The Restaurant Industry
The Fourth Wave of Innovation
The Restaurant Industry
May 2020 - The global restaurant industry is being ravaged by a pandemic of near biblical proportions. Coronavirus (COVID-19) is changing the industry in ways we can't yet full understand. Off-premise sales were already over 60% of sales in the U.S., via catering, delivery and drive thru, suggesting a new industry taking shape. Now, it's nearly 100%, because dining rooms are closed. Re-opening an economy has never been tested before, so there is no data on what works and what doesn't, sector by sector. What's clear, is there will be carnage. Tens of thousands of restaurants will close permanently, under their current ownership. What percentage of these will reopen is a guess. It's unknown in part because investors are on the sidelines for now. Because restaurants operate on slim margins, angel investors generally invest based on personal relationships, ego and emotion, not ROI. Now, with a decimated market and unpredictable future, emotional investment gives way to pragmatism. Banks have never been an option, really, unless the enterprise is of sufficient size, and even then, it's a hard to find and fully secured. Private Equity is taking a pause, assessing how discounted the market will become before pouncing on bankruptcies and closures to expand their current portfolio under economically desirably metrics. It's a hot mess!
Prior to COVID-19 -Over the last 100 years, the restaurant industry has grown to become the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer with more than 15 million workers serving more than 170 million customers every day. Early projections indicate that restaurant and foodservice sales in 2019 will exceed $863 billion generated by one million restaurants, of which, 70% which are independent operators.
The $3 trillion global restaurant industry is massively relevant and vital to all economies. In the U.S. alone, over 1 million restaurants will generate more than $863 billion in sales and employ 14+ million employees in 2019. Restaurants are on the hunt for fresh ideas and new channels to improve sales and maintain margins. They must discover new sales channels and leverage new technologies.
Restaurant operators already suffer from a wide array of business challenges, not to mention any major business interruption (like a global pandemic). Operators must seek technical solutions that address bussiness challenges and change legacy business practices. Operators know that technology is transforming the global restaurant industry and many operators have increased the average annual investment from less than 1% historically, to nearly 3% of sales today. Because of this, they and we, seek solutions that address (a) demand generation (b) labor cost reduction (c) CRM and transaction data and insights; and (d) automation/AI for value creation and efficiency.
Even more impressive is the transformative effects restaurant tech is having on the industry globally, both B2C and B2B. Investors have sunk over $20 billion in restaurant technology startups in the last 10 years and ecosystem of cloud solutions can be confusing.
Now is the time to assess and reflect. Technology strategy needs to be supporting of business goals, brand strategy, growth ambitions and the new restaurant industry. Bailiwick Ventures can help.
Investment Focus | Forces of Change
As more operators turn to tech to improve their performance, it’s easy to get carried away with the many applications and softwares that will end up complicating the process. Technologies unification involves integrating cloud APIs to deliver simplified functionalities that allow operators to track their restaurant’s progress in real-time. Real-time tracking enables operators to constantly identify where and why sales are behaving the way they are, and to act on it accordingly. Visual tools such as dashboards allows this collected data to be readily accessible to operators, key stakeholders and even staff. This democratization of information leads to greater awareness and understanding of the business.
As restaurants reopen beginning May 2020, they won't be fully staffed. Dining rooms with 200 seats will begin at 50 seats, before easing covenants increase this these social distancing limits to 50% of capacity, or in this example, 100 seats. But there is more risk here. Separating patrons isn't the the complete solution. HVAC and air flow matters too. Staff wearing masks, eliminating table settings, throw-away menus, clinical sanitation between guest service is also important. The reality is the industry has displaced over 6 million employees. Even if everything could be reopened at 100% capacity today, consumers may not be ready to return. And, that's a staffing and prep management issue. Purchasing, inventory, staff scheduling, reservations are all unknowns. Prior sales data is useless. We are back to guessing. Having access to next generation productivity software that supports efficiency will be a key to managing costs and generating more real time insights to help manage in a new era.
Over 50% of all search is voice. This changes how consumers discover and order, make reservations. We also set our sights on the human interface and conversational commerce. This means using voice and text chatbots to enable consumers to order food, manage guest services, make reservations, manage guest satisfaction and engage interactively where billions of people are online already. The use of chatbots can also extend to B2B applications where operators from different verticals are able to order from other vendors. This accelerated ease of using voice platforms like Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, and chatbots platforms like Facebook and Slack are permeating the industry as operators seek more efficient ways to quell the growing demands of their guests.
Improved communication and accessible education
F&B operators are increasingly aware of the importance of bridging gaps in communication between staff and consumers, as well as widening access to information that will inform them of better decisions to improve their service and business. Access to education will allow companies to understand their consumer better and allow them to decide how best to engage them. This means businesses can stay ahead of their consumers and anticipate their needs and wants — and anticipation is crucial in creating memorable guest experiences.
