Michael Atkinson

The Future of Restaurants – Industry Expert Michael Atkinson

Michael is an internet technology entrepreneur, restauranteur, and restaurant chain executive with over 25 years of restaurant and restaurant tech expertise.

He is also the founder FohBoh.com the original and leading online B2B community for the global foodservice industry, CEO of eSports and the CFO of Cheeseburger Restaurants and Aqua Restaurant Group. Needless to say, he is a thought leader and expert when it comes to the restaurant industry.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Michael recently while he was in Dublin for a couple of days. We decided to take this opportunity to ask him a couple of burning questions we had about the future of the restaurant industry, the current technology present in the industry and the differences between the US & UK/Ireland markets.

Are UK/Irish restaurants taking to Tech like their US counterparts?

To be perfectly honest restaurants on these shores are 2/3 years behind their US counterparts. This is because people in the restaurant industry, in general, are very slow to adapt and embrace new technologies. There is a culture of if it isn’t broke don’t fix it in the restaurant industry.

For example, I see Deliveroo has become rather big over here and have really taken over the fast casual take out market. GrubHub invented this whole category in the US over 2 years ago.

Deliveroo

However, this technology is becoming dated in the US at the moment whereas it is just taking over in the UK/Ireland.

Honestly, though it seems that most major technologies are tested in the US anyway before hitting these shores so it isn’t completely down to the UK/Irish markets being slow to adapt.

What technologies are changing the restaurant industry the fastest?

The 3 main areas that restaurateurs want to improve on each day are:

Increase revenue

 Decrease costs

 Get to know their customers better

From these three areas, I would have to say there are three companies that come to mind.

1. Zuppler

Zuppler

I think this is a great platform that restaurants can use to integrate online takeout into their businesses.

If a restaurant hasn’t embraced online takeout then they are out of their minds.

If you are a chain restaurant or a fast casual dining restaurant and working on building your brand you must be all over this. It should represent 5-25% of your business.

With Zuppler you will not have to outsource and pay third party companies such as GrubHub or Deliveroo.

Saying this, the market is moving more towards conversational commerces. By this I mean food bots that will integrate with messaging platforms such as Skype, Slack, Facebook messenger etc. This will make ordering even easier with more information and options available about food restaurants in your area. I see this as being something that will be huge in the next 12-18 months.

2. Bizimply

Biz

For reducing costs I can’t look past Bizimply. Your software makes scheduling and time & attendance an easy and manageable process that clearly reduces labor costs for restaurants worldwide. Again it is a no brainer for restaurateurs.

3. Messaging Tools

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To be honest the market for customer engagement in restaurants is extremely saturated. There are some brilliant companies out there but I feel that technology is moving this area beyond loyalty systems, a community must be created in this area. As I stated earlier I feel that messaging apps such as

As I stated earlier I feel that messaging apps such as Slack and Facebook Messenger will have a huge part to play for restaurants getting to know their customers. Customers will instantly be able to buy and rate food with the touch of a button in a channel that they spend a lot of their time currently on

The restaurant industry is a low margin industry. It is a game of nickels & dimes, but it can be a game of dimes and quarters if people leverage new technology the right way.

 

What restaurant concepts are ‘hot’ in the US at the moment?

I would say fast casual dining is the hot concept all over the world really at the moment. I can see that Mexican food has become extremely popular in Ireland & the UK over the past 12-15 months with burrito bars and taquerias popping up everywhere.

There really isn’t any ‘new food’ per say, that is becoming a trend in the US at them moment. It is more so the same food packaged differently.

For example 800° is a fast casual pizza restaurant that is just changing the normally slow process of ordering a pizza. They have created an almost Chipotle-style assembly line when ordering. You go in and pick the base & toppings you want, then the pizza is put into a wood burning stove at 800°. Your pizza is baked and ready before you even leave the counter. This is all done with precision and class, it still makes you feel like you are getting an authentic Italian experience.

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Tell us about your new venture Happytables.

Happy Tables

Happytables empowers restaurant operators by identifying opportunities and taking smarter data-driven actions.

Restaurants today use multiple cloud-based applications for a variety of their needs; POS, reservations, ordering, loyalty, waitlist, social and more. Unfortunately, these applications whilst overflowing with data, do not speak to each other. Happytables taps into these various products to expose KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) and actionable insights to the operator.

You don’t need to add any of our tools to your restaurant, just use the ones you already have. Be it your POS, labour or other tools. We show you all the insights you care about on one screen.

Your employees will, in turn, become more empowered by having access to key performance metrics. Happytables can motivate change that impacts your restaurant’s bottom line.

 

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