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Reopening & the Future of Restaurants.

Alex Canter

CEO & Co-Founder, Ordermark

Geoff Madding

CEO, Nextbite

David Henkes

Senior Principal, Technomic

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Q: Reopening is a major topic for restaurant owners. What are some key areas that restaurants are focusing on right now to plan for reopening? Is advanced technology the focus? Marketing? Updating menu items?

David Henkes: Our thinking has evolved on this since early or mid March. When things started closing down, we thought this would be a relatively quick v-shaped recovery for restaurants, closing for two to four weeks. I think we’re all realizing that it’s not going to be the case now.

What we talk about at Technomic are the “4 S’s for Reopening”. The phase that we’re in right now is Survival: where we are now in terms of generating revenue. You can through online channels through meal deals and groceries and other very interesting incremental revenue initiatives.

But it’s all about safety as well. It’s all about ensuring customer and employee safety. This is the second phase: Safety. That’s where we’re starting to see states like Texas, Florida, Tennessee that are starting to slowly reopen. That’s where staffing and safety focus really start to come in. How do we start up and how does technology play more of a role?

The third phase is Strengthen and that’s a stabilization of these declines and maybe some return to pre-pandemic behavior and growth.

The fourth phase is Surge and the surge phase is really when reinvestment and growth starts to occur. It probably doesn’t occur in a lot of states, or for a lot of types of restaurants, really until 2021, but those last two phases, the strengthen the surge phase, it’s safe to say that consumer behaviors are going to look a whole lot different and and that’s where operators really need to start thinking about the longer term changes and impact of things.

Q: Many restaurants have talked about the idea of single use menus, where each guest gets a single menu to prevent the spreading of germs, but the cost associated, and waste, could be tremendous. What are some key alternatives or innovative ways to use technology for your in-house menu?

Alex Canter: I think that there’s going to be a shift in the way that the ordering experience happened. We’ve already seen a big increase in contactless payments and using Apple Pay and Android payments, but I think for the menu piece specifically there’s going to be menu boards or potentially digital menus on each table where you don’t necessarily need to touch the menus.

More than ever before there’s this new understanding of restaurants for people. It definitely gives me some concern for restaurants, in general, that they’re going to have to be so agile and adaptive. I know a lot of restaurants are used to running a certain way and have been designed physically for a certain style of operation and I’m nervous that there’s going to be some physical infrastructure limitations that make this more challenging for these operators.

The UK is an example with one of the pub chains starting to allow people to order through their own phone. I think one thing that may be much more common is that everybody carries a phone around with them and I think a lot of operators are going to start using that for the in-unit dining experience, as well.

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Q: Hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back on how things have unfolded over the past couple months, what are some of the changes that restaurants have made you believe will stick around once things go back to normal?

Geoff Madding: There are many, in an overwhelming sense. It’s embracing the fact that most restaurant’s off-premise business has to be strategic to your overall business model going forward. And that was going to be true, anyway. It was probably thought to be, for a lot of us, 2, 3, 4 years down the road when it would really reach critical mass. COVID has accelerated that.

We’ve re-educated a marketplace and completely changed the market footprint for third-party delivery for online ordering via your own app or someone else’s. Every smart restaurant operator right now should be embracing off-prem and figuring it out strategically.

  • Where is there an advantage for them in that Marketplace?
  • What do they do?
  • How can they leverage that channel?

Because it’s not going away. It’s here with us at this point and many of us love an in-restaurant dining experience and that’s not going to go away either. The smart operators are going to figure out a way that they can maximize both and optimize both of these channels.

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Alex Canter

Alex is a restaurant industry innovator, in-demand speaker, and passionate advocate for restaurant operators and workers. He was raised in the kitchen of the world-famous Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, where he invented Ordermark. A fourth-generation restaurateur, the restaurant business has been in Alex’s blood for over 85 years. In addition to being the visionary and leader of Ordermark, Alex is active with the Techstars network and enjoys mentoring other restaurant technology entrepreneurs. A 2019 recipient of the Forbes 30 Under 30, Alex has previously led several technology ventures.