The lines continue to blur between technology companies and operators: first DoorDash began opening delivery-centric food halls, and now customer engagement platform Popmenu has opened a restaurant in Atlanta. True to its name, R&D Provisions serves as a technology test kitchen so Popmenu can try out new features and experience the challenges operators face first-hand.
“The more time we spend with operators and more empathy we build, the more we're able to architect solutions that have their best interests in mind,” Brendan Sweeney, CEO of Popmenu said. “It’s one thing to make technology, it's another thing to make technology that actually fits into someone's life. To do that, you have to get to another level. How can you be more empathetic than if you actually joined the business they're in?”
In February 2022, after returning from the COVID-related work-from-home hiatus, Popmenu opened R&D Provisions in an empty cafeteria space across from their headquarters in Atlanta. The team transformed the space into more of a restaurant serving American Southern dishes, than a building cafeteria-type of space and put all of the PopMenu technology capabilities in the space, including online ordering, marketing, QR codes, POS integration and the new AI answering service.
Some of the ideas Popmenu have been tinkering with since the launch of R&D Provisions include video menu boards and including interactive elements on the dynamic menu board like ratings and reviews.
“I always knew it was really difficult to make use of all of the technology available [to operators],” Sweeney said. “I know people see [on-premises technology] and they go, ‘that’s great and super useful but I don't have time to train my staff or make use of it. Well, once you're operating the restaurant, you see how the day-to-day can be so overwhelming and you empathize.”
That’s why Popmenu is planning to help their clients to further detangle the web of technology needs they can check off (or skip) through webinars and videos. Sweeney said he wants every piece of technology the company introduces to reduce operational friction and reduce headaches, rather than add to them.
For example, one of the most recent features Popmenu offers is AI-phone-based ordering, which not only helps with labor pressures by freeing up employees who would normally spend time answering phones during busy shifts, but also can upsell and relay information like scheduled wing nights and trivia nights, for example.
“A couple months ago, we added custom responses where clients can just go and type in response to any of the 200+ queries the AI can respond to,” Sweeney said. “They have this ability to personalize and upsell and you can make the AI say anything you want.”
As for if Popmenu will expand its restaurant concept-- Don’t expect a chain of R&D Provisions restaurants, but the team might open a full-service restaurant or a food truck to further learn about the plights and tribulations experienced by their clients.
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