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MONDAY MINUTE: January 16, 2023

ChatGPT's role in restuarants, Chilis says no to robots and Wondering what Wonder does next? All these headlines and more represent our thoughts and views on the world of restaurants, technology and off premise food in our round up of the last week’s hot news stories - subscribe today to the Monday Minute and register at for more bonus content.

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Carl: Wondering what Wonder does next? How does Chat GPT help restaurants and is tipping better or worse off through technology? That's all ahead on this week's Monday Minute.

Monday Minute works like this. We're gonna ask each other five questions about headlines that in some way affect the world of restaurants, off-premise and technology, and connect back to our book Delivering the Digital Restaurant. Are you ready? Let's go.

Meredith: Carl, first question's for you. ChatGPT hasn't quite broken the internet, but it sure does seem like everybody's using it. Everyone is talking about it. Now clear COGS says that they are putting it to use.

So tell us what ClearCOGS is doing and how it will affect restaurants.

Carl: Yes. Well, restaurant businesses, as we know, are facing a challenge in making data-driven decisions due to the overwhelming task of reviewing and analyzing data and Clear COGS has developed a solution that uses natural language processing technology, specifically chat G P T, to analyze data and provide real-time insights and recommendations to restaurants. Now, this is paired with Clear COGS predictive Forecasting system, which allows restaurants to access accurate and actionable insights about their inventory, their operations, through a simple text based query. The company is currently accepting signups for their pilot of this technology, and they believe it will be a game changer for the restaurant industry.

now. Guess what, Meredith? All of that was written in Chat GPT yes. Sorry. It wasn't me in my own voice. Uh, . It's, uh, it's interesting,

Meredith: It sounded kind of like something Carl would say.

Carl: Did you think? I thought it was a bit scripted for my liking. Yeah. Look, the, the thing that I think is interesting about this is Chat g P T perhaps is making a lot of marketeers' lives easier because you can take content like I just did with the article, put it in, say, summarize this article and make it sound as if I'm a newscaster, which is what I did, and, and that's what it came up with. Let's, let's talk about it though for a moment.

Ultimately this is a chatbot of sorts, which will answer your questions like, when will I run out of X product? Or, what are my top selling items? A smart Alexa, if you will. More broadly, I think this technology is going to help align data insights into an answerable service. It may well help with customer inquiries, maybe an advanced form of chatbot in a customer facing context.

I do think that there is certainly a role for it to play in helping influencers, helping social media posts. But I would say that you probably have a more recent example of something which you'd like to share with everyone.

Meredith: I do. I confess that our last Speaker box article on Nation's Restaurant News, I, uh, tried to run it through Chat GPT first. I have to say, I felt really comfortable that I still have a place in the world as a writer. The first version that came out wasn't great. Maybe reflects more on how I asked the question than it does on what it's capable of doing. It was my first time using it but certainly what it sent back to me was not ready for prime time.

I ended up spending a bit of time writing our article in Nation's Restaurant News last week.

Carl: So we're safe. That's what you're saying. We're okay. Our future is secure as writers in this space. Good -phew. All right. Very good. Well, let's move on to our second question. This one caught my eye. The Atlantic article. They often provide some form of social commentary, and this time they were asking Meredith is technology helping the world of tipping or not? You took a look at this one. , what were your thoughts?

Meredith: It depends on who we mean as being helped, right? So there's a lot of pros and cons to tipping in the technology world.

Certainly more cash-based tipping has gone down. Anyone who's working at the skycap or as bellhop at a hotel, places where traditionally we use cash just 'cause none of us really carry it around anymore. Every other place where non-cash purchases have increased, tipping has increased.

That's because it's so darn easy to tip and because the further away we get from actual real money and seeing that bank balance or those dollars in our wallet, the more likely we are to be generous, which speaks really well about us as humans. But it also raises lots of questions.

In the context of delivery the tips are being reallocated from the restaurant to the delivery driver. And so this whole world of tipping has just become quite messy because of technology being inserted.

