Restaurant Development & Design

July-August 2015

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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6 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • J U L Y / A U G U S T 2 0 1 5 Editor's Letter Tech Tide Rising T here weren't many surprises in a new Technomic study on technol- ogy's march into the restaurant space. Yes, consumers expect more from a brand's technology offerings than ever before. Yes, Millennial and Gen Z guests have the highest expectations when it comes to tech-enabled dining experiences. For these groups in particu- lar, having the ability to access menu information, order and pay, connect, manage loyalty points, be entertained and communicate digitally is fast becoming a prerequisite to brand loyalty. And yes, some segments are well ahead of others in terms of integra- tion of technology. It makes sense that QSR and fast-casual operations, which have the most pressing labor, speed, customization and effciency needs, lead the pack. Not coincidentally, these segments also more readily meet the lifestyle needs and budget constraints of younger consumers. This is logically where the biggest opportunities for disruption of the status quo through tech-based innovation reside. Perhaps the only surprise in Tech- nomic's research on technology is that just 13 percent of the 100,000-plus consumers surveyed strongly agreed that "a restaurant's use of technol- ogy improves my experience." That signals real opportunity for restaurant developers and designers — not just the IT team — to rise to the challenge, collaborate and integrate technology in more strategic, guest-frst ways. It's clearly a work in progress, but the tide is rising. One high-profle case in point: McDonald's just announced a new prototype restaurant in San Francisco designed to expand upon its "Create Your Taste" platform experiment. It depends upon technology — tablet-like kiosks — to enable customization. In effect, the system takes McD's into an entirely new operating model, one that offers both fast- casual and QSR service under one roof. At the kiosks, customers click their way to fully customized burgers. They're then cooked to order in 5 to 8 minutes in separate kitchen stations and deliv- ered open-face in wire serving baskets to their tables. The chain is adding chicken sandwiches to the system, and is gearing up to expand the Create Your Taste platform to 2,000 U.S. locations. Whether the move will attract new, younger consumers and get existing cli- entele to a) embrace the technology and b) spend the extra time and money on Create Your Taste menu items, remains to be seen. But with sales fagging and stores closing, McDonald's is in risk-taking mode and understands that innovating isn't optional. It's not alone. In his feature on how technology is reshaping the restaurant experience (page 28), contributor Peter Fabris reports on a diverse group of opera- tions that are pioneering new customer- facing technologies. Mostly, these early adapters seem pleased with initial results but there's still a sense that they're grap- pling with the implications of working high-tech systems into the traditionally high-touch front of the house in ways that are comfortable and seamless — ways that actually do fundamentally improve the guest experience. Being among the frst to get out there and test the waters, however, they'll likely also be among the frst to get it right. There really is no turning back the tide. DANA TANYERI, Editor in Chief

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