Each week, NRN editor-in-chief Sarah Lockyer gives you her take on the top restaurant industry news.
Most eyes this week are on SXSW, the conference and festival in Austin, Texas, that merges music, film, technology … and food.
This year McDonald’s became an official sponsor of the conference, bringing its presence to lounges, pulling up a food truck and offering all-day breakfast for the traditionally hipster (and sometimes hungover) crowd. Most reports characterize McDonald’s efforts as painfully pandering to the digital-savvy, start-up crowd at a time when its brand is suffering from a decline of relevancy among that very demographic. But really, who cares? So McDonald’s is using its marketing muscle to put itself in front of the very audience it wants to court. Good for them.
Much more interesting were the words of chef David Chang, owner of the Momofuku food and restaurant empire. He effortlessly captured where so many in the restaurant industry are today as it relates to technology.
“I’m here because I don’t know anything about tech, really, other than where I think we need areas of improvement in the restaurant industry, particularly in the restaurants we run,” he said, as quoted by Entrepreneur, which has a team on the scene. According to the report, Chang said he wants systems that empower restaurants to collect and catalogue customer data, even down to each and every dish or drink ordered.
The restaurant industry is behind on tech, and while many brands are working furiously to catch up, in aggregate the industry hasn’t fully used today’s social and app-driven tools to manage consumers and entertain customers.
This is where McDonald’s and chef Chang are on the same page. McDonald’s wasn’t just branding at SXSW, it hosted pitch competitions for startups that may have solutions to big-brand business problems: the restaurant experience, digital marketing, and transportation and delivery.
To see both a celebrity chef and a major fast-food chain reach out to the innovators and startup minds at SXSW is refreshing, and hopefully a sign that the restaurant industry is ready to tap into tech in smarter ways.
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