My Love/Hate Relationship with Restaurant Technology
By Liz Kramer
We do marketing, and we do marketing in the BAY AREA. We are always engaged in social media and are constantly assaulted by pitches from the latest venture-backed apps that are guaranteed to put butts in seats. Do they work? Some better than others – but at what cost?
As a restaurant marketer and passionate diner, I have a love/hate relationship with technology in/around/about my dining. Delivery doesn’t taste the same when it comes from a five-star restaurant delivered from a sweaty hipster, I want to be talked through a paper menu, not left to my own devices (pun intended) trolling through an iPad, I want to form my own opinions and not have them affected so heavily by every critic with an iPhone, and I want to know that the price I am paying is the best and only, and not that the guy next to me is getting it better by checking in/checking out, Grouponing, Yelping, or otherwise. Most of all, I want to sit and look whomever I’m dining with in the eye and TALK. I don’t want to compete with the iPhone interaction that said restaurant has hoped would happen during the dining experience in hopes their new menu will “go viral.” Alas, such is not our reality in 2015…
Joe Satran recently had an interesting article in The Huffington Post called “What Chefs Don’t Understand About Technology.” At the technologically-dense SXSW, he attended panels broaching the topic, and found that most chefs got a little uncomfortable. Some felt social media took away the excitement of discovering a restaurant while others didn’t feel they had anything interesting to say in 140 characters. Which brings up my next point – how involved should chefs be with restaurant technology?
Millennial consumers clearly want to be engaged with chefs and restaurants and in the article, Chef Aaron Franklin questions, “…aren’t you busy working?” Does the food suffer because chefs are preoccupied? Should chefs who aren’t spending their time on social media be less popular than those who are great on Twitter? Well I suppose that is where having a PR and marketing agency comes in…ehem.
Take our client, Sam’s Grill. They are a late adopter of OpenTable, one of the earliest forms of restaurant technology, yet they still use their day planner to take reservations (I love it). There is something about it all that makes you not want to use your technology as it becomes the third wheel when you’re tucked away in one of their old school booths on a romantic date, chatting with friends, or conducting a business meeting (although as their rep, I highly encourage you to Facebook, Tweet, Instagram when you leave!).
My conclusion is that I have no conclusion – I love to hate it, and I hate to love it. I want to be in the moment in a restaurant, but I love seeing what famous chefs around the world are doing in restaurants I haven’t been to yet. Every restaurant must strike a balance that works for them and their concept. As a woman who just missed the Millennial classification by a year, I remain stubborn in the fact that I will never check-in, become the Mayor, or flash my iPhone for a discount, but I sure as heck will continue to encourage you to!
PS. All love is not lost on this very funny Instagram account. Check it out: http://www.eater.com/2015/3/27/8299677/chefjacqueslamerde-instagram-kitchen-plating-fast-junk-food