The Art of Hybrid Restaurant Management

By Steve Smyth, Director of Restaurant technology, Taco John’s International

The Art of Hybrid Restaurant Management

Using Technology to Reshape the Restaurant Experience

By David Morton, Founder and Proprietor at DMK Restaurants

Using Technology to Reshape the Restaurant Experience

Key Features of Restaurant POS Software

By Douglas Brown, Director of Technology, Compass Group

Key Features of Restaurant POS Software

Technology for Improving Hospitality

By TJ Schier, President, SMART Restaurant Group

Technology for Improving Hospitality

Digital Transformation: At the cross roads of Technology Architecture and Relationship Management

Jason Breazeale, Senior Director - Digital and Restaurant Technology, Denny’s

Digital Transformation: At the cross roads of Technology Architecture and Relationship ManagementJason Breazeale, Senior Director - Digital and Restaurant Technology, Denny’s

In the winter of 2020, our nation faced a pandemic response that fundamentally changed the way every American lived their life. Retail and restaurants were plunged into organizational chaos where the 3rd party channels and omnichannel initiatives that had languished underfunded and poorly prioritized for years became not only a hot topic... but the only means of survival. It was the day “omnichannel” became the only channel. There were sectors of the restaurant industry that were built to thrive. Quick service or drive-through or those that had built complex systems for click-and-collect and curbside delivery could meet guests where they needed you to be. A substantial part of the family dining sector was left with empty dining rooms and decimated staffs.

Technology teams around the country were thrown into massive overhauls of infrastructure needed to support what had previously been an often-disregarded set of digital services. For every franchise that enjoyed increased sales through online channels and delivery partners, there was a business owner who bristled at the ever-increasing cost of those relationships and the ever-decreasing margins of moving guests to off-premise. I remember watching helplessly as even cloud-provided API services were crushed under the weight of user visits and e-commerce transactions on Mothers’ Day 2020, out stepping the volume we had received even on Christmas in previous years.

…. And if Dennys.com went down, they closed the restaurants and sent people home.

The post pandemic buzzword was always the “New Normal”. Define technology that brought guests back into the restaurants without losing the new online guests we had brought in throughout the lockdowns. 

Bring solutions like drive-thru and curbside improvements to businesses that would be operating reduced capacity dining. Expand wireless networks outside of the restaurant for states that allow patio dining.  After years of begging for investment in aging technology, the business finally understood how important these solutions were to the guests they serve. From the new business imperative of a post-pandemic enterprise, a new foundation could be built.

Traditional “Enterprise Architecture” lends itself to be a set of frameworks for creating documentation. Those entities that are successful can strategically transform their organizations through technology vision. Those that are not as successful end up with thoroughly documented engineering or disconnected architects who build castles made of clouds. Our CIO, Michael Furlow, defines the vision for Innovation and Transformation (I.T.) as enabling business strategy and operations through delivery of effective technology solutions and services. “Standardize and simplify to enable frictionless and seamless technology experiences”. Denny’s identified our foundation in three main pillars – Restaurant Applications, Digital Transformation, and Network Managed services.

“Maintain the online guests we gained – while defining innovative technology to bring guests back into the restaurants post pandemic”

This architectural vision of rebuilding the foundation began prior to 2019. We knew we needed to replace an antiquated Point of Sale system that had required the cloud to be “bolted on” to legacy in-restaurant platforms. Each new vendor solution – tabletop devices, mobile pay or expansion of digital experiences – typically meant a new hardware device, an updated version of POS, multiple conversion night activities, and ongoing maintenance per restaurant. We began the search for a cloud based, API driven restaurant platform that could truly be an integration hub for not only our franchisor led innovations but also each customized offering for franchisees way of doing business and their many partners. We needed a modern network managed service provider that supported broadband and cellular backup. A connected digital experience requires the internet. The days of spotty guest Wi-Fi are behind us. Since these were major projects that needed so much investment and deployment, we first decided to address the digital experience that had limped through 2020.

 

Denny’s Technology Transformation: Always-on cloud-based restaurant applications and consistent network availability that supply a connected digital and POS framework for delivering a unified customer experience.

Our digital transformation started with a new partnership. Business relationship management for our loyalty and customer data programs has enabled a new bond between Marketing and IT. No longer were we just the order takers but we began to discuss strategy together. Marketing brought the talent of their organization and the industry knowledge of agencies to define and prioritize the guest experience. IT brought the engineering, developers, and service providers along with the “art of the possible” for the full power of what the new complete technology foundation will deliver. This relationship between IT and Marketing, was fostered between myself and Luis Martinez – Sr Director of Brand Intelligence and Customer Relationship Management. We created a cross functional team of technologists and creative marketers that crafted a simple and elegant digital user experience that is bursting with opportunity for innovation. We built the foundation that will lead our brand into the future.

Building a relationship between these two groups required the leadership to truly speak the same language. Marketers were the creatives and dreamers while the technologists stayed grounded in the delivery and execution of what was possible with the time and budget. Each of us had to firmly plant our foot in the others world and understand not only the delivery of what we worked on together, but also how it fit into the bigger picture of the brands strategy for our respective areas.

From that team’s focus and with consistently shared vision, we delivered a new experience in 6 months by selecting the right talent, the right technology partner, at the right time for our business. Our app downloads continue to remain high with 4.7+ ratings in the app store. Our guests are returning to dining rooms and restaurants are returning to 24 hours while keeping most of our online visits. While our restaurant systems and network teams build and deploy the rest of our foundation -we turn our focus towards digital innovating towards a connected and personalized Denny’s digital experience. 

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