TechTable: Bringing Hi Tech and Hi Touch Together

Over the summer, the inaugural TechTable Summit was held — a one day forum of talks, panels, presentations and more to discuss the role and state of technology in restaurant hospitality. In forming TechTable, one of our goals was to position leaders in the hospitality industry to better understand and utilize technology to enhance their businesses. Rather than have the tech industry alone determine and shape the future of hospitality, we want these solutions to be driven by collaboration. Over the past few months, as we’ve collected feedback from attendees, speakers and stakeholders, we’ve discovered some key gaps — areas where we hope tech and hospitality can grow together.

Security is not a four letter word

One of the main pieces of feedback we heard is that our attendees wanted to dive even deeper into technical issues and topics. Phil Stead of Reliant Security was one of the most impactful speakers of the day, and we have since been asked to have more presentations like his with robust data and pragmatic, actionable advice.

There is a clear demand for detailed data security case studies and practical recommendations as we all navigate this emerging sector. The landscape is layered with so many companies offering various different innovations that it can be daunting to navigate and we are seeing our community turn to TechTable for guidance and expertise, which is really exciting.

Making sense of “Big Data”

Another topic that we intend to delve further into is big data. There is a clear need for more specific information on not only how to collect relevant data but more importantly how to use it to make key decisions and achieve key target metrics, for any level of hospitality operation.

When it comes to data, hospitality lags behind industries such as retail and fashion, and with competition ever growing and margins continuing to compress, it’s more critical than ever to know your customer and use analytics to create efficiencies and operating leverage. — Tweet this

Please don’t forget the back of house

Many of the solutions that we are seeing are very guest focused — solving for aspects of an experience that they see, such as reservations and loyalty. Yet there is also a massive need for more back of house solutions — supply chain, accounting, HR practices — all the things that a guest doesn’t experience, but are essential to making a business run smoothly. Hospitality technology needs to evolve throughout every level of hospitality operations as this sector grows. One panelist said the key is to target the main cost drivers of hospitality ventures to make the greatest impact — labor and cost of goods — and we agree. There is much need for improvement on everything from sourcing and inventory management, to human resources, recruiting, training and communication. Using technology to improve these areas can help simplify and ease the scale of these functions. These areas of hospitality operations are disaggregated now, often driven by manual processes, and involve a large amount of people. We believe this is where technological advancement, done in a thoughtful way, can improved profitability and sustainability of these businesses.

We are looking for technology that won’t replace people, but will give operators time back to spend with their guests. — Tweet this

Looking ahead: Delivery, POS and change management

A few main trends are emerging that are gaining traction that we have been tracking and are exploring possible features in next year’s annual summit.

  • Delivery technology is becoming ever more relevant to a variety of ventures from fast casual to fine dining and questions remain as to how it can be layered into operations thoughtfully, which businesses strategically make sense to integrate, and how it can best be leveraged to actually help drive the bottom line.
  • We’ve also fielded many requests to learn more about point of sale systems. In addition to the primary incumbents, Aloha and Micros, there are a swath of newer platforms, and operators are still very unsure about the benefits and challenges of each. Moreover, point of sale is the current lynchpin of adopting many other technologies, such as inventory systems, so the strategy around which system to adopt has amplified effects.
  • Finally, a consistent challenge is integration and roll-outs with new technology in this space where there are so many people involved and that need to be trained to use solutions, and we believe strongly that this change management is critical for the success of both startups on the tech side as well as hospitality leaders that are trying to advance their infrastructure.

One of the exciting outcomes of the conference has been having our views of how tech and hospitality should work together be affirmed. We saw our ideas and views brought to life and discussed in a meaningful way. We believe that tech innovations in this space will continue to rapidly progress, but through TechTable there is now a dialogue around why and how these innovations are developed.

There is still a need for thoughtful debate and dialogue about what we believe are critical issues for our industry. Who should lead in hospitality tech development? What can Big Data tell us about our guests? How can all hospitality businesses make their operations appropriately secure? What do these topics and changes mean for you?

- Camilla Marcus, Maureen Cushing, Becky Tehrani, Lauren Hobbs, Jaci Badzin, TechTable founders

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In New York? Join us at Journee at 6:30 pm on December 10th for “In IT to Win It”, a discussion on how to get the most bang for your buck when making tech decisions for your restaurant in 2016.