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Retail 2.0: The Social Restaurant

Written by Todd L. Michaud
October 14th, 2010

Columnist Todd Michaud has spent the last 17 years trying to fight IT issues, with the last six years focused on franchisee IT issues. He is currently responsible for IT at Focus Brands (Cinnabon, Carvel, Schlotzsky’s and Moe’s Southwestern Grill).

What would you do if you knew that 70 percent of the people sitting in your stores were unhappy with the service they just received? What if retailers got real-time feedback—courtesy of social network tools—so their teams could know of those reactions when the customers were still in the store?

A chain’s commitment to making customer comments public—before knowing what that feedback will be—says so much about its confidence in quality. Isn’t showing this transparency through unedited real-time feedback what social networks are all about?

It’s time to socially enable retail—especially restaurants. We need to leverage the power of social media inside our brick-and-mortar restaurants. I’m not talking about tweeting out specials or getting “Liked” on Facebook. I’m talking about using these tools for interacting with customers while they are in the restaurant, or in the store. I’m talking about exposing our business operations to the Internet in real time. This is a level of transparency that will make most operators cringe at the thought, not to mention a level of engagement that will have significant impact to the bottom line.

Being responsible for running the IT for a large restaurant chain, I am often trying to think of ways we could better leverage technology in our restaurants. As I have said before, I think that social media will revolutionize the way businesses operate, just as the Web did in the mid-1990s. We know social media is all about branding and marketing, but what about operations? Why isn’t anyone focusing a significant amount of energy thinking about socially enabling operations?

But what do I mean by a Social Restaurant?


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2 Comments | Read Retail 2.0: The Social Restaurant

  1. James Says:

    When you look at the history of innovation, there are key events that dramatically shift the normal flow of life (airplanes, semiconductors, microwave ovens, …). In the months before these introductions, we could not fathom the possibilities (I can cook a potato in 20 minutes instead of an hour).

    Todd has in this article identified one such future situation that today we are skeptical about — in just the same way as with those earlier events. I think we are only just beginning to understand the effects of the Social Networking concept, and it may not be until those who are most familiar with it come of age to start their own businesses that exploit it.

    Dynamic restaurant service performance tracking is an interesting concept, and I suppose it will take some owners to try it — succeed in some areas, fail in others — before we know how it best works (e.g. customer survey codes & links on receipts). But isn’t that the way all new ventures start out? For what it’s worth, I would opt for a dashboard style feedback display; after seeing the way people comment on news articles, it may be best not to readily post raw comments.

  2. Todd Michaud Says:

    James,
    Thanks so much for your comment! What is interesting is that a large part of user adoption has come prior to the financial benefit being maximized. This is backward to traditional concepts and traditional thinking. There is so much possibility of how these tools can be implemented for financial gain, I’m just not sure everyone sees it.

    Thanks again!

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