News Feature | March 20, 2017

Restaurant And Hospitality News – March 20, 2017

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Cracker Barrel

In news this week, Chowbotics is moving robotics into the food industry; Cracker Barrel is modernizing with a new digital ordering system; and a new Sojern report helps hoteliers understand the booking journey.

Chowbotics Raises $5 Million In Series A Funding To Bring Robotics To The Food Industry

Food robotics company Chowbotics has announced that it has raised $5 million in Series A funding to help them bring robotics to the food industry. The company was formerly known as Casabots. Robotics is an increasing presence in the restaurant and hospitality industry responding to growing pressure to reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction. “Jason Mendelson of the Foundry Group asserted, “The use of robotics in food service is an exciting new area. We believe Chowbotics is the number one company in this emerging space and are thrilled to invest in its growth.”

The Chowbotics robotic systems help address several problems in food service from compromised cleanliness to inefficiency, and it is targeting cafeterias, restaurants and hotels. Sally, its first robot, creates fully-customized, fresh and healthy salads via its proprietary technology.

"Techstars helps entrepreneurs succeed, and we've been working with Chowbotics since their early days in the Techstars Austin accelerator. We've been incredibly impressed with their progress. We invested in their Seed Round and are excited to invest in their Series A," says David Cohen, Founder and co-CEO of Techstars. Cohen and Mendelson will join Chowbotics' Board of Directors.

Cracker Barrel Adopts Digital Ordering System

Cracker Barrel, one of America’s favorite family restaurants, has announced that it has adopted a new digital ordering system for its locations in 43 states. The move brings a modern touch to a traditional place. The new state-of-the-art digital ordering system is also available nationwide for catering, and the chain plans to extend its online offerings in the near future.

According to marketing data firm The NPD Group, more consumers are ordering ahead when they dine out. In fact, the use of mobile apps, texts messages and the internet to place food orders now accounts for 1.9 billion food service visits, and the ability to pay via mobile boosts customer satisfaction scores and encourages guests to visit or return to their favorite restaurants due to loyalty programs.

“Digital ordering is now really all about the mobile app,” explained NPD restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs. “Consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using mobile apps; if restaurants or food service operators don’t have a mobile app, consumers may very well choose a restaurant that does.”

“There is no question that consumer’s desire for convenience and flexibility in online orderings is on the rise,” asserted Patrick Eldon, CEO of orderTalk Inc. “With our specialized efficient and user friendly software, it’s easy for the food service industry to meet the needs of their consumers. For an iconic brand like Cracker Barrel, our remote ordering software was a great fit. Our software solutions are designed to improve restaurant guest experience and leverage business growth through stronger sales, higher check averages, decreased overhead costs and a higher customer satisfaction level.”

The new platform will soon give customers the ability to search for the nearest restaurant, view all online offerings, and choose order options for pickup and pay online, all through a PCI compliant, secure program.

Leon de Wet, VP Information Systems and CIO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, explained, “In the digital age we live in, customer satisfaction remains a priority to us. With orderTalk we can deliver such satisfaction while extending our products and services into the digital world.”

New Sojern Report Helps Understand The Full Hotel Guest Journey To Booking

“From Search Engine to Booking Engine: Sojern’s 2017 Hotel Report” is a valuable resource for hoteliers to understand the complexities of the hotel guest’s journey to booking a hotel room.  It explores when to engage with guests to maximize hotel bookings; how to best reach guests when they are most likely to buy; and provides data-driven insights into digital marketing trends for hotels.

Not surprisingly, most trip planning begins with a Google search, with 60 percent of leisure travelers and 55 percent of business travelers using search engines to plan their trips, and one in five travelers are destination agnostic. That means that search engines are the tools that help inspire travelers to choose a destination or travel package.

The report asserts, “As options are narrowed down, it’s important that hoteliers and travel brands have a strong strategy for raising brand awareness and nurturing travelers to a decision early on in the funnel and not just at the end. Video is an ideal tool for capturing early planners and inspiring them with your beautiful rooms, views, or amenities.”

Mobile is now driving travel searches. Almost all segments of hotels are seeing at least half of their searches done on mobile, with more budget conscious hotel segments seeing as much as 75 percent of their searches done on mobile. That means that your campaigns can no longer live just on desktops; you need to implement a multi-platform strategy that drives real results for capturing travelers early. Your website needs to be mobile-friendly to convert travelers hitting your homepage.