With the restaurant space continuing to evolve and transform with next-generation technologies, panelists at the 2023 Food On Demand Conference, dove into how this ongoing evolution can benefit customers.

Moderated by Ryan Palmer, partner and attorney at Lathrop GPM, the Revolutionizing Payments and the Front-of-House Experience session featured insight from Tor Opedal of Olo, Jane Hong of Square and Sal Nazir of Par Technology.

“There’s all this talk about tech replacing employees in the restaurant, but it’s more about making sure these employees can do the right things to enhance the guest experience,” Opedal said kicking off the conversation. “Let tech take care of the menial stuff that can be automated but then augment the guest experience with human interaction.”

Using technology to streamline personalization and simplify payments were the main topics among the restaurant tech leaders.

“To enable restaurants to do more with less and also make every guest feel like a regular” and to “make sure there’s a seamless flow from pre-order through ordering, to payment pickup and the whole operational aspect of restaurants,” Opedal said.

Jane Hong of Square discusses the evolution of the mobile point-of-sale (POS) system.

He referenced Olo’s Borderless Payments feature, which saves customers’ payment information and preferences from past orders while offering contactless billing.

“So, you have a brand you’ve never been at before, but you have used Olo Pay in the past with another brand…it’s [now] a one-click checkout because the platform recognizes you,” Opedal said.

Nazir discussed Par’s open ecosystem and recent integration with Apple Wallet, to combine one-tap checkouts with the ability to quickly enroll in loyalty programs.

“Basically, the whole process of signing up a customer, enrolling them in a loyalty program, getting them to engage with you to redeem points and then pay has been removed. It has become natively embedded into the iOS system,” Nazir said.

“What’s interesting is, we put stuff in our [Apple] Wallet that’s very close to us, boarding passes, credit cards, driver’s license, so if you’re [putting] a loyalty card into your wallet, that’s a very close connection that you now have to that brand,” he added.

Hong of Square discussed the evolution of the mobile point-of-sale (POS) as being key to “unlocking hyper-efficiency and hyper-personalization” in the restaurant.

“We have this mobile device connected to us all the time, we get our news, we read out our email, we date, order food and now in the same context [with mobile POS] in a restaurant, you have a server that can manage the floor, see real-time information about the diner and offer that information and experience and be able to send orders back to the kitchen ASAP,” she said.

Using the example of a POS connected to a third-party platform like Open Table, Hong added, “When you have a guest walk in, one of the biggest challenges the serving staff has is not knowing who that person is. But the host will know the minute that person checks that ‘this is Ramsey, he lives in San Francisco and he prefers this and it’s his anniversary’ so if you have a handheld mobile device and your POS exists there, you have data flowing between all third-party technologies you use, and that becomes very powerful.”