he accelerated digital transformation of restaurants today is fueling what will be possible in the next phase of the industry’s evolution.
As integrations are simplified, systems become more flexible, and data is made more accessible via CRM and CDP solutions…businesses are moving forward, faster.
To dig into how restaurants can embrace and enact rapid change, Wisely talked with Matt Eisenacher, SVP of Brand Strategy and Innovation for First Watch, and Arun Nagarajan, CTO of BigSpring, and formerly of the founding UberEats team, about their experiences on the restaurant and tech sides of this industry shift.
For context, First Watch leverages Wisely for Reservations, Waitlist, and Marketing Automation.
Why a Tech Roadmap Matters
Eisenacher knows what a full transformation looks like on the ground. “At the beginning of this year we were probably the most no-tech company in the restaurant industry you could have found,” he shared.
He added that when COVID-19 caused a jump in off-premise sales from 7% to almost 13%, “Once we stepped in the middle of COVID and there was a bit of uncertainty, we knew we had to know who our customers were. We had to know how they were using us before COVID so we could communicate directly with them. ”
Implementing a Tech Roadmap
First Watch’s quick shift was possible because they already had a roadmap in place, and had done the hard work to get full buy-in across the organization. All that was left to do was isolate the most important immediate need from the roadmap, and execute.
Nagarajan agrees that a tech roadmap is key, but should be flexible to allow for changing priorities. “People think of a roadmap as stops along a straight line, it’s more like a cone of probability,” Najarajan said. “The first branch opens up five branches and you decide which way to go.”
Eisenacher and Nagarajan were aligned that implementation requires hard decisions around time to launch and allocation of tasks and resources.
“Your time,” Nagarajan says “is the most valuable resource you have. Every decision you’re making is an investment decision.”
Eisenacher added, “you have to consider what is going to be the tip of the spear, what’s the most important element for your particular business.”
Is There a Non-Negotiable on a Restaurant Tech Roadmap?
As restaurants plan for the future, is there a non-negotiable for any restaurant brand, no matter their tech maturity? Eisnacher says, yes.
“If you would have asked us 9 months ago if we would have been talking this heavily, not as First Watch but the industry in general, about virtual brands and ghost kitchens… I mean the whole thing is evolving so quickly [...].”
He concluded that access to data allows restaurant brands to control their roadmap because they won’t have to rely on third-parties “just to understand the basics of who [the] customer is.” He added, “At the end of the day, get the data on your turf.”
Click play below to watch the full discussion.
Image provided by First Watch Restaurants