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OM in the News: OM Technology Makes for Happier Diners

March 11, 2015

Making the list of “Most Innovative Companies” at FastCompany (March, 2015) are two firms whose goals are to make for happier diners. Here is how E la carte and Panera Bread won the recognition:

 fast company 1E la Carte

For selling restaurants on an upselling machine.

E la Carte offers a quick tech solution for any restaurant: a tablet at each table, which it sells or charges a fee to operate. Johnny Rockets, Applebee’s, Genghis Grill, and other chains embraced it after they saw happy customers tapping away and ordering more. (1) Tap to eat. Customers order food on the tablet–and then some. Checks are an average of 25% higher. (2) Wait and play. Diners can play trivia or memory games, or add music to the restaurant’s communal queue. (3) Pay and leave. No checks. Johnny Rockets says the tablets helped cut bill paying from 8 to 2 minutes.

fast company2Panera Bread

For using tech to improve everything–including the food. The $4.5 billion soup-and-sandwich chain is rolling out what it calls Panera 2.0 to all of its 1,845 North American locations. It’s an Internet of Things reboot, with new ways to order and a kitchen that’s updated to manage more customized orders. (1) Order in advance. Place an order via app up to 5 days in advance, then grab the food from a designated shelf. (2) Food finds you. An RFID system identifies where diners are seated, so employees can easily deliver food to them. (3) Make a meal. Order at kiosks (or Panera’s app), where food is customizable and preferences are stored.

Classroom discussion questions:

1. How do these two technologies differ? Are similar?

2. In what other ways can technology be used in restaurants?

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