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Industry News - November 9th 2014



Best Buy to Sell Android-Based Private Label Tablet

A retailer that made its name in the technology field has introduced its own tablet device. Best Buy will sell its own Insignia brand Flex tablet exclusively in its stores and online channels beginning next month, according to published reports. The 8GB Android-based tablet features a 9.7-inch panel, weighs 1.5 pounds and measures one-half inch wide, and is priced at $249.99, according to Best Buy's Insignia website.

This pricing puts the Flex between the $499 starting price for Apple's 9.7-inch iPad and the $199 for Amazon's Kindle Fire HD and Google's Nexus 7, each priced at $199. An older version of the Apple iPad is priced at $399.

Even though Best Buy will now be operating as both a vendor and a retailer in this competitive category, it has no plans to stop carrying tablets manufactured by others, according to Reuters. First Target and then Walmart dropped the Amazon Kindle from their merchandise offerings this year citing competition from the pure-play retailer.

Macy's Adds Black Friday Features to Mobile App

Macy's is adding Black Friday-themed enhancements to its mobile app, available beginning November 15. Shoppers with the Macy's app on their Apple iOS devices will be able to view in-store Black Friday specials, create personal shopping lists and receive "push" notifications with details on previously unadvertised specials. Through the app, the retailer will also provide information on store-specific specials and help shoppers navigate by sending the department name and floor for the specials in each store.

Macy's has a multi-pronged campaign to get shoppers excited about Black Friday, when its 800 stores across the country will open their doors at 12 midnight. In addition to the app enhancements, the retailer will preview an exclusive new collection from MAC Cosmetics and offer savings on items including apparel, accessories, electronics and appliances.

"Black Friday is a day dedicated to finding the best deals," said Macy's chief stores officer Peter Sachse in a statement. "For the first time last year, Macy's stores nationwide opened at midnight and our customers loved getting a head start on their holiday shopping. We've also created a new tool to help customers plan their shopping strategy with an enhancement to Macy's mobile app that will identify and locate specials throughout each store on Black Friday."

The new features, created through a partnership with eBay, will only be available for Apple iOS devices and can be downloaded at the Apple App store.

Restaurant Saves on Food Costs with Automated Oil Management

Wild Wing Cafe needed a solution for how the restaurant handled its fryer oil. Manual oil handling was a safety risk for employees and impacted cleanliness inside and outside of Wild Wing Cafe locations. All locations had grease caddies that were unwieldy and caused oil spillage. In one location, employees were transporting pots of hot oil down a flight of stairs each night to the grease trap.
But rising food costs were also a driver to look at new oil management options. You can lower the consumption of frying oil with efficient and consistent filtration. The South Carolina-based restaurant installed a new automated oil management system from Restaurant Technologies, Inc. (RTI) after unsuccessfully attempting other approaches to improve filtration and increase profitability. With RTI, the chain reduced annual oil use by almost 14,000 pounds and $150,000 across 13 company-owned stores, offsetting some of the cost of rising food prices.
The RTI Total Oil Management online portal, by comparison, collects oil-monitoring data from fryer sensors and sends it to a Web-based site, accessible by managers online. Restaurant and regional managers can track oil usage, real-time filtration frequencies and durations. This determines if employees are following proper restaurant procedures to maximize oil usage and food quality.
The automated and closed-loop RTI oil handling system includes a fresh oil tank, a waste oil tank, filtration monitoring and a secure fill box mounted to the restaurant exterior. Restaurant operators never touch hot oil while adding, filtering and disposing. Employees fill the fryer with oil using a wand, the closed-loop system removes used oil and RTI empties the used-oil tank.
Sciortino noted that eliminating manual oil handling has solved restaurant cleanliness, safety and manpower issues ranging from pressure washing oil spills to struggling with the grease caddies.
Working with Wild Wing Cafe, RTI streamlined a multi-store implementation and staff-training program. The system works – but sometimes employees need convincing to trust that the system won’t fail.
Ultimately, the training has paid off. Employees now realize that the filtration monitoring system, combined with new processes, makes their jobs easier while decreasing oil usage and improving food quality. It also makes the fryers easier to clean because old oil isn’t building up residue in the fryers. Through the portal, managers can receive alerts if filtration processes are missed. This gives them an opportunity to have conversations with staff on why and how to fix the problem.


Majority of Diners Expect Tech to Place Orders

A recent survey from Technomic has revealed that while restaurants may not be incorporating technology into their operations in overwhelming numbers yet, that doesn’t mean consumers aren’t interested in the latest tech amenities when dining out. A majority of consumers expect to use technology to order food at restaurants more often in the coming year, and very few (just 3 percent) expect to use it less than they currently do, signaling opportunity for operators who haven’t already integrated the latest technologies into their business.
Trending in the early stages of foodservice tech usage, consumers express the most interest in tableside touchscreen devices that enable them to self-order and pay, iPad/tablet menus and digital rewards tied to loyalty programs.  
Consumers are not only curious about, but also receptive to trying an array of new technologies at their favorite restaurants, according to findings from the Technomic survey. Noteworthy discoveries include:
  • More than half of panelists (51 percent) consider it important for restaurants to integrate technology into their ordering capabilities.
  • Technologies related to ordering, coupons or special offers sent via email or text message have the highest usage rates. Nearly three-fifths (58 percent) of panelists say they use these at least once a month.
  • Among technologies designed to entertain restaurant-goers, Wi-Fi access and LCD flat-screen TVs are used the most.
  • Out of all restaurant segments and types of retail stores, consumers are most receptive to technology-based orders at casual-dining restaurants.
  • In general, younger consumers are more interested in technology at restaurants than older diners. Consumers from 18–44 years old are far more likely than those over 45 to say they might connect to their favorite restaurants via a mobile app and order using a touchscreen kiosk. Interest is highest among 25- to 34-year-old Millennials.  


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