Tech and Transparency


Welcome to Expedite, a (mostly) weekly newsletter by Kristen Hawley covering what’s important in restaurant technology.

Technology and Transparency

Earlier this month, baristas in Philadelphia circulated a Google spreadsheet of wages to encourage wage transparency in the industry. As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, the document spurred a slew of others in markets around the country.

This willingness to be open and honest about wages is a practice that’s gained favor in workplaces across the country, in the restaurant industry and beyond. There’s an easy tech tie-in here. That is, the literal ability for this information to be quickly and widely disseminated thanks to a Google product. It’s also an example of a trend that’s gaining steam across industries where colleagues and coworkers are becoming more comfortable sharing information about their compensation in support of fair wages for all.

Beverage industry company SevenFifty (and associated content site SevenFifty Daily) recently released its second Career and Salary Survey, a comprehensive report made up of data from over 3,000 respondents. It’s a trove of data with some great takeaways — including that the gender pay gap still exists (though it’s improving) and that the majority of respondents were happy with their compensation.

This tech-fueled transparency has also led to meaningful change in employment practices, if even on a small scale, as more employers recognize and highlight the fact that the people that work in their In New York, for example, restaurateur Camilla Marcus of West-Bourne partnered with Vivvi, a childcare startup, to subsidize childcare for restaurant employees — until 2 a.m. The childcare situation is especially important to address in the hospitality industry, where working parents’ hours are often far outside the normal 9-5 operating hours of traditional childcare facilities. It seems that real change is happening, and, maybe more importantly, people are talking about it.

But how did we get here?

I will argue that in times of insane competition in the on-demand space that we’ve been conditioned to exist in, this kind of clear-headed transparency is necessary to counter the narrative we’re fed by big tech. That is, everything can be yours easily, cheaply, and at the push of a button, often eliminating any perceived human touch. This is the future, they say.

A few weeks ago, I moderated a panel about the restaurant of the future that featured three panelists: the CEO of a food robotics company, the head of automation at a well-funded national chain, and the CEO of a restaurant software company. On the surface, it painted a picture of the restaurant of the future as some tech-infused robot-made mobile pizza chain with a ghost kitchen. But one of the biggest themes to come from the conversation was the importance of consumer engagement in the face of technology — the human touch.

To be clear, pizza robots probably aren’t coming for human jobs and the type of insights offered by restaurant technology companies are allowing restaurant businesses to operate more efficiently, but it’s a good reminder to strike the right balance.

Technology came to the restaurant industry later than it came to others, so it’s worth a look to what’s happened in other places. For example, much has been said about the cost to real humans at the benefit of Amazon’s meteoric rise to prominence in retail. Employers would do well to continue encouraging the type of transparency referenced above, because it in turn encourages open lines of communication true human connection.

What else is happening?

Speaking of the human touch in hospitality technology, TechTable Summit in New York is next week, Tuesday, 10/29. I’ll be there. Let me know if you will be, too. Tickets still available here. Come!

Bloomberg has a high-level look at the biggest players in restaurant delivery, and where they might be headed in the future. Most experts in the space agree that the market will see further consolidation. But let’s not forget it’s still largely a wildly unprofitable venture for nearly everyone involved and the VC subsidies won’t last forever.

A win, among many wins, for Chipotle: digital sales grew 89.7 percent this quarter, and now make up just over 18 percent of total sales. Also, they’re building “Chipotlanes” which are drive-thrus for pickup orders. It’s really hard to dislike this company.

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Expedite is produced by Kristen Hawley, a San Francisco-based journalist with over six years of experience covering the restaurant technology industry. Previous iterations of this content were available via Chefs+Tech and Skift Table. Thanks for reading.
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