Automation - Food-maker robotics
The labor pool remains competitive and continues to shrink, the restaurant industry is particularly challenged to hire, train and retain quality and affordable FOH and BOH staff. Operators are no longer in control of their labor costs with state mandates for minimum wages increases and healthcare benefits. With thin margins, naturally, restaurant concepts must evolve in these changing and challenging times. Enter the food-maker robots that make and serve hamburgers, yogurt, pizza another food categories, just to start. We see low cost, high potential ROI's for entrepreneurs and existing operators and landlords. Food-maker robots and robot vending will affect how we conveniently consume fast food and snacks with no human interaction.
We invent, create, develop and invest
Restaurant Technology News
FohBoh means Front of House, Back of House so we cover a lot of ground. But, we also know that technology is transforming the restaurant industry and this touches all FOH+BOH systems and persons and that's our bailiwick. So, our news and information agency inFOH, delivers a daily newsletter about restaurant technology to tens of thousands of industry professionals, since 2007.
RestTech Partners is a restaurant technology consultant to restaurant brands, technology innovators, investors, investment banks and private equity funds. Technology is the new center of the plate for a $638 billion industry in transition. Because we are operators, technologists, entrepreneurs and investors, we have a unique perspective and knowledge of utilities, tools, systems, integrations and implementations.
Voice-enabled Restaurant Management Software
StarBar.ai voice-enables legacy restaurant management processes to save time and money. Beginning with VoiceINV™, operators at every restaurants, hotel, casino, bar and pub worldwide will be able to use the patent pending StarBar voice inventory and order automation software. This reduces the time it takes to complete a bar inventory by 80%. Future voice-inventory modules will include food and products.
Experience and Perspective
Our leadership team has broad reach to industry affiliates, business colleagues, restaurant leadership, and influencers, affiliates, dealers and media relationships. We bring decades of relevant experience to our investing partners and portfolio companies. We bring operations, culinary, development and corporate finance expertise. We have held BOH and FOH unit-level and C-level positions at regional and national chains. We are food and restaurant tech entrepreneurs, social media pioneers and digital transformation consultants.
We are practitioners and thought-leaders and with an operators' perspective. We are passionate about the restaurant industry and excited about how enabling technologies are transforming our industry every day. Technology helps create operational efficiencies leading to profitability and that make operators more competitive and relevant.
We have unique access to opportunities because we have been actively engaged as operators, digital media and Internet entrepreneurs, restaurateurs, financiers, food and restaurant technology sales and social media marketers for decades. We think automation is the new key to success in the broader foodservice industry. We have transaction experience as investment banker and entrepreneur. We live and work at the intersection of restaurant and technology working with clients and partners around the globe.
We are experienced entrepreneurs in food and beverage, restaurants, retail and Internet technology. We have an operator's perspective with vision and access to key resources required to execute on our plans. We invest, create and operate.
We invest in our own portfolio but can assist others in reaching their funding goals via Bailiwick Ventures.
Influencers and Though-Leaders
We created the first restaurant social media community and network in 2007. The purpose was to connect and engage operators and no-operators and inform the industry about new emerging technologies that are transforming the industry. FohBoh.com, and the RestTech [infoh.com] Newsletter deliver news and information to over 80,000 industry professionals multiple times each week.
Digital Transformation Consulting
The restaurant industry is transitioning and we are helping to prepare it for these changes via RestTech.co, our global restaurant technology strategic advisory firm. We've migrated from no-stack to tech-stack, to an integrated cloud-tech platform. What's is next? An integrated AI brain, or restaurant operating system as the new optimized central hub for all API-based utilities and data. We're advising brands, investors, IT groups and innovators using our unique combination of restaurant operations, finance, technology and API integration expertise.
Founder | Managing Partner
Investor • Entrepreneur • Consultant
MICHAEL L. ATKINSON - Founder
Investor, Restaurateur and Technology Entrepreneur
Michael is a serial Investor, entrepreneur, speaker and restaurant technology multi-hyphenate living in Dallas, Texas. With more than 4 decades of industry experience as an operator, strategist, financier and technologist, Michael is deeply passionate and committed to solving restaurant business challenges using next generation technology to reimagine what a restaurant technology TechStack looks like in 2020.
Tech Shift in Foodservice
Most of this “new” technology has been around for some time—restaurants are simply starting to use it because of the pandemic. Contactless technology no longer just provides a convenient delivery option; the process is essential to the survival of countless businesses.
Often written off as a fad, dark restaurants may explode in popularity in the coming years. The option gives operators much greater control of their product, and is far more economical—especially considering the possibility of future pandemics—than opening a standard sit-down restaurant.
Consumer adoption of some more invasive technologies will be challenging. In the United States, consumers tend to be highly conscious of any violations to their right to privacy. Businesses will need to be careful to balance health and security concerns with their customers’ comfort level.
“Technology is the new center of the plate. Without technology, you’re going to be challenged going into the future.” – Michael Atkinson
“I think [curbside service] will absolutely increase as operators wrestle with the challenges and expenses of third parties. Curbside is just easier.” – Michael Atkinson
“More operators are going to be self-directing their own delivery, and it’s driven in part by ways to differentiate yourself. Delivery is food coming to you in a bag. What if you upscaled a little bit? What if you took a different perspective about what delivery is, and called it in-home dining?” – Michael Atkinson