimes. Kitchen software needs to be “smart” enough to realize how quick a kitchen can crank out orders—or if there are times when it’s too slammed—in order to properly quote a pick-up time to guests. That’s the same with delivery programs; they need to take weather, traffic and more into account and focus on intelligent routing to give customers real-time feedback, something they’ve grown to expect.

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sara rush wirth By Sara Rush Wirth, Senior Editor, Restaurant Business
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