Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

JAN 2019

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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38 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • JANUARY 2019 When trying to decipher the restaurant of the future, perhaps a look to the past is in order. Many believe the future rests on the tried-and-true industry cornerstone of providing true hospitality. "I strongly believe that the nature of our time dictates not just what the restaurant of the future is or might be, but what it should be," says designer Steve Starr, president of starrdesign in Charlotte, N.C. "Our society in general is moving away from human connection, and I truly believe that a lot of the divisiveness that we see today is due to a lack of or diminishing personal connection." Starr believes that the more labels for people and things continue to grow, the closer we will get to dehumanizing people or assigning them second-class status. "Where I think this affects restaurants is that the restaurant — in various forms throughout history — has always been one of the main places for people to connect with each other," he says. "Restaurants — or taverns or church basements or whatever form they took — are where people met. You see it in every culture and civilization; people gather around food. That said, I think the restaurant industry has a unique opportunity to take a more active role in bringing people and our society back together." A noble task, for sure. In the still up-and-coming tech-to- table restaurant world, Starr believes it's important to think about how new technologies can support and enhance the human experience but not replace it. In essence, it's all about how restaurants and operators might use and leverage tech- nology to improve their operations so they can free up more time and attention while focusing on the important stuff: good old hospitality and customer service. "Have you ever met someone who is self-employed or works out of their house?" Starr asks, noting that the solitude of that style of work can drive a greater need to be around others during off-work time. "The social connection is not a psychologi- cal requirement, it's actually a biological requirement. People need social interaction — we always will." Starr believes two very distinct dining occasions — one being social and the other being convenience — don't have to be mutually exclusive. Even with an increas- ing demand for delivery, that shouldn't come at the expense of hospitality and service, Starr says. He points to the example of Red Robin, which tasked staff at the host desk with handling all delivery orders rather than adding an extra employee or a team of employees to do that work. "Sure, they had an increase in delivery sales, but they also had more frustrated dine-in customers walk away when they couldn't get THE FUTURE THE RESTAURANT OF Restaurant operators remain stuck in a rut, dealing with the same list of recurring challenges: slow traffic, labor issues and accelerating real estate costs. Adding to their roster of woes are disrupting entities such as Whole Foods, now under the Amazon umbrella; and cashierless Amazon Go stores, which attract would-be restaurant diners with lower prices, home delivery, more convenient payment methods and other perks. And with customer- facing technologies such as mobile app ordering, third-party delivery providers only make the future of the industry cloudier than ever before.

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