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RESTAURANTS REINVENTED: The Path to Digital Maturity

In this episode of Restaurants Reinvented, host Jen Kern is joined by two-time authors and Digital Restaurant gurus, Meredith Sandland and Carl Orsbourn.

We discuss their new book “The Path to Digital Maturity” and their prediction about the next big restaurant concept that will emerge > the digitally native restaurant.

Both guests share their thoughts on 2023 trends that they didn’t predict in the industry, such as the ubiquitous rise of price premiums on third-party marketplaces and the impact of recent challenges in the startup and tech environment (SVB) on restaurant tech companies.


Key Insights


🔥 The Next Big Concept to Emerge in Restaurants

Carl and Meredith believe the next big restaurant category is rapidly approaching: The Digitally Native Restaurant. This combines Ghost Kitchens, Virtual Brands, Automation, Robotics, Delivery Fulfillment, etc. Once this segment is fully developed, they believe it will grow faster than the rest of the industry.


🔥 Why First-Party Data Matters More than Ever

Meredith and Carl shed light on the crucial importance of data ownership within the restaurant industry, particularly when it comes to third-party delivery services. They discuss how restaurants should aim to build direct relationships with customers and retain control over their data. By doing so, restaurants can create targeted marketing campaigns, better understand their customers, and ultimately drive sales and loyalty. The conversation highlights the need for restaurants to prioritize first-party data and digital infrastructure as a critical component of their long-term success.


🔥 The Growing Importance of Off-Premise Dining

Meredith and Carl discuss how restaurants need to adapt their business models to cater to the growing demand for takeout, delivery, and other off-premise dining options. They explore the importance of creating a seamless customer experience through digital channels and touch on the challenges that restaurants face in implementing these changes.


🔥 The Future of Restaurant Innovation in a Post-SVB World

Carl shares his thoughts on how the impact of SVB on the startup and tech environment will affect restaurant tech companies. He explains that these companies must now focus on achieving profitability sooner and can no longer rely on vast amounts of venture capital. This shift will lead to more focused innovation and might result in fewer MVPs, but it will ultimately help the best solutions rise to the top.


Episode Highlights


The Role of AI and Automation in Restaurants

As labor costs rise and restaurants face staff shortages, embracing AI and automation becomes increasingly essential for maintaining quality and managing resources effectively. They explore how AI can help improve efficiency and streamline operations, particularly in the kitchen “The reality is we’re all being touched by AI and automation already. And it’s just about how that continues to grow.”(Carl Orsbourn).


“The reality is we’re all being touched by AI and automation already. And it’s just about how that continues to grow.” – Carl


The Challenges of Transitioning to Digital

Meredith and Carl acknowledge that the shift can be overwhelming for some businesses, especially those with limited resources or technological expertise. However, they stress the importance of embracing digital solutions to remain competitive and meet evolving customer expectations.


“You’ve got to keep one foot in today and one foot in tomorrow, and that’s the challenge for restaurant operators trying to embrace all of this. – Carl


The Potential of Ghost Kitchens

We discuss the potential of ghost kitchens as an innovative approach to off-premise dining and how these delivery-only establishments allow restaurants to reduce overhead costs and expand their reach, catering to customers who prefer takeout and delivery options.


“I think there’s a lot of potential in ghost kitchens, and it’s a great way for restaurants to be able to get their product out there to more customers without having to invest in a full sit-down restaurant” – Meredith



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