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Where Technology Intersects with Food
Brian Wallunas, CIO for Smokey Bones
This pairing of tech and food comes with one significant caveat for Smokey Bones. The tech has to benefit not only our guests, but just as importantly, our crew. We’ve established our reputation for great hospitality and work to build teams who can uphold our standards of service. It’s critical that we support them with the tools they need to achieve this.
Smokey Bones leans into innovation and technology. We believe these are great additives to our business and can allow us to grow and evolve. By introducing e-commerce to our business and being one of the first restaurant concepts to do so across virtual brands, we were able to build our new brands, share them with the public, further legitimize them, and put them on the path for growth.
To actualize our new virtual brands, we turned to existing assets including our brick-and-mortar Smokey Bones locations, our crew, and our food.
Collaboration among our leadership- tech, marketing, and operations- was key in enabling us to develop these virtual brands as quickly as we did. The synergies among the teams have led to the success we’ve experienced with launching the brands and having them seamlessly integrate into our existing system.
Smokey Bones is also leaning into tech to digitize it’s in restaurant dining experience. This includes not only a table management solution but also the ability to digitally order and pay from the table. The table management system allows our crew to better track where guests are in their dining experience and run the dining room more smoothly, providing better turnover of tables. The use of a digital waitlist helps improve communication with guests and accurately estimate wait times, which is a huge leap from the traditional paper waitlist. Lastly, the digitized order and pay solution provides the guest with options on how they choose to order. Whether they choose to order from the table, through their server or a hybrid approach and digitally add an item to their open check, the model seeks to provide the guest with options on how they choose to interact with the brand.
Many companies may entertain the idea of one virtual brand, but we aimed for two, each with their own direct to consumer digital experience.
Although we embrace tech and are exploring new tools, we also understand it’s not a one size fits all, even within our own system. Certain geographies respond better to tech than others. For example, our restaurants that are located in college communities or have a younger demo will also have higher tech use. These younger consumers prefer the digital path, because it’s more convenient, and they’ve grown up using it. Other customers may be a bit more hesitant to use the tech and prefer traditional interactions with our crew.
Bottom line, by providing our crew with the tech tools that work for them, they can focus on what our brands do best: good food, good drinks, and good times.