by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Imagine, driving to your favorite restaurant and as you park, the restaurant recognizes your presence and has the order you placed online ready for you to either pick up or has passed your name on to the host for seating.
Digital technology has indeed changed our lives when we shop, travel and handle our finances. With mobile access, personalization, loyalty tracking and no touch transactions, our future dining experiences will reflect these new technologies.
The new technologies attempt to engage the customer in a highly personalized manner. The goals for the restaurant are to increase your dining frequency, amount of your check, and loyalty.
When I taught in the Lincoln Land Community College Hospitality Program, I stressed to our students that the key for success in the restaurant and any other industry is to “know” your customer. Who are they? Everyone today is talking about Millennials: those people born from around 1981 to 1996, and Post Millennials, 1997 to present. But what I refer to as “experienced” people like myself, are the Baby Boomers (1946-1964). We still count and make up 20 percent of the population. Baby Boomers are characterized as being more affluent, more active and more physically fit than any preceding generation. They still have the largest spending power of all the generations, and it is important that the new technologies implemented by restaurants are easily accessible and understandable. In a future article I will talk more about dining preferences of the different generations.
A “Deloitte” (professional accounting and consulting company) survey found that 85 percent of responding customers use a restaurant’s website to gather information on location, menu and pricing and use that information to determine where to visit.
Currently, technology has primarily been focused on what is known as the QSR restaurant segment: Quick Service Restaurants. In past we may have walked into our favorite burger chain with often a long wait. New restaurant apps can give you up-to-the-moment wait-time data and help you decide where to dine, plus the ability to go online and pre-order your meal while still in transit, bypass the line with your pre-order, save 10 percent because you are a first time app user or use your phone to scan for online coupons. And, you just earned points toward your next discount, and the system will remember your preferences anywhere in the world you order from that same chain. You benefit from spending less time standing in line, and the restaurant is able to have additional prep time and spend more time interacting with other customers.
A system that many of you may have already experienced has been installed at numerous chain causal restaurants. One company, Presto, out of California, has developed a handheld product that is integrated to the POS (Property Operating System-computer systems that evolved from the old cash register) and allows servers to take and send orders directly to the kitchen. The Presto wearable is a smartwatch-type device worn by staff that provides real-time updates and prompts severs when the order is ready or when a guest needs assistance. This is all part of tabletop technology that offers you the ability to view and select from a digital menu, play interactive games (my granddaughters especially appreciate this costly feature), provide feedback, summon a server and pay with your credit card. Restaurants report that the system helps them increase table turns (the more turns-the more customers served) and increase average check size (the amount of our bill). It eliminates the frustration of wondering what happened to your server when trying to get your bill or more importantly, trying to order another glass of wine. New features on the system keep track of customer preferences, allergies, birthdays, loyalty status and if you like your steak well or rare. A personal note: I am not sure if I want all that information out there and accessible to hackers. The restaurant industry is plagued by labor challenges, and I am confident we will be seeing more of these labor saving systems.
At LLCC, as part of our Culinary and Hospitality program, we have a student-operated restaurant that was utilizing a POS purchased over nine years ago. One of the first initiatives for our new interim director of the program, Sheridan Lane, was to purchase a new system allowing our students to experience and learn this new technology. The system chosen for Bistro Verde is called “Cake,” and has many of the features described above plus it is “cloud” based. Very simply, the system allows a restaurant owner the ability to remotely monitor real time updates, view transaction history, track the bestselling items and keep track of labor. You still have a few weeks to enjoy the Bistro Verde, open for lunch Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. as “Bistro-To- Go.” Just enter Bistro Verde at LLCC in your computer search engine to find all the information.
How much technology our restaurants introduce will depend on many issues. As a customer we should continue to expect high quality experiences, and it is important that the restaurant “knows” their customer and continues to deliver those experiences consistently every time.
All of a sudden it is getting cooler, I am seeing lots of apples in the grocery store, and who does not like a decadent donut (or two). Thanks to the New York Times for this recipe.
Baked Apple Cider Doughnuts
Yield 12 doughnuts or muffins. Time 35 minutes.
This recipe yields the classic flavor of baked cider doughnuts. For the most traditional result, a doughnut pan is recommended, but you can also bake these off in a muffin pan.
Nonstick cooking spray
1 ¾ cup/225 grams all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup/225 grams unsalted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
¾ cup/165 grams light brown sugar
¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup/120 milliliters apple cider
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 6-cavity doughnut pans (or a 12-cup muffin tin) with nonstick spray. In a medium bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg and whisk to combine. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream 10 tablespoons/140 grams butter, brown sugar and 1/4 cup/50 grams granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until well incorporated after each addition, scraping the bowl as necessary. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until incorporated. With the mixer running, add the apple cider in a slow, steady stream and mix to combine. Scrape the bowl well to make sure the batter is homogeneous.
Spoon the batter into prepared doughnut pans, filling them about 2/3 of the way full (you can also do this using a disposable piping bag or a resealable plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening cut from one corner). Bake until evenly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the thickest portion comes out clean, 12 to 15 minutes. Rotate the pans halfway through baking. (If you are making muffins, divide batter evenly between the prepared cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through.)
While the doughnuts bake, whisk the remaining 1/2 cup/100 grams granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon together in a small bowl to combine. In a separate small bowl, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in the microwave. Let the doughnuts cool for 5 minutes after baking, then unmold them from the pans, brush with the melted butter and dredge them in the cinnamon sugar while they are still warm. Serve immediately, or let cool to room temperature.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Hospitality Supervisor, Hospitality Professional, Culinary Manager, First Cook, Baking/Pastry and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.