Before the off-premises boom, there was no question of restaurants owning their relationships with customers. One pandemic and a whole lot of digital tools later, and that ownership is a little less certain, and restaurants often give up valuable customer data and feedback to bigger tech companies (e.g., third-party delivery services). Now, however, a number of tech companies are promising to change this by putting more digital interactions with customers back restaurants hands, so to speak.
A company called BentoBox does it by helping restaurants create and manage their own digital storefronts. The BentoBox platform facilitates a number different areas of running a restaurant in the digital age: online order management, website design, dine-in order and pay, digital gift cards, and event management, to name a few. These and other features promise to give restaurants a direct relationship to their customers, even when those interactions are entirely conducted through a website or mobile app.
Ahead of The Spoon’s upcoming Restaurant Tech Summit on August 17, we caught up with Krystle Mobayeni, CEO and Founder of BentoBox, who will also be speaking at the event. Read our full Q&A with her below, and if you haven’t already, grab a ticket to the virtual show here.
This Q&A has been lightly edited for clarity.
1. What problem does BentoBox solve for restaurants/the restaurant industry?
BentoBox helps translate restaurants’ on-premise experience to their digital storefront in a way that matches their standards of hospitality. We do this through a full-service website, commerce, and marketing platform that helps operators cultivate stronger guest relationships — and drive high-margin revenue through their websites.
2. What is the biggest change in terms of the restaurant industry’s approach towards technology as a result of the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, restaurants and technology co-existed. Restaurants focused on their dining rooms and adopted piecemeal technology tools along the way. Restaurants also viewed the guest experience in the brick and mortar as separate from the guest experience online. The pandemic has shown that restaurants need to think about these as one holistic experience and embrace the right technology to connect the on-premise and off-premise experiences.
With that, the pandemic has rapidly accelerated the shift to a single, modern restaurant experience where restaurants can connect with their guests across all channels. With the support of the right technology, restaurants can build direct relationships and more personal ones to stay resilient and thrive going forward.
3. What are the most important first steps a restaurant should take when going online?
The most important first step is aligning with the right technology partner. Restaurant operators didn’t get into this industry to be marketers or technologists; they sought to create meaningful experiences with food.
Understanding restaurant operators don’t have the time or expertise to be restaurant website designers, my best advice is to seek out a technology partner who understands what the restaurant needs. While local designers or design agencies can be an effective means to get online, these solutions are often expensive and time-consuming. It is important for restaurants to find a partner that makes their website a reflection of their brand with elevated design, built-in marketing tools and the opportunity to drive revenue the same way they do in their brick and mortar.
4. What is the biggest challenge for restaurants right now when it comes to digitization?
As the world has evolved over the last year and a half, restaurants’ core purpose of providing a hospitable and memorable experience has remained constant. However, the technology that has been introduced to help them enter the digital world and make things easier, has in many cases proved far more complex and fragmented than it should be.
Not surprisingly, this fragmentation and complexity has led to frustration and takes away from the restaurants ability to provide a seamless experience for their diners. It’s crucial for technology providers to be aware of this and work to provide end to end solutions to eliminate these breakage points.
5. What are you most excited about when it comes to the impact of restaurant technology?
Restaurant technology has the power to help restaurant owners with their business and give diners an enhanced dining experience. When restaurants have the right technology partner, it changes the way diners interact with restaurants. They have more ways to experience a restaurant outside of the brick and mortar location. For restaurant owners, they have the opportunity to focus on better serving their communities and expanding their reach both locally and abroad. It also gives restaurants a more diversified stream of revenue, which helps them become stronger businesses.
6. What do you think the restaurant industry will look like in five years?
The pandemic catapulted the digital transformation of the restaurant industry and in five years, I see restaurants having a direct-to-diner experience with their customers, much like the transformation of retail going direct-to-consumers. Through restaurant technology innovation, restaurants will have the tools and data to build strong brand affinity among diners and tailor their customers’ experiences to make every diner feel like a regular.