The NYC Hospitality Technology Summit was an exciting event with speakers from various sectors of the food service and technology industries. Representatives of a diverse list of companies discussed the implications and trends of technology within the hospitality industry.
Topics included the integration of data, trends in operational technology, and the impact that cell phones have had on the dining sector. The panels provided audience members with valuable insight into the importance of technology in the hospitality and food service arenas, and its extensive applications.
The technology summit began with an engrossing presentation from IBM’s Head of Global Marketing, Babs Rangaiah. First, he described the tremendous possibilities associated with Blockchain. Essentially, Blockchain is a secure and verifiable transactions ledger with an assortment of applications. It can be implemented in the recording of events, such as medical records. In addition, Blockchain is a powerful solution for records management activities. Some examples of other applications include identity management, transaction processing, documenting provenances, and food traceability. Considering all of these potential uses, Blockchain is incredibly relevant to the hospitality and food service
Following his explanation of Blockchain, Rangaiah described a pilot program launched by IBM-Watson in partnership with Hilton called “Connie.” Named after Conrad Hilton, Connie is an IBM designed and Watson-powered robot developed specifically with hotels in mind. The first of its kind, Connie is a robotic hotel concierge. It has the ability to provide guests with a variety of information that ranges from hotel amenities to tourist attractions and dining suggestions. The implications of this technology are obvious. Although currently in an early stage, the potential of artificial intelligence within the hospitality industry looks promising.
After Rangaiah’s keynote speech, the Data Deep Dive panel took the stage. The panel was made up of interesting people from various technology and food service backgrounds. Joel Montaniel, Co-Founder and CEO of Sevenrooms expressed some of the beneficial ways that a restaurant could implement his product. Sevenrooms is essentially a digital, customizable reservation book that links reservations to existing guest profiles. Notes can be added to these profiles, such as food allergies, table preferences, or if that particular guest is friends with the chef. The Sevenrooms platform allows the restaurant staff to create a unique and highly personalized experience specific to the guest.
Bob Looney, Vice President of Software Development at CTUIT, also sat on the Data Deep Dive panel. The CTUIT software, called RADAR, offers some exciting opportunities for restaurants. RADAR is a restaurant management software that compiles a variety of relevant information. The software logs restaurant activities and also offers vital details on finances and operation performance. In addition, CTUIT offers other apps, such as Schedules, which gives employees the chance to review their schedule and trade shifts through their mobile devices.
Several restaurateurs also had the opportunity to comment on the utilization of data within the dining sector. Tom Dillon, Co-Founder of APICII Restaurant Group and board member of Prêt a Manger commented on some of the voids that Open Table has been unable to fill. The data that technology provides is quite valuable, but it is crucial to make use of only the most relevant information in an efficient manner. Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of NYC Hospitality Alliance said, “There is a lot of data overload. Restaurants need useable data that is actionable, and that their team will actually use.” Michael Jacobs of The Smith also discussed this predicament; “We went from no data to too much data.” With such a massive influx of available information from technology, users must be selective.
Next, the Trends in Operational Technology panel took the stage. Again, the panel was made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds in the restaurant and technology industries. Perhaps most interesting was the panelists’ responses when asked to provide their opinion on the most crucial technology in restaurants at the moment. Bret Csencsitz, Managing Partner at Gotham Bar and Grill explained that third party reporting systems were instrumental in increasing efficiency. John Kendrick, Chief Financial Officer of Nobu Restaurant suggested that scheduling software was vital. Interestingly, Luke Fryer, founder of Harri, stressed the value in consolidating various platforms in a restaurant setting.
The final panel of the day was How Cell Phones Changed the Dining Scene. Michael Hagan, Co-Founder and Chief Strategist Officer at Levelup, has created an interesting app for both customers and restaurants. For diners, the Levelup mobile app offers a variety of conveniences such as mobile payment, an order-ahead feature, and the option to redeem loyalty rewards and/or gifts. The restaurants that use the app are able to customize notifications that can be sent out when a customer is in close proximity. Additionally, the Levelup app offers a location finder, which is clearly beneficial to both customers and restaurants.
Eli Portnoy, Co-Founder and CEO of Sense360 was also on this panel. Portnoy’s Sense360 offers restaurants and hotels incredible insight into consumer behavior. The software allows businesses to understand who their customers are, when they visit their locations, what they tend to purchase, and a variety of other valuable metrics. Several restaurant industry giants are already taking advantage of the invaluable insight that the Sense360 software provides.
Among the programs key takeaways was the fact that we are simply ‘all app’d out.’ The trends indicate a desire to streamline services by consolidating apps. Hagan of Levelup explained that the average individual downloads less than one app per month. Evidently, some of the traditional standbys that have hit pay-dirt over the past decades are being challenged for market share in what has become a cloud-based marketplace.
Clearly, there is an extraordinary amount of useable technology available to the food service and hospitality industries. If these businesses choose to embrace some of this technology and harness it properly, they stand to benefit greatly. In the digital age, there is data available that has become impossible to succeed without. The NYC Hospitality Technology Summit offered audience members a great deal of insight into the future of their industry.
To learn more about the NYC Hospitality Alliance, visit their website.