The Digital Restaurant Project

While the snow may have stopped us from holding our Women’s Panel* event on the 12th of March, we are happy to say it let up and allowed our involvement in the inaugural event, the Digital Restaurant Project, on March 14th. Now with summer jobs in the restaurant industry in the works, it only seems fitting that we cover some of the topics discussed by the speakers.

Here are some of the highlights I took from the speakers involved in the project, hosted by the Ted Rogers Institute for Tourism and Hospitality Research:

Anna Tauzin (@annatauzin) – Manager of Digital Innovation, National Restaurant Association

  • There is a big increase in trend of mobile payments and bill settlements through applications. 70% of millennials use loyalty applications. Starbucks is a leader in the user experience for both loyalty and payments. The use of product bundles could help increase the use of these apps (e.g. buying a drink and snack food together).
  • Point of Sales (POS) systems are old news and tablets are on the rise, 62% of the millennial generation would use a tablet at a sit-down restaurant. The cost and startup maintenance are the main reasons we are held back from this innovation.
  • Digital innovation and a good user experience go hand in hand, therefore, using social media is one way of getting your name out there. 99% of restaurants on social media, it is expected nowadays. This makes it easier to gauge demographics and find out when your market is online, who they follow and what their main interests are.
  • Everyone is now a critic and has something to say, whether they’ve experienced the brand or not. The biggest decision makers are the critics and how you choose to respond to them determines your brand and their decisions. Twitter can be one of the best ways to communicate with the guests by cross promoting with existing tweets made or by inserting yourself into the conversation by searching topics and responding.
    • 90% of businesses will increase their social media use in the future


Donna Dooher (@DonnaDooher) – Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (Speaking about: Online Reputation Management)

Chris McCrea – OpenTable (Speaking about: Engaging Beyond the Online Reservation)

  • Chris made a good point that restauranteurs are now wearing multiple hats. They are playing role of HR, PR, and Finances to name a few, and software must adapt to changes in the industry for an effective operation.
  • We are past the time of e-mail reservation requests, customers need the instant gratification of a booked table. We are also past the time of written wait lists – there has to be more efficient management to further engage with our guests. OpenTable software integrates a user review portion that is verified and trusted.
    • Keeps user reviews fresh and up to date
    • Ensures that any past reviews are refreshed as changes do happen after a bad experience (staffing, menu, etc.) and the reviews must showcase that

Abigail Van Den Broek (@bigail) – Rock-It Promotions (Speaking about: Rocking Restaurant PR)

  • We now have the opportunity to have fun, express personality and connect directly with consumers
  • Number 5 most common hashtag – #FOOD – another big opportunity for restaurant operators
  • Utilize these social media outlets to grow your name
    • It is crucial to have consistency, timeliness and engagement for both your responses to guests and keeping up with current events in your area. Engaging in the conversation and getting to know your followers is now easier than ever – opt in by choice and start the conversation on each outlet. Give reason to keep your following target market. A good example, the Drake Hotel’s 10th anniversary that offered $10 specials to their followers and kept them engaged:


Panel Talk (Changing Technology for Restaurants)

Chris Atkinson (@mymenyou) – MenYou, Albert Lee (@albertclee) – OTG Management, Robert Bartley (@MLSEchef) – MLSE

  • We are now empowering users to make decisions on their own. The standard Point Of Sale system is dead, we now have a self-service culture and have to act on it. This doesn’t mean there is no service, they are not suggesting replacing the server, just building on the guest experience and increasing efficiency.
  • Cash is old-school, bring in the mobile applications and Ipads. This is applicable at any food service establishment including fine dining restaurants, quick-service restaurants and arenas (ACC).
  • With this technology, there is more opportunity to obtain data and use it to generate revenue
  • Also an opportunity for larger server sections, better path optimization and a change in tipping.
    • See it as a service charge or “shares in the success of the company”
    • If the restaurant does well – so do you as a server (motivation)
    • Avoid the word tipping


To summarize, the Digital Restaurant Project has made it’s mark in the evolution of technology in restaurants. It is clear that there are major changes to come in the industry, from Ipad table side ordering to mobile payment and loyalty applications, to user reviews and online reputation management, we need to start avoiding the change and act on it. We must grow as an industry to follow the trends that our consumer want.


Chef Carl Heinrich


Chris Gibbs, Ellie Tennenhouse & Kelly MacKay

*The Women in Hospitality Management Panel will be held in the Fall 2014 semester, stay tuned for details!

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