The National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago left us brimming with excitement for the future of the restaurant industry. Connecting our customers, industry leaders, and integration partners in person was energizing, and we learned so much throughout the show. Here are our top takeaways from the 2023 show.
1. Technology is making it easier to do more with less.
According to the Future of Restaurants report, 99% of restaurant owners said they plan to take steps to weather a potential recession in 2023, and 38% said they plan to use automation to increase staff efficiency. To explore this further, Square hosted a panel at the National Restaurant Association Show called “Technology That Helps You Do More With Less.”
The panel was moderated by Kristen Hawley, founder of Expedite, a restaurant technology newsletter that talks about the ways restaurants are using technology to make operations more efficient. Alexis Furkioti-Pham, co-owner of Pretty Bird, Cory McCollow, co-owner of NIDO’S Backyard and Odin, and Jane Hong, head of F&B partnerships at Square, all spoke on the panel and discussed their insights and experience.
Furkioti-Pham shared that one of the areas where she’s felt the biggest challenge is hiring and retention. In response, Hong said that according to the Future of Restaurants report, 77% of restaurants reported they were short staffed. “And then you couple that with consumer demand changing, that’s a lot,” said Hong. “Technology and automation is the way to combat that.”
Furkioti-Pham said one way they’re doing more with less is harnessing the power of kiosks. “We use kiosks at every location right now. When we first opened up Pretty Bird in 2018, we had one register and we had a line out the door. Once the pandemic hit, we pivoted and went to online ordering with Square, and a lot of our growth happened during the pandemic.” Furkioti-Pham said that the addition of kiosks was catalyzed by the pandemic in an effort to keep customers safe, but they’ve kept them as a way to provide a great customer experience. “When a customer puts in their order, it goes to the kitchen and really nothing is missed. It’s very efficient and gets the line moving a lot faster.”
McCollow shared that he also incorporated technology into his restaurant during the pandemic with QR code ordering. “Generally it’s more utilized at lunch. Folks are in there to eat and they need to get back to the office and are just trying to dine as quickly as they can. We do utilize [QR codes] when we are short staffed, or if we get busy, or if a large group of people comes, we’ll have those as an option.”
Overall, panelists reported that the use of technology helps them keep their restaurants running smoothly and allows them to focus on the future of their businesses.
2. Streamlining tools keeps us nimble.
One major theme attendees talked about was streamlining their tools as a way to stay nimble in this ever-changing industry. The power of streamlining and connecting the tools you need to run your business really came to life during our partner happy hours with Restaurant365 on Saturday and with 7Shifts, Craftable, and Paytronix on Sunday.
Attendees learned about the power of the Square ecosystem as well as how to leverage our integrations with the technology they need to run their business. Whether you’re pivoting your guest experience or working on staff retention, connecting Square with other powerful tools can make a key difference in your business’s day-to-day.
3. The restaurant community is resilient and ready to move forward.
The keynote addressed the challenges the industry has overcome, and was moderated by Michelle Korsmo, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association, Danny Meyer, founder and executive chairman of Union Square Hospitality Group, and Pinky Cole, CEO and founder of Slutty Vegan ATL and philanthropist.
During the conversation, Korsmo said that after so much change in the past few years, the restaurant industry is on a growth path. Through pandemic setbacks, changing customer expectations, staffing shortages, and shifts in the cost of goods, the restaurant community is resilient and thriving.
Cory McCollow, co-owner of NIDO’S Backyard and Odin, and first-time attendee of the National Restaurant Association Show, put it well during the “Technology That Helps You Do More With Less” panel when he said, “I want to do all the new stuff that’s here,” in regards to all the new tools and tech featured at the show.
“Technology is a way forward,” said Hong while she discussed new features from Square, like Square KDS, which is now available on larger Android screens, keeping the front-of-house and back-of-house in sync. She also shared details about Square for Franchises, a new, integrated solution to help businesses operate more efficiently, identify new revenue streams, and prepare for future scale.
Overall, it was an energizing four days filled with impactful insights. If you attended the show and want to connect with our sales team to learn more about Square, book time to chat with us. If you didn’t attend the show this year but want more interesting insights about the restaurant industry, be sure to read The Future of Restaurants report.