You have businesses who might be doing things like setting the default tipping amount to 30% as a way of helping out their staff. The line that really got me in this article was, "it's adding another layer of abstraction between a business's decisions and its customers."

Just cause you put 30% on the far left and it's the default box that someone's most likely to push, doesn't mean that they couldn't have chosen other and put in whatever they wanted. And so as a business person, you can wash your hands of that decision. but as a consumer, you're left feeling like, holy cow, I just paid $14 for a latte. That, that seems wrong.

There's definitely something that needs to change here, and it seems unlikely to me that we as a society will embrace the British way and stop tipping all together. Although maybe we should just fix our business models and get that right.

And it seems unlikely that we're going to have a massive, regulatory change in terms of how tips are counted towards wage, et cetera. Although we certainly have that in some states, but it's unlikely that we'll get it nationally. So barring that, I think the tech companies and the restaurant companies themselves have to take some responsibility to say, how do we think this should work?

Do we want service included as Danny Meyer would say. Or do we want to always have someone type in an amount rather than having these default settings.

All right. Next question, Carl, Chilis is turning away from robots and investing in kitchen automation. Tell us about that.

Carl: The new CEO at Chili's, Kevin Hochman, he's a bit of a turnaround specialist, meredith. He's been there, done it before at K FFC and Pizza Hut. And part of that process is identifying value drain in an organization.

And it seems like he found a few areas last August when he told investors that he's halted all robotics testing at the company. So that's those robot food runners that we see. Even on the logistics side, the drone delivery program that they were testing, I think we probably talked about it at some point. As well as a meal delivery test that uses autonomous robots.

So all of that has been shelved for right now, and his comments were that robots were slower than what servers can do and didn't lead to any operational performance improvements, and it didn't help employee working conditions either.

What he said: where we should turn our investment, where we should turn our attention towards is where we can actually have some very tangible value added. And he sees that in the kitchen automation space. Things can be cooked faster and better and lead to better levels of quality.

One of the items in the article refers to steaks being cooked to a perfect level within just three minutes. And they're doing that through these almost clamshell type devices, which are cooking the protein on both sides. He says, this is going to save the company millions of dollars.

Partially it's around speed, but they also reference the "return to kitchen complaints." so when someone has complained about the steak perhaps not being cooked to the quality that they desire, obviously it goes back to the kitchen. What can you do?

There are some where you can't do anything about it. You've gotta start with a fresh piece of steak. That obviously is a cost.

enhanced cooking technology, which monitors the food's readiness, which monitors the ability for a consistent execution - that's really what this is about. You can see and get behind that idea behind how technology can help back of house . In our predictions for 2023, we talked about how automation in the back of house is going to become a core focus this year in particular. Whether it be with Chili's or with others, I think a lot of CFOs, CTOs are going to be asking themselves, where do we need to put our time and attention?

Where do we need to put our investment because we can't spend it on everything. We can't put all of our dollars in all of the great new fancy things that are happening out there.

Meredith: Absolutely. And I think we've been saying it for a long time that robots are complicated. But an automated cooking device is relatively simple. And in some ways, that's been adopted with the consumer faster than it's been adopted in restaurants.

So we look forward to seeing a lot more of that. Although, I feel like you just told me with the Clamshell Grill that Chili's is putting George Foreman grills in their kitchen. Am I misunderstanding that?

Carl: In my notes, I actually had George Foreman written there I thought, you know what? I'm not going to bring myself to suggest that was happening, but you just did it Meredith. So I chose not to say that, but yes, that's what I envision on a slightly larger scale than Mr. Foreman.

Meredith: Probably. Probably.

Carl: Alright, question four. So Black Bear Diner has been in the news, they've been upgrading their technology footprint.

What have they been up to? Why are you excited about this?

Meredith: Yeah, so Black Bear Diner has put in a new POS system, but more interesting to me, a QR code order and pay system. And for those of you not familiar with Black Bear Diner, they're largely a West Coast brand here. It's, it's family dining, right?

