The National Restaurant Association led its second annual Tech Tour in mid-December, bringing 38 restaurant industry executives on a tour of Silicon Valley tech giants including Google, Pandora, Twitter, and OpenTable. At each stop, restaurant and technology industry leaders met to discuss how the latest technology innovations could apply to and enhance the foodservice business.
The Tech Tour is part of broader push from the NRA to integrate and align the restaurant and technology industries as new innovations in the payments, operations, and food-tech space come on board. Other NRA innovation programs include the Restaurant Innovation Summit, recently held in San Diego, California, and Startup Alley, which made its debut at the annual NRA Show this year in Chicago.
“This digital age and the rapid evolution of technology happening before our eyes present enormous opportunities for restaurant operators and the foodservice industry,” says Phil Kafarakis, chief innovation officer at the National Restaurant Association. “For two years running, we have organized this tour as a way to bridge the gap between the technology and restaurant communities and create a dialogue that can spur new ideas and development on both sides.”
At Google, discussions focused on mobile solutions and easy-to-use inventions that make sense in a user’s environment. For example, restaurant brands can engage commuters and road-tripping consumers along their routes through location-based advertising on Waze, a community-based, traffic-navigation app. Google representatives stressed the importance of reaching consumers in “micro-moments”—the seconds-long window of time when consumers, often on mobile devices, have the intent to visit a restaurant and are searching for information to make the decision as to how and where to dine.
“We were thrilled to have these Restaurant Association leaders join us in a discussion on the new ways we’re leveraging our data and providing innovative media solutions to brands,” says Heidi Browning, senior vice president of strategic solutions at Pandora. “Because of our listener insights and the power of our data, we can deliver relevant experiences in context and demonstrate real value and ROI for the restaurants we partner with.”
The music streaming service Pandora showcased its expanded suite of advertising solutions and how listener insights are applied to campaigns. Customized Brand Stations enable advertisers to curate their own Pandora stations that listeners can subscribe to, expanding the brand identity and experience to create new connections with consumers. Pandora also touted Sponsored Listening, the company’s newest native advertising product that offers listeners one hour of uninterrupted music, in exchange for active attention and engagement with a brand.