Handhelds and Handshakes: New Hospitality’s Food For Thought

"Care," "Empathy" and "Family" are not often words one expects to hear at a tech conference, but when the conference in question focuses on the restaurant and hospitality industries, those words are peppered throughout the plate of offerings.

Experience, mobility and transparency are changing hospitality at its core.

That was the case at Toast's "Food for Thought," an invite-only touring series organized by the Boston-based restaurant management system provider that focused on the evolution of hospitality. The half-day event in New York City gathered together a host of restaurant industry thought leaders to discuss hot-button issues affecting the bottom line of independent and franchise restaurants alike such as training, identifying talent, retention, social media, branding and the integration of technology for both front and back of the house functions.

"Experience, mobility and transparency are changing hospitality at its core," said Toast CEO Chris Comparato, while discussing trends impacting the restaurant community and new hospitality including handheld devices for order taking and pay at the table. "Pen and paper is holding us back. New hospitality is about optimizing experience and catering to mobility." 

He also called for a "need for empathy" on both sides of the table with the end goal of delighting guests.

"It's all about driving great experiences," Comparato said.

The themes of caring and family followed through during the panel, "Recruit, Hire & Retain Top Talent" as representatives from BareBurger, HoneyGrow and Bocce explained how they face the challenges of hiring staff, creating a positive work environment and minimizing turnover.

Paul Zarmati, BareBurger's Director of IT, emphasized the need to create a restaurant culture to make staff "feel like family" as a key to helping retention. 

Panelists credited the use of technology to attract and retain talent, emphasizing that it's not a one-size-fits- all solution, but can be tailored to the individual. 

During the panel,  "Hospitality, Convenience, & The Changing Customer Experience," thought leaders discussed the New York City hospitality landscape with a focus on the technological impact and how it must align with customer expectations.

Perhaps the best description of how new technology dovetails with hospitality came from Andrew Rigie, Executive Director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.  

"It's all about welcoming, not pushing away," he concluded. He also openly praised a restaurant where a server took the effort to shake his hand and introduce himself as an example of the foundation of true hospitality. 

Other sessions included "Delivering New Hospitality in 2018: Product Roadmap," which examined  improvements to the Toast platform and "New Hospitality In Action: Customer Spotlight, a case study of Toast customer, Two Hands, and how Giles Russell and Henry Roberts have built out their new restaurant and are using technology to enhance the guest experience.

Speakers included Luke Beemer, Jacob's Pickles; Jeff Magness, Doughnut Plant; Giles Russell and Henry Roberts, Two Hands; Jason Leeds, Bocce; Keith Fitzgerald, HoneyGrow; Grand Lieberman, Dos Toros; among others.