Over the past 16 years, the Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference (MURTEC) has earned the reputation of being the “gold standard restaurant technology event” thanks to its educational sessions. However, it is also highly esteemed for its multiple networking opportunities that enable industry peers and technology companies alike to discuss the top-of-mind trends and issues affecting foodservice IT. During last week’s event, Hospitality Technology staff, with video cameras in hand, sat down with operators, speakers and vendors to gain insight into their companies’ top IT priorities, as well as the major IT affecting the foodservice industry.
Mobile and social. It seems that almost anywhere you turn, foodservice executives are talking about mobile technology, be it smartphones, tablets, tableside handhelds etc. In fact, recent data from eMarketer reveals that the number of U.S. smartphone users will rise nearly 50% by 2015, while Android offerings and Apple’s iPad are expected to push global sales up five-fold by 2012. Included in this, is the growing use of social networking sites; eMarketer likewise reveals that the use of mobile social networking is becoming more widespread in the U.S. As these technologies become more and more prevalent, it isn’t any surprise that foodservice operators, as those in many other industries, are taking notice.
“It’s mobile and social. Whoever can best leverage the social networks — in terms of customer resource management, in terms of generating new business, in terms of couponing — is really going to be ahead of everyone else,” commented Sean Alexander, IHL Group technology analyst.
BJ Emerson, vice president of technology for Tasti D-Lite and MURTEC keynote speaker, also touched upon the impact of the social/mobile trend in regard to location-based services, such as Foursquare and Gowalla.
And for Monica Minford, director of web development for HuHot Mongolian Grill and MURTEC workshop facilitator, local social marketing is a top priority.
Live audience polling at MURTEC revealed that 32% of attendees are most likely to invest resources into business intelligence and back office technologies this year, a priority that was touched upon by multiple attendees.
For instance, Hard Rock CIO Joe Tenczar revealed that his company is upgrading its platform to a more “mobile-centric” version of BI due to the increased use of smatphones and iPads among Hard Rock execs. In addition to this, the company will be rolling out interactive touch screens that enable guests to virtually explore the brand’s collection of rock memorabilia (called RockWall Solo) to all of its company-owned cafes.
Late last year, Gartner predicted that cloud computing would be one of the top ten strategic technologies in 2011. In speaking with vendors at MURTEC, such as Merchant Link and Radiant, many identified cloud computing to be a major trend this year, due to its ability to minimize the overall cost of technology deployments as well as the increased ties that are being formed between the cloud and mobile solutions.
Always a hot topic, loss prevention once again popped up this year when speaking to attendees. Steve Brooks, Tumbleweed Southwest Grill’s director of mission control, offered insight into a collective IT, operations and accounting loss prevention initiative that has helped to save the company approximately $1,000 a day from where they were a year ago.
Beyond the top four
In addition to the aforementioned areas, drive-thru accuracy, better utilization of labor, loyalty programs, product traceability and international technology deployments were discussed. To watch videos of attendees discussing these topics and more, visit www.youtube.com/user/HospitalityTechMag.