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An answer session, part 2
More A's from your recent Q's
This is a lot more opinion than I’m used to sharing. I’d love to hear yours. I’ll keep the mailbag open, feel free to submit a question.
What three characteristics will be true of "winners" in the restaurant tech space?
Let’s back up a few steps and consider what a “winner” is in this context. A unicorn? A profitable standalone business? A well-crafted acquisition target? Happy customers? Affecting meaningful change?
Honestly, I don’t know that there’s much overlap in a Venn diagram of all of these potential wins. But I do think, based on ideas and feedback and asking a lot of questions, that restaurant technology companies that are built to serve restaurants with input from people who actually operate restaurants will rise to the top.
I also think that winners in the industry will play nicely with others in the industry; there are as many potential successful tech stack combos as there are restaurants.
Third, I’d say winners will embrace, but not exploit, emerging technology. For example: not every company needs to be an AI company, but some do. (In this example, the Federal Trade Commission has already warned against overhyping claims of artificial intelligence as a marketing tactic.)
Even as I type this, I worry that my view here is too rosy. But I do believe that the hospitality business is different from any other industry in that so much of its success comes courtesy of people genuinely interested in making the business better for everyone.
BACK TO YOU:
How do companies today win over customers after they are discovered from an OpenTable or DoorDash?
Reading this question I was immediately transported to April 2020 when restaurants dropped notes into bags for to-go orders placed via third parties. The notes encouraged customers to order directly with the restaurant to both avoid high commissions and build direct guest relationships. On the reservations side, I’ve heard of restaurants holding back inventory for direct website bookings or even phone calls.
I am not the best person to answer this question, but I know people who read this newsletter are.
Do you have a working strategy to help convert third-party diners to repeat first-party customers? I’d love it if you shared it with Expedite readers. Just respond to this email — I’ll only run your name and/or your business name if you ask me to.
🎉 Bonus: If you send an answer I share with readers, I’ll comp you 3 months of paid Expedite editions.
I think one of the most interesting "views of the future" for restaurants is Australia. They have much higher labor costs which ripples through the whole industry. My understanding is that people dine out less there. I imagine there's more automation and/or a different approach to service. Would love to learn more about whether that is a vision from our future and, if so, what that means for us here in the US.
I’m an American, writing this newsletter from San Francisco, so this is far outside my own area of expertise. I asked an Australian acquaintance who happens to be, in my opinion, a restaurant expert, and they challenged the premise of the question: Australia has high staffing costs given more advanced labor laws and strong unions, they told me.
As for going out less… maybe? “Sydney hospitality feels like the roaring twenties, with new restaurants opening, operators reporting high numbers, and people enjoying the experience again,” they said.
As for automation and restaurant technology, what’s happening in Australia seems to be what’s happening stateside. A number of big restaurant tech companies — Resy, OpenTable, DoorDash, Square, SevenRooms, and more — operate there as they operate here. Other Australian restaurant tech businesses, especially those that went big during pandemic restrictions, are navigating similar challenges to those in the US. For example: competitors MrYum and Me&u, both QR-code based ordering and payment startups, are reportedly exploring a merger. All of this sounds familiar.
Maybe Australia is a vision for America's future in that employees in the industry are treated and compensated fairly — at least in relation to our archaic system — and that's something we should strive to emulate. Of course this would require some significant and systemic change to the American status quo; minimum wages included.
I know more than a few Australian industry pros read this newsletter: What am I missing? Respond or comment, please, I’d love to offer an even stronger response to this question.
Is there a future for nonprofit and co-operative restaurants in the United States? Thoughts on co-op delivery service?
I think co-op delivery services are amazing, and I love learning about them. If you run or use one, please tell me more. I haven’t traditionally covered too many local delivery services on Expedite, because, 1. There are so many; and, 2. They’re structured so differently from the tech-fueled giants — often they’re more hands-on than high-tech.
They also, of course, don’t operate at the scale of their nationwide competitors, by design. That makes for a challenging story. Is a small, local collective a DoorDash competitor? Sure, in that it’s taking potential business from the behemoth. Will enough people use it to be self-sustaining? Potentially — though I do think that diners’ collective tolerance for doing something that’s good for restaurants, even if it’s slightly inconvenient for them, is waning. (For proof of this, read any of the numerous recent articles in major outlets about diners becoming fed up with not-good-enough service. We seem to want to move on.)
Similarly, I find nonprofit and co-op restaurants to be inspirational — though I think negative stories about failed experiments in this category have outweighed positive press. Obviously this business is very hard, and operating in this climate while also building a restaurant that does good outside of feeding customers is harder. I’m still hopeful that there might be some big systemic change on the horizon, but I’m not yet convinced it’s coming.
Would love it if you had some kind of restaurant tech focused industry event once or twice a year.
Me too! This is not the first time I have been asked to do this. I would love to host an event (I’ve done it before!) but it’s a significant financial and logistical undertaking. I have many ideas about how this could look and what we’d cover, but I need partners and sponsors to make it a reality. San Francisco? LA? New York? I’m open to suggestions.