PX Think Beyond: Panera’s Blaine Hurst talks restaurant experience in a tech-forward future

Paytronix recently launched a recurring webinar series featuring some of the top trailblazers in the restaurant and convenience industries. PX Think Beyond is designed to highlight how top executives’ forward thinking transformed their respective brands and enabled them to thrive. The series is hosted by Arjun Sen, CEO of ZenMango and a former Fortune 500 executive.

Watch the first episode for an intimate conversation between Blaine Hurst, former president and CEO of Panera Bread, and Andrew Robbins, CEO of Paytronix Systems, on the future of restaurants.

In this talk, Hurst shares his vision for the future of restaurants, noting that experience and hospitality still comes first. For his part, Robbins looks to the future of omnichannel restaurant experiences, when guests will have the power to choose their own paths to engaging with brands — whether that be on- or off-premises dining — and expresses how important it is for brands to take those interactions to a new, personalized level.

Blaine opens the conversation with the idea that the best way to lead a brand is to create a culture of dissatisfaction where team members believe that the status quo is simply not good enough.  Instead, it’s important to believe that everything can be made better.

Andrew looks at the same thing from a slightly different but overlapping point of view and suggests that brands need to create a culture of paranoia around the guest experience. Think, Andrew suggests, about how to increase the lifetime value of each guest and, by extension, rapidly increase the brand’s value.

Blaine and Andrew’s top strategies for getting to know guests include:

  • Understanding their past behavior and where they are going to be in the future;
  • Being inquisitive, always asking questions, and never making assumptions;
  • Talking to as many people as possible and learning from every conversation;
  • Constantly questioning what is possible.

Each failure is an opportunity. Blaine talks about smart failure and dumb failure and the need to pursue everything, even if it does not turn out to be right. After all, you cannot bat at 100%. If an exploration is approaching a dead end, stop. Take the learning and move on.

Personalization is key. Understand why people act the way they do. Why do some guests prefer certain menu items? Why do some order online, while others continue to visit the store? Understand individual preferences for each member of a family – each is different. Personalization is so much more than using an algorithm to put guests in a group. Segments are important, but they should lead to better consumer experiences.

Predict the future. Try to imagine where guest experience is going next. How are lifestyles and work lives changing, and how should your brand operations evolve to meet these changes? How will tomorrow’s technology alter the dine-in landscape, or foster new virtual opportunities for engagement?  

Catch up on Episode 1 of PX Think Beyond for the full conversation with Blaine Hurst and Andrew Robbins as they share their secrets on how to think beyond and take a brand to the next level. Learn how to turn insights into action in a two- to three-year time frame to deliver big wins for your brand.

Sign up for a seat at the table as Paytronix continues Think Beyond to hear from more visionary leaders from top restaurant and convenience store brands about how to drive the industry forward in a challenging market. New episodes in the series will be available throughout 2021.

12 Paytronix clients recognized in Newsweek ranking of best loyalty programs

This week, Newsweek, in partnership with Statista, published a power ranking of the best loyalty programs in the country. We at Paytronix extend our congratulations to our 12 clients who made the list, accounting for more than a quarter of all restaurant brands awarded a place in the ranking, which recognized over 200 brands across 43 categories. 

Huddle House made an impressive showing, coming in as the second-highest rated program across all categories. 

Of the 10 casual dining brands recognized in the Newsweek ranking, five are Paytronix clients, including the top three – Huddle House, Beef O’Brady’s and P.F. Chang’s – along with Lettuce Entertain You and Bloomin’ Brands, which includes restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Bonefish Grill. 

Caribou Coffee was awarded the highest score of all recognized coffee brands, beating out caffeine giants like Starbucks and Dunkin’ for the top spot. […]

The National Restaurant Association’s Tech Predictions for 2021

The National Restaurant Association announced this month its forecasted trends for the industry in 2021. The trends largely represent a continued reliance on off-premises services and indicate that the association anticipates the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to exert a heavy influence over the industry throughout the next year.

Restaurant brands that haven’t already found their ideal technology partner must do so now, as industry trends and shifting consumer preference both indicate that omnichannel digital experiences are the future of hospitality.

“Technology that might have been ‘nice to have’ before the pandemic suddenly became ‘need to have’ to enable touchless transactions,” the association wrote in its prediction. “Many of the innovations deployed not only helped keep restaurants afloat in 2020, they also signal the trends shaping 2021.”

Here’s the technology the NRA expects to define the restaurant industry this year:

  1. Off-premises foodservice takes precedence

Pre-pandemic, 80% of FSRs’ traffic was on-premises, according to the association. Now, curbside pickup and delivery are the bread and butter of all service types, not just QSRs. […]

To maximize your restaurant gift card program, ask these 6 questions

Gift card programs are a staple of the restaurant industry. They benefit top-line revenue, create brand advocates out of guests, and can be used to bolster community relations, employee dining, and to recover guests. For all their benefits, however, gift cards can put a drain on accounting resources and add friction to franchisee relationships.

Managing a successful gift card program is far from simple. Below are six critical considerations that all restaurant brands must take into account in order to maximize the benefits of their gift programs.

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