At the recent Restaurant Innovation Summit, the National Restaurant Association tapped senior technology leaders for lessons on how to pivot a traditional brand into a “digital first” leader.
Adrian Butler, senior vice president and chief information officer of Applebee’s/IHOP franchisee Dine Brands, and Ramin Eivaz, senior vice president of digital marketing, analytics and CRM for Bloomin’ Brands Inc., provided insights.
It’s all about the consumer
Eivaz: The big journey is how we move from mass promotion of things to one-on-one recognition. It’s about leveraging data and technology to get closer to one-on-one.
Butler: Guest expectations are being set before the customer walks in the door. They have different personas, different experiences and different needs in different circumstances, and it’s all the same consumer. You can create a personal experience.
Butler: Don’t talk through a technology lens. Think of the business’s capability. If we have new LTOs, we talk about them in the same way. They’re new products -- so part of it is about showing the team how this can work in a digital space.
Eivaz: Consumers already use Uber and Amazon, and expect the same type of service from other businesses. Show your organization the test cases. Educate them in a new set of metrics. We need to understand customer lifetime value, and there’s enough data out there to make that case.
Eivaz: With the reality of labor costs rising, we need to deliver productivity. If you’re not leveraging tech, you are cost-disadvantaged. The question is, to what degree can I deploy automation?
Butler: Guests still want the human touch. They want to know we are treating team members well. Automation can remove friction and inefficiency where there’s no value -- the wait to be seated, the wait to get service, the wait to pay. For the rest, we must ask how we can empower our team.
Choosing the right partners
Butler: We look at large and innovative players. Mature players are sometimes less nimble. To balance that out, we also look at the emerging market space and try to make sure we pay attention to the disruptors as well as those who are more mature. Get recommendations. The worst thing is to be disintermediated from the guest. A big part of the digital journey, and with partners, is to discover who owns the guest.
Eivaz: Getting the right talent is the most important thing. Start with a clear strategy. Work with key partners. Learn what you should be working on. Let your partners put the best minds and ideas behind that and take advantage of what tech companies are willing to share with you. If you’re in digital, the best asset you have is your data.
Learn more about the Restaurant Innovation Summit
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.