Tag Archives: restaurant technology

NRA 2011: Product Trends and Innovations

Image: NRA Website

This year’s NRA show in Chicago just wrapped up. From food and seminars, to products and technology—the show really covers it all. To keep it simple, we’re just going to discuss some of the interesting trends we saw — along with links to the other information for you to catch anything you missed!

Latest Technology

Companies are finding innovative ways to use technology to make a customer’s experience with a product exceptional. Many times advanced technology can be something restaurant owners stay away from. We live in a fast-paced world and restaurants don’t have time to figure out how to fix a piece of equipment filled with technology.

However—companies are now not only making products that cut down on time, but are making them easier to manage as well. When searching for a product, don’t be so nervous or stray away thinking it’s “too advanced.” The people creating these products, from ice machines to digital signage, are making everything easier all the way around. Don’t think of getting the latest in technology as a fad, consider the money you will be saving later on down the road.

Digital Signage

Digital signage is on the rise and is a great way to go paperless. We came across several vendors advertising digital menu boards. This is an excellent way to advertise a menu, as many times pre-made signage isn’t easy to change and can be costly. With digital boards, changes can be made in an instant.

Another huge trend, which we have been covering, is the menu tablet. A major concern among restaurant-goers is a tablet can’t replace excellent customer service.

When speaking with a representative with Titbit about their interactive digital menu, she explained this technology actually enhances customer service. By using these menus, customers are in complete control of their order freeing up the wait staff’s time to focus on the actual service.


If you attend NRA, you can’t miss the food. They truly have it all. Among the many food vendors this year were foods for a particular lifestyle such as gluten-free and vegan/vegetarian. Whether it’s a lifestyle choice or an allergy, customers with particular eating habits are no longer few and far between. It’s best to be prepared.

Going Green

Image: Conserve Website

Companies are finding ways to go green and many have at least one product that is eco-friendly. We came across many green products from fryers to disposableware. If you haven’t taken too much time on making your restaurant more eco-friendly, it’s becoming very easy to find a green model of a product.

As we’ve been learning about the importance of saving the environment, we released this whitepaper last month on making a restaurant economically friendly which will help if you’re not sure where to begin.

More Information

Here are a few links to other interesting aspects of the show. If you attended this year’s NRA show, we hope you share with us what stood out to you.

Latest Technology for Restaurants

Technology is constantly evolving and there is always something new. Here is some of the latest technology available that all kinds of foodservice establishments can take advantage of.

Mobile Apps

A majority of people have a smartphone (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.) and with the popularity of these phones, there is practically a mobile app for everything.  A recent article by Nation’s Restaurant News said several restaurant chains such as Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Culver’s have apps for smartphones and many other chains have a mobile app in the works.  Mobile apps help customers spend money and also provide a convenient way to obtain information. Snapfinger is one of the places to sign up for an app for your restaurant.

Social Media

The number of Facebook users varies per source, but at least 500 million people use it. Social media is much more than posting what is going on that day.  Sites like Facebook and Twitter are a very powerful tools to increase sales.

Using Facebook’s “like” button has proved to have increased sales for many restaurants and others use their Facebook page for online ordering. Twitter provides real-time posts and while you are limited to 140 characters, they can be a very powerful 140 characters. By using either or both of these sites, you can promote your business and connect with customers.

A recent article from FT.com has this quote from Facebook Creator, Mark Zuckerberg, that expresses the importance of social media: “If you look five years out, every industry is going to be rethought in a social way. You can remake whole industries. That’s the big thing.”

QR Codes

This QR code was generated in 10 seconds and leads to the Central website

QR Codes are everywhere. But what are these odd barcode like boxes? Convenient! With a click of a button, information goes straight to a phone.

The Qurify website defines QR codes as “two dimensional barcodes that are easily scanned using any modern mobile device. This code will then be converted (called “dequirified”) into a piece of (interactive) text and/or link.”

To break this definition down, anyone with a modern phone simply needs a QR code reader app for their phone, such as the Kaywa Reader. Then, whenever a person sees a QR code, they take a picture of it and it takes them straight to a link. This makes things incredibly simple. So you’re wondering how to make your own QR code? It’s just as simple as retrieving one. There are a variety of QR code generators out there. Putting in “QR code generator” in a Google search will provide you with many sites, qrcode.kaywa.com being one of the main ones. Use a QR code to link customers to an important part of your establishment, such as a information about a particular product or a promotion.

Electronic Menus

Technology + Menus = Electronic Menus. While this technology is still in its early stages, it’s a neat feature to keep in mind for the future. A restaurant in Tokyo is using the Graffiti Bar. An article by The Independent (United Kingdom) says this interactive menu bar allows guests to look through menus, interact with waiters, play games and create graffiti. Another article from Digital Signage Today revealed KFC in the U.K. is testing out electronic menus.