Food on Demand Conference Conveys Hunger for Location-Based, Digital Technologies

Matt Mundey

1P, 3P, DSP, drone delivery, ghost kitchens and autonomous robots delivering food on the campus of The Ohio State University… this is just a sample of the terms and conversations heard above the din of networking restaurant owners, franchisees and technology providers at the recent Food on Demand Conference in Las Vegas. (These terms apply to first-party, third-party and delivery service partners, respectively, if you were wondering.)

Food on Demand hosts the restaurant industry’s premier off-premises and delivery-focused conference. It serves as a gathering of food service industry experts from the largest players in the market to the mom-and-pop restaurants, who all are trying to stay ahead during these changing and challenging times.

Woolpert was honored to be a conference sponsor and to spend time connecting with many of the 1,500 attendees, from restaurant owners to tech companies, each of whom help bring the food we love to our tables. We attended a number of breakout sessions and listened to innovative guest speakers like CEO Yariv Bash from Flytrex, which has partnered with El Pollo Loco for drone-delivered meals. We also heard representatives from 7-Eleven, Five Guys and Jack in the Box discuss how delivery has become the convenience of the future, eclipsing the drive-thru of yesteryear.

It is no secret that contactless pickup and on-demand delivery services have become critical business functions for many restaurants over the past two years. Multiple innovative solutions have been developed to help quick service restaurants (QSR) succeed, despite the challenges of playing in a 3P-dominated industry while trying to build customer loyalty and understand customers’ lifetime value. Lifetime value is a critical metric that enables business owners to gauge the spending habits and impact that loyal customers bring to their brand. Owners also use these metrics to evaluate what digital transformations need to be in place to improve brand loyalty, like using applications for ordering and delivery.

Since COVID-19, restaurants have realized the need to connect with their customers through digital channels and are continually exploring new options. Ryan Ostrom, chief marketing officer for Jack in the Box, emphasized the need to focus on building the digital relationship with customers to improve loyalty and enhance user interface.

It also was conveyed that the QSR world is behind when it comes to digital technology, and that making an investment to connect with customers via online devices and apps is the key to survival. Transitioning from 3P delivery to 1P delivery or some version of this allows restaurants to capture, cultivate and cater to customers and build upon that lifetime value. We at Woolpert have been working with restaurant owners and technology developers to improve tools and implement strategies that help capture that all-important customer data to ascertain lifetime value, and we were able to relay some of those solutions at the conference.

Many of these solutions leverage the benefits of location-based data and services, as we did with GeoAwareness, and location was a frequent theme of conference sessions. Restaurants shared how these data and services were crucial not only to supplying customers in remote areas with specialty brands through ghost kitchens and providing hyper fast and local delivery, but also to easing business workflows via GIS-enabled prioritization.

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