What Does #MySmarterCommerce Mean to Restaurants & Bars

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IBM has invited me to partner with them for a month on their Smarter Commerce campaign. You’ll see me using the hashtag #MySmarterCommerce in the new few weeks across my social media channels. What does that mean? It may mean different things for everyone but I am going to be looking at it in terms of restaurants and bars.

I have been fascinated with the recent technological advances restaurants are making. Some may give you an interactive menu (a tablet) to look at their wine list or they may take your order with a mini tablet such as Mo-Chica does. I think it’s really cool places like Beer Belly allows you to add to their music playlist through some wizardry and smart phones.

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Which leads me to how tech is changing behavior in restaurants and bars. Let’s talk about smart phones briefly. Taking pictures of food is not a new phenomena but being able to instantly share photos and interact with social media is increasingly a part of the dinner table. Yes, some hate it and some restaurants will even give discounts if you put your phones away.

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But some have even gone several steps further. Restaurants and bars are putting their twitter and instagram user names on menus. Some restaurants interact with their customers via Twitter, Facebook or the new kids on the block; Instagram and Vine. All this is #MySmarterCommerce. You are more inclined to return to a spot if you feel like a regular. And what is a regular but a friend of the restaurant? A VIP, if you will.

But what happens now that you’ve got a tablet with the wine list? Some have feared guests will try to find how much the bottles cost retail versus at a restaurant. Or what about your non-tweeting guests? Will they be distracted or annoyed by your social media addicts? How do you appease both types of customers? Some restaurants shrug off the wine thing. People who generally order a bottle of wine know it’s 2-3X the retail value. As for the photos, some restaurants have been offering to take the photos in the kitchen and emailing them to the guest after the meal.

I was really fascinated by this article about how the Japanese can’t let go the fax machine.  At the end of the article, there’s a brief mention how the younger generation are able to receive faxes on their smart phones using an app.

In the next few weeks, I’d love to get to know what Smarter Commerce means to you. If you work in the hospitality industry, are you using tech to create menus, do inventory, scheduling and the like? What new innovations are out there and what would you like to see? From a consumer point of view, I think it’s so important to have something as simple as a website with your hours and address listed on the landing page along with reservation information.

I often decide to check out a restaurant based on photos and blog posts from others. I use Evernote, an app to keep track of my notes. It’s great because you can insert photos. I thought it was interesting when I heard about a restaurant using Instagram to direct their customers to photos of their dishes. Is that the end of photo menus?

This will be an interesting month of discovery of how we learn about products (in this case, restaurants and bars), decide to go, marketing and eventual thoughts (customer satisfaction, would you return again?). It’s also an opportunity to discuss the future. My story and possibly yours may be featured in IBM’s campaign that’ll be highlighted at SXSW and their conference in Nashville. Tweet me or comment with the hashtag #MySmarterCommerce. I’d like to hear from you!

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