What are some of the technologies that are available to the restaurant industry today will have the most impact? Are there any that are over-hyped?
RI: The most impactful technologies are the inventory control systems and having everything in the cloud so you don’t have the expensive hardware costs. In addition, having ipads in restaurants that can serve as both menus as well as direct payment options straight from the table prove to be very impactful.
What problem do restaurateurs face most often that technology can help to solve? What specific technology?
RI: Internet is a huge piece of our everyday life, whether we like it or not. What is hurting restaurants is not having the ability to hook on to or use that internet during services; people want to be able to connect to wifi during their meal to connect back to the office, search engines, friends and family, etc. If the restaurant has poor internet service, guests will go somewhere they can get connected and get that work done. In addition, restaurants hold themselves back in covers and revenue generation because they’re using paper instead of leveraging the available technology and moving into the paperless world where menus, receipts, revenue reports are all generated from the cloud and not the printer. The modern restaurants who grab onto that technology and do function in a paperless environment are those who increase their covers and revenue.
As you look into the future a bit, are there any problems that the industry is facing right now for which a technological solution has not been developed?
RI: The hurdle facing the industry right now is figuring out how to pay employees, especially the servers’ tips in a paperless fashion so restaurants do not need to have petty cash. At the end of the day, the owners/managers should be able to deposit the servers’ tips directly into their account or onto a card that the servers can use immediately. The credit card payment system proves challenging to restaurants as there is a one-to-two day delay before they can realize the revenue generated from a service. It would be ideal to create a sort of debit system which allows for immediate revenue realization; however credit card companies make too much off of each transaction for that to change in the near future.
Does the industry as a whole take full advantage of the technology that is available today? If not, why? The economy, lack of awareness, is it too confusing? If yes, to what end?
RI: Restaurants definitely do not take full advantage of the available technology primarily because owners are scared and do not understand it. In addition, technology often requires change to habits and procedures that have been in place, and usually working, for years and many are scared or do not like the idea of changing.
If I have a small, profitable family-run restaurant that has a loyal base of "regulars" do I really need any of this new technology? I’m doing fine, how is it going to make my business better? Is it worth my time?
RI: Absolutely! Restaurants definitely need to adopt the new technologies available because if they don’t their "regulars" will eventually gravitate to a new restaurant nearby who is offering the newer amenities (internet connectivity, ipad menus, TVs, etc). The ultimate restaurateur wants to increase their business and you gain business by the core food and services provided, but also through the extra amenities. The same can be said in the hotel/motel industry, a guest is not likely to stay very long or come back if he or she can not connect to the internet, which is a core requirement these days.
We naturally think about technology making businesses more efficient, but what are some of the secondary benefits that technology brings to the table? Enhanced customer experience, etc?
RI: Customer service is definitely enhanced not only through the amenities described above,the technology often makes staff training much easier and more efficient. Having a better trained staff just passes down the line and makes the customer experience that much better which translates to return visits.
When I travel to a new city I always do research to find a good local place to eat. Sometimes I end up at a great place where only locals dine and sometimes I’m lead to a tourist trap. Has social media helped or hurt the restaurant industry and in what ways? What can restaurant owners do to take advantage of social media and SEO techniques?
RI: Social media is a double-edged sword in the restaurant industry. While it has helped and does help to get the word out about your restaurant with sites like Twitter, there are also review sites like Yelp which can both help and hurt. The issue with the review sites is that there is not yet an authentication process which ensures that the reviews are "real" and actually written by customers and not by a competitor across the street who is trying to sabotage your restaurant by posting a negative review.
What are the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry today?
RI: The biggest challenge facing every business is the fight to stay ahead of the curve and not becoming complacent. Businesses need to stay on top of technology and their industry to ensure they can update, change and invest back into their business to keep the customers coming back and prevent them from finding new options.
What are the questions restaurant owners should be asking of their technology vendors that they are not?
RI: "What do I need to take me to the next century?"
"How can you help my business with this new technology?"
"How can you help me keep my records straight, maintain my back-office?"
"If something breaks, will I still be able to receive (and how do I) my reports?"
"How can you safeguard what I already have?"Question the security of your businesses’ information and how they will cover you and grow with you when the technology continues to grow.
How will the restaurant experience be different in 10 years?
RI: The overall experience will be much faster because everything will be paperless (menus, payment, etc.). Servers will be trained much better and essentially never have to leave the table to retrieve your order as the kitchen will receive the order through a touch of a button and already be cooking it while the server is still standing at the table speaking with the guests.
What was it about Comcast that drew your attention and what excited you about Comcast Business?
RI: Comcast is leading the country in making life better and educating people on what is right around the corner from a technology standpoint. I believe that small businesses are losing many customers and thousands (hotels and restaurants) are closing their doors because they can not compete with the new, more technologically advanced businesses opening every day. Comcast is offering simple solutions to the industry which is going to save these older, smaller businesses from closing, which is what I do every day with Restaurant Impossible; giving that opportunity to people who need help…providing the access and resources to simple technology, which can save money and make businesses more efficient.