FSTEC 2016: Day 1 Highlights

When you work at a Silicon Valley startup with forward-thinking customers, it’s easy to forget that much of the restaurant industry is still using legacy software and is somewhat behind other industries when it comes to adopting new technology.

Today was the first day of FSTEC 2016 and it provided some great insight into the restaurant technology landscape. It’s always eye-opening to attend industry events and hear first-hand about both the challenges that restaurants are facing and how leaders are innovating.  As I write out my top 3 takeaways from the day, it’s clear that Thanx is remarkably ahead of the curve (and leading the charge!) when it comes to bringing restaurants up to speed with loyalty and mobile.

3 Key Takeaways from FSTEC Day 1:

1. Own the Brand-Customer Relationship

The restaurant industry is currently experiencing disintermediation similar to the travel industry. A few years ago, online travel agencies (OTAs) promised hotels more bookings by helping customers discover their hotels on their platforms. Soon, hotels became very dependant on these bookings but found that the bookings came with a big price tag.

Tripp Sessions (previously at TGI Fridays and Arby’s), discussed the growing competition that restaurants face from both brick and mortar establishments, as well as technology companies, such as Uber and Seamless, who chip away at revenues with delivery and discovery services.

For restaurants to be successful, they must own their customer data and they must own the relationship with their customers and engage them, both inside the restaurant and in the digital world. Ultimately, these aggregators help with short-term revenue but don’t do a great job of building relationships between restaurant brands and their customers long-term.

2. Mobile shouldn’t be a ‘check-the-box’ initiative

As Douglas Kwong from Cici’s and Tom Lindblom from CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc discussed, just because your competitor has a mobile app doesn’t mean that you need to race to build the same thing. No one should be putting out an app just because someone says, “Brand X has an app. We need one, too,” These things take time to get right and need to be built with your brand and your goals in mind. In some cases, as Tom points out, it’s ok to be a fast-follower, as that allows brands to learn from other people’s mistakes and see what you like and don’t like about other solutions.

3. Put your brand first in all aspects of the customer experience

Restaurants invest a lot of time, money and resources into their brands. Everything they do, from their ads to their mobile app is an extension of their brand and needs to be genuine and high quality while conveying value to the customer.

A poor mobile experience is as much a reflection on your brand as a poor experience in a restaurant would be. Kwong suggests that brands look closely at the consumer transaction process and have the goal of removing as much friction as possible.