Eating may very well be a primal urge, but dining continues to evolve in delightful, insightful ways. And as our collective tastes elevate, the hospitality and tech industries are starting to work harmoniously—bringing us even more delicious efficiency.
All eyes are on what’s next, as the watched pot officially boils. Enter TechTable—a one-day summit bringing together leaders in hospitality, tech and investing to address the shifting landscape as these industries converge.
TechTable will take place in New York City on September 10, with speakers like Danny Meyer of Union Square Hospitality Group, Steve Case of Revolution LLC, Jocelyn Mangan of OpenTable, and Nicolas Jammet of sweetgreen, among others.
TechTable’s co-founders are well suited to facilitate these cross-disciplinary conversations: Camilla Marcus (most recently director of business development at Union Square Hospitality Group and helped develop various NYC restaurants), Lauren Hobbs (director of marketing at Union Square Hospitality Group), Maureen Cushing (director of IT at Unions Square Hospitality Group), and Jaci Badzin (most recently co-lead of the Chefs@Google Talks program and marketing events manager at Google).
brandchannel had the opportunity to meet with Camilla Marcus, who has spent her professional life seamlessly traversing hospitality and tech. Marcus received a JD/MBA from NYU, an AA from the International Culinary Center and a BS from Wharton.
With our sweet pea guacamole and warm crunchy tortillas in place (thank you ABC Cocina), we talked about what’s taking place in the hospitality and technology industries.
brandchannel: What’s the purpose of TechTable?
Camilla Marcus: There is so much innovation happening every day in hospitality tech. We saw a need for a conversation focused on hospitality for high-touch businesses, such as fine dining restaurants, boutique hotels and experiences that often demand “one-size-fits-one” solutions. Overall, we want to foster a dialogue that will promote thoughtful cross-collaboration and stimulate the growth of each industry.
brandchannel: How are hospitality brands leveraging technology?
Marcus: There are some unique inroads being made into big data and how that can be leveraged into what we call “invisible” loyalty.
Being able to take the incredible amount of information available to respectfully and securely customize the guest experiences in a way that feels organic and authentic is an invaluable mechanism for both the hospitality businesses and the guest. The contours around this are still being formed, but it is exciting to see innovative thinkers trying to figure this out for this industry.
brandchannel: How does all of this affect the consumer?
Marcus: Technology has helped connect people in a tremendous way, which, in turn, can enhance the guest experience with thoughtful customization that was difficult to craft previously.
More than ever, the ability to reach guests quickly and on a personal level is tremendous and has helped forge a direct dialogue and feedback loop that is unparalleled.
You can be an independent brand outside of a major metropolitan area and build a following that far exceeds your physical reach while collecting valuable feedback and data on where your brand is resonating in advance of expansion plans.
brandchannel: Looking ahead, are there any gaps that need to be addressed?
Marcus: We believe hospitality technology will continue to evolve and innovate on every level. Many of the solutions we are seeing are very guest-focused, such as reservations and loyalty.
But there is a need for more back-of-house solutions—inventory management, accounting, HR practices—all the things guests don’t experience but are essential to making the business run smoothly. We are looking for technology that won’t take away from hospitality and tradition, but will give operators more time to spend with their guests.
brandchannel: Where do you see the future of this going?
Marcus: There is still room to grow with the use of social media. Hospitality businesses work within tight budgets and traditional marketing channels do not necessarily fit the values of these businesses. For example, if you saw a magazine ad for your favorite restaurant, it might not sit right with you as the guest.
Word-of-mouth, organic branding, PR and social media are the main methods for brands to expand their reach and create loyalty and emotional affinity beyond the four walls of their operations. When it comes to social media, however, many hospitality brands still lack hands-on expertise.
Jessica Frenchman is a New York-based writer and brand strategist.