dustin couts, papa johns, new york restaurant show

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March's Featured Speaker: Dustin Couts, Vice President of Global Operations Support and Training, Papa John's

Dustin spoke on a technology panel at the 2017 International Restaurant and Foodservice Show of New York with other restaurant technology leaders, including Steve Bigari, CEO of SYNQ3 Restaurant Solutions; Matthew Tucker, COO of Olo; and Jim Dreher, VP of Operations at Interactions.  

Attract Millennials with a Seamless, Restaurant Technology Experience

Millennials are changing every aspect of spending in the U.S., from online shopping to restaurant dining. According to a Visa Business and Economic Insights analysis, Millennials are driving the growth in restaurant spending more than Generation X and Baby Boomers combined. If your restaurant wants a piece of the $200 billion Millennials are projected to spend in 2017, you're going to have to adapt to their lifestyle. So, what does the largest generation group in history, all 80 million of them, want in a restaurant? The simple answer: technology.

At Papa John's, we've identified core strategies for identifying technologies that best serve our restaurant's culture and customers, especially Millennials, to provide the best overall customer experience possible. With all the technology that is available today, it's crucial that you narrow down your options to invest in technologies that make the most sense for your restaurant's customers. And, with Millennials holding most of the spending power, it's a good idea to know what they want and how to act on it.

1. Study their interests. To start, get to know Millennial's interests. This generation group is passionate about a lot of things, including interactive technology and multimedia. They like to have technology aid and entertain them. From utilitarian smartphone apps, like Venmo, Google Maps and GroupMe, to social media, Netflix and online games, technology pervades the daily life of a Millennial, and it provides countless opportunities for our industry to connect with them.

If you want to make that connection, you have to adapt your technology and marketing strategies to fit their interests. For example, at Papa John's, we partnered with the 2016 Ghostbusters movie, knowing that it would be popular among Millennials. We created a movie-like commercial featuring Papa John as a Ghostbuster delivering to one of our favorite customers, Slimer. Remember, commercials whether aired on TV or only online have the opportunity to be shared and liked across social media. Having an entertainment element often leads to more sharing, and consequently, more attention for your restaurant.

2. Identify how they interact with your restaurant. What do your guests care most about in their interaction with your restaurant? Our guests want pizza delivered fresh, hot and fast. So, when we started looking for the best technology to integrate into our restaurant operations, we always looked with the lens of the customer's wants and needs. Millennials want and need technology that is simple to use, efficient and provides significant benefits to them.

Adoption is one of the biggest battles we face in restaurant technology, and a lot of it results from developing technology that does not clearly benefit the guest, which is why knowing how your guests interact with your restaurant is so important. At Papa John's, we receive a large majority of our orders online or by our mobile app. So, knowing that many of our customers like this method of interaction, we have now expanded the number of alternative payment methods they can use, and we developed a pizza tracker so, whether guests are already on our site or using our app, they can track their pizza from the oven to their door.

3. Find new, innovative technologies that benefit the customer. While you don't have to be the first to adopt a new technology, you should be adopting as early as possible. Staying on the cutting edge is essential with technology today because customers, especially Millennials, are accustomed to continual updates and wow-factor experiences with technology. You want to set a technology platform for your restaurant to build upon with new features over time.

With that said, it's also essential that all developments and new tech features provide a clear benefit to your customers; and that benefit must come in a simple, efficient package, or they just won't use it. At Papa John's, we launched PayShare, a first-of-its-kind, online, bill-splitting tool, in 2015 and have seen major success with it because it provides a significant benefit for our customers: they don't carry cash and they love to buy pizza in groups. So, we identified and acted on the opportunity to improve their experience with our restaurant by implementing a digital, money-sharing technology.

4. Create a seamless digital experience. As you begin developing and integrating technologies to benefit your customers, it's important to keep your processes and interactions fast, efficient and seamless. The world moves at a quick pace, and if you want to catch the attention of Millennials, and really, all of your customers, then you have to meet them where they're at in the way they want. Having a seamless digital experience encourages customers to use your technology across several platforms, so they can choose what works best for what they need at that time.

At Papa John's, we've made it our mission to develop a seamless digital experience through ongoing investments in technology and innovation. From being the first national pizza chain to offer digital ordering at all U.S. delivery restaurants in 2011, to launching a nationwide digital rewards program, Papa Rewards, in 2010, to partnering with Apple TV in 2017, we know firsthand the importance of meeting customers where they're at and then providing them with the best digital experience possible.

You have to learn what matters most to your customers, and as noted before, Millennials are an important, unique customer demographic worth knowing. Start with what you know about their interests and how they interact with your restaurant, and then identify technologies that deliver what they want, how they want it. Succeeding in any industry today is all about who can adapt the quickest to change. As technology and customer expectations change, your restaurant must continually change, too.

More about Dustin:
Dustin Couts, Papa John's Vice President of Global Operations Support and Training/International Information Systems, has 25 years of experience in restaurant operations. Dustin oversees the multi-functional design and implementation of global strategic business process to ensure the successful deployment of global operation's initiatives. Under Dustin's leadership, the Global Operations Support and Training team has implemented important projects at Papa John's, including the FOCUS Point Of Sale system roll out, the Tech Customer Experience platform, and the Pan Pizza system roll out. Papa John's is the World's third-largest pizza delivery company and for 15 of the past 17 years, consumers have rated Papa John's No. 1 in customer satisfaction among all national pizza chains in the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).




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