There was a sense of optimism, excitement, and wonder at this year’s event, as operators are now shedding the mad scramble of the past two years and looking with confidence and enthusiasm at the new world of restaurant tech.
There was a different sort of feeling walking into the grand atrium of the Gaylord Texan Resort this year. Smiles and greetings filled the air, as unmasked faces breathed a sigh of relief that hadn’t been felt in a little over two years.
The last few years have been fraught with uncertainty, anxiety, and frantic energy that has felt unsurmountable for most operators, particularly those in the restaurant tech industry. A sector known for its thoughtful adoption of chaos and careful consideration of the RFP process was thrown into turmoil as the direct effects of the pandemic demanded rapid change. Almost overnight, operators were asked to evaluate omnichannel solutions that drove sales online, third-party feeds for delivery, and create new app interfaces from scratch. Requests to improve operational efficiencies around line busting and curbside solutions became an everyday headache, as did the need to have access and make dynamic menu changes. They were instructed to cobble together solutions that could take all these data pipelines and streamline the supply chain, staffing, and inventory systems, effectively connecting the back-of-the-house operations, to the front and everywhere in between.
It was a frenetic time and as the dust settles, a new attitude toward restaurant technology is coming to fruition; along with a new respect for the partners that can support these endeavors.
This year, FSTEC 2022 proved to be the spot to be. In 2021, only 445 operators risked the travel and health woes of the pandemic to arrive in Dallas. This year, 819 attended FSTEC nearly doubling last year’s attendance, making it one of the largest in their history.
In 2021, only 445 operators risked the travel and health woes of the pandemic to arrive in Dallas. This year, 819 operators attended FSTEC nearly doubling last year’s attendance, making it one of the largest in their history.
And they came eager.
This year, operators came with a newfound sense that the industry had changed rapidly and that we are only now starting to catch up. They came ready to ask questions to their partners, eager to know the upcoming roadmap for integrated technology, as well as prepared to learn more about the horizon. Words such as unified experience, automation, artificial intelligence, web 3.0, and omnichannel seem more of a reality, even if robotic waiters still seem a bit laughable. The solutions coming down the pipeline are all about “the experience”. From the experience of those that have to implement the technology to the customers those systems serve, as well as the staff who live under the tent of these new solutions.
These were the 3 Biggest Takeaways we had at FSTEC 2022:
Restaurant Technology Partners are now that… Partners
One thing that made this event unique was a new tone between brands and their partners. After years stuck behind desks, brands used FSTEC to engage, learn and explore the features being offered not only by their current partners but also by the new companies coming out of the woodwork. Personally, I think there is nothing healthier than exploring the roadmaps of companies and technologies that are out there, particularly with so much change happening in the world of restaurant technology solutions.
One operator even went as far as saying, “We understand that everyone is just trying to keep up. To be honest, we’re not looking for the perfect partner anymore. We’re looking for the best solution for our unique needs and a brand that is responsive and believes they are on this journey with us.”
It’s a testament to our industry and to the challenges we have all faced together that this is the new tone within our sector.
It’s all about the Experience. For Operators, Employees, and Guests
Beyond the collaborative nature of the event, the underlying theme was that the industry feels overwhelmed by disparate solutions. Operators were once forced to build tech stacks with numerous vendors, who more often than not, were not fully able to integrate with existing tech frameworks. From this experience rose the sense that restaurant technology can’t just be about solving a problem any longer. It now must be about creating an experience. One that rises from implementation to fruition, from the four walls to the homes of our most loyal customers.
I’ll tell you what I mean by this. With the challenges of the last few years, there is exhaustion. It now lands in the hands of restaurant technology partners to step up and recognize that just as restaurant brands must think about the customer experience, we must think about what they (as well as their teams) experience from implementation to execution. There must be systems that are fully integrated and create seamless architectures that improve everyday operations. Systems that provide solutions to streamline data and give insight into not only day-to-day operations but also the guest experience on a 1:1 basis. If the word “experience” is the new mantra, it’s up to all of us to make it an integral part of our roadmaps in 2023.
The Future Might Just be Here and Now
One of the most interesting sessions of FSTEC had to be the one that focused on the distant future of the industry, based on what we see in retail. This is not a new comparison, as, over the last decade, retail has really driven the evolution of restaurant technology and what our customers are looking for in terms of the new “experience” (there’s that word again).
Yet, after speaking with operators, some of the new technologies may be more of reality than we think. As brands such as Starbucks, Chipotle, and Burger King experiment with NFTs, the Metaverse, and Web 3.0, more restauranteurs are sitting up and taking notice. Even us at PAR were able to unveil our own futuristic tech with new Machine Learning features from Punchh®, our newly acquired online ordering platform MENU®, hint at some of our groundbreaking drive-thru technology, and also unveil our Hardware-as-a-Service model in Infinity®.
In addition, we had more questions about our roadmap than ever before. Our innovation sessions were filled with forward-looking questions from brands, and we saw a renewed interest in our mission to build a truly “unified experience” across our umbrella of brands. This tells me one thing. The industry is ready for the next step, and we at PAR must be ready to deliver it.
Looking back at FSTEC, I think most attendees walked away with a sense of excitement and anticipation of what is ahead. 2020 may have been a pivotal year in the world of restaurant technology, but that could pale in comparison to what 2023 could look like for the industry. And here at PAR, we can’t wait. Let us show you what the roadmap looks like and be your partner in navigating the future of restaurant technology.