It literally is a diner and it's got a log cabin inside theme very retro, cozy old school type diner. For them to be embracing QR code order and pay at table, tells us that the world has changed. This is not some like newfangled semi ghosts kitchen omnichannel concept who's doing this.

This is a business that has historically relied on a relationship between a server and the dining guest saying, you know, having consumers place their own orders and pay and have that all in the control of their hand themselves maybe is where the future's headed, maybe what people want.

And they've said so far, they've seen great results from it. I think this, frankly goes along with the last story in terms of back of house automation. When automation happens, it isn't like all at once, bam, and all the jobs are gone. It's these little marginal things where then the humans can focus on things that only they can do.

Where the technology can focus, where it does things best, which is things like accuracy, things like speed things like data quality and storage where maybe humans aren't as consistent.

Carl: And I like the fact that they also are still keeping a self-ordering option available for customers that don't want to engage with the technology, which I think is part of the management of change.

That will become less needed, but I think it's still nice that the, they're considering the clientele that doesn't want to use their phone as part of their dining experience.

Meredith: Okay, last question. I feel like this was the week of Wonder.

Everywhere I looked, there were stories about Mark Lore and Wonder's giant pivot and everything that was going on. So tell us what they're doing. What happened with the trucks?

Carl: You're right. It's been everywhere on LinkedIn. We spoke about this before, if you recall, and it's, no, no wonder that we spoke about it before because they have raised about a billion dollars, this food delivery startup. They were valued at three and a half billion dollars. And this week they announced they're ending their truck strategy. Now what I mean by that is if you recall, Wonder, were delivering food and cooking the food in these trucks. So it was a mobile ghost kitchen. This week Marc was very direct in announcing that they're pivoting away from this. He's been quoted quite extensively in the Wall Street Journal and a lot of the trade press out there. And everyone has very much been focused on, "ah, the truck strategy, the truck strategy never worked." I was at someone that said, it doesn't make sense to me that the truck strategy would work because you don't necessarily always know where your consumer is. And so therefore, the time that you're on the road is always going to be a potential value drain for you.

And of course we've been here before with Zume Pizza, right? We saw that it didn't necessarily work for them.

We also need to be mindful that any startup, it's not about the mistakes that are made on the way or the errors in direction, it's about how fast you can pivot and how quickly you can identify whether something's working or not.

In this sense, they're still in a very strong position because they've got two amazing assets in particular that no one ever really writes about. And the, the first one is that they have a commissary. Marc was talking about this in his, How I Built This podcast last September.

And he said, we've got a central commissary kitchen where we'll SousVide and Par cook the food and then put them in kits. And so that tells you that. That's part of their strategy that they, they want to be able to prepare the food in a central location and distribute. And then the second part is the licenses that they've been able to sign up and some of the brand names that they've been able to sign up for the recipes.

They've got folks like Bobby Flay working with them Maydan, and Pizzeria Mozza, for example. Pretty big celebrity chefs and names in the restaurant industry and that comes with some value as well. And I think when you take that together and you think about, well, those are still very core assets to their business model.

What could Wonder do next? What could they do? And I I'm not gonna write off Wonder just as yet.

All right. Well look, that is it for Monday Minute this week. We actually have some interesting news. We're gonna rebrand the Monday Minute, aren't we, Meredith?

Meredith: What?

Carl: Yeah, it's still going to be Mondays, but we're gonna rebrand this to The Digital Restaurant and we'll do that in February.

Largely akin to our new book launch which is called Delivering the Digital Restaurant: The Path to Digital Maturity. We'll reveal all as to when you can get your copy, but it's going to be a playbook that accompanies our first book, helping Restauranters think about where they are on their path to digital maturity and really thinking about the steps that they need to take to get to be a better digital operator.

So, looking forward to that one.

All right if you have any questions, any comments, any thoughts that you would like to raise in reference to our Monday Minute this week, please put them down in the comments below. We'd love to hear from you, and similarly, if you've got any thoughts around what you'd like us to share in a future edition, but until next time, thanks for listening.


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