How Restaurants Can Rise to the Challenge of Outdoor Dining This Winter
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In this series, we’re showcasing SevenRooms’ special ingredient: our employees! Read on to learn more about our team as they navigate life, both professionally and personally. Meet Kim DeCarolis, Enterprise Sales Director based in Detroit, Michigan, who shares a little bit about her daily life and her work at SevenRooms.
Why did you join SevenRooms?
I joined SevenRooms because I was really excited to hear about a startup shifting gears in the enterprise space. I thought it would be incredibly fun to help the company scale across the enterprise space! It’s exciting that technology can be used to drive incremental revenue without physical action, all by collecting information that speaks to your guest’s behavior. Guests are already comfortable with making their own reservations, but using that natural human action to gather data about the guests coming in prior to their arrival, having the ability to upsell prior to their arrival, using in-service data to increase check sizes and communicating to guests after they leave is definitely the next wave of what restaurants want. Bottom line is restaurants want to totally own the guest touchpoint and use it to drive change.
Why did you initially decide to go into hospitality sales?
I wholeheartedly believe that you appreciate hospitality if you are aware of the little things that make hospitality what it is. When you appreciate the finer details of this industry, like that special feeling of having your favorite wine, meal or anniversary remembered, you are motivated to make it better and develop this constant standard in the industry! I want to sell solutions to help create a better experience for people and greater ROI for brands.
Why do you think SevenRooms’ guest experience platform is so world-class and why is that a benefit to clients, especially those with several locations?
I think the SevenRooms platform is amazing because we are helping our operators capture data and enabling it to be used in a very user-friendly way. This product is so intuitive and anyone can learn how to use it, especially as it relates to making data actionable on a day-to-day basis. When it comes to clients with several locations, it’s usually hard to keep a pulse on all of the moving pieces. With SevenRooms, a brand can cohesively create personalized experiences throughout every location. For example, having a server know I’m a high spender and regular at their sister property in another state is absolutely amazing. We eliminate the room for human error and instead arm the brand with priceless data.
How have you seen top restaurant chains adopt new technologies during the pandemic?
At first, I noticed top restaurant chains go through something similar to a grieving process because of the uncertainty that was to come. Restaurant chains were unsure of what the best next step was, as many of them adopted new processes like delivery and takeout for the first time. This required venues to take a step back, take a deep breath and come up with a robust strategy while optimizing existing operations and adapting to the new “normal.” Throughout all of this, I’ve seen technology open the door to new possibilities for a lot of concepts. For example, technology is helping people feel comfortable and safe while waiting for their table to be ready through virtual waitlists and online reservations. It’s also providing solutions to existing challenges around improving the off-premise online ordering experience through data, and keeping guests at ease with on-premise contactless order and pay solutions. Restaurant operators that are prioritizing these types of tech in the short-term are absolutely going to see the pay off in the long-term.
How can top restaurant chains around the world take a more tailored, curated approach to guest experience through data?
Top restaurant chains around the world can simply use data to create a more tailored approach for their guests. With the right guest experience platform, these chains have the power at their fingertips to recommend the guest tries a different concept within their brand instead of a random algorithm recommending a randomized restaurant nearby. Data is so crucial in creating that special feeling for guests, retargeting them to invite them to the next relevant event based on their preferences and really building out that brand loyalty. This is how top brands can create long-term regulars.
How are you seeing enterprise restaurants adapt their tech stack to address new challenges in the market?
Across the board I am frequently noticing that operators are re-evaluating the technology they classify as ‘necessary’ in today’s new world. They are interested in consolidating their tech stack from many point-solutions into one single, all-encompassing platform. Enterprise restaurant operators are asking the right questions when it comes to onboarding a new tech partner, and now more than ever, technology vendors are being asked to demonstrate clear ROI for their platforms. The common theme revolves around data, and how operators can leverage the information they collect on guests to drive loyalty.
Who has been your biggest/most impactful mentor as you've progressed through your career?
I have been lucky to have several. Mark Wayne, my former boss at NuArx, was the first person to push me from marketing into sales. He asked me to face my fears of having a quota and delivering, while always supporting me and coaching me every step of the way. I’ve worked alongside my second mentor in my previous company and now in my role at SevenRooms. Jeremy Thiesen, who is the EVP of Enterprise Sales & Partnerships at SevenRooms, pushes me to think strategically and outside of the box. He also encourages me to offer my assistance across other departments where I can be of use, to train new hires at the company, and coaches me to be the best manager possible. This is all while always humbly reminding me it’s okay to be proud of yourself. And lastly, Greg Creed, the former CEO of Yum! Brands, has always been there for me to bounce ideas off of and strategize with. He constantly reminds me that if I focus on what is right, the rest will work itself out.
How do you ensure you stay connected with SevenRooms’ NYC-based HQ in a WFH environment?
I stay connected with SevenRooms’ NYC-based HQ with virtual happy hours, group texts and FaceTimes. I try to make myself very available and am always communicating across my team and others! Recently, a virtual happy hour kicked off with my team making drinks together, which was a really fun bonding experience!
What has been the biggest silver lining of COVID? Personally? Professionally?
Personally, it’s been great to spend time with family. My husband and I have a lot of extra time together thanks to work from home, resulting in us taking some great long weekends trips to visit friends. Since I am traveling less for work, we have also been able to get around to those small things around the house and backyard! My dog is very happy with the extra “Kim Time” and walks.
Professionally, I’ve learned how to really structure my days by developing a productive routine consisting of waking up early, getting ready and focusing on more one-on-one time with my team. I’ve had the time to dive deeper on industry training and the ins and outs of our robust platform. I have also noticed that more people in the restaurant industry are networking and checking in. It’s been nice to be able to stay connected in this way to my network of friends and partners working in the space!
Restaurant (anywhere in the world) you cannot wait to dine at again?
Emilio’s Ballato in New York… It is absolute torture seeing all of their delicious food on Instagram!
Can you share a memorable client story from your time helping restaurants?
This is a hard one to answer! Overall, I think this is really best answered by my sales style. I know I have done a good job when brands reach out to me, simply to ask for my opinion on a new technology vendor or big decision that they’re on the fence about. I firmly believe in creating relationships, following through with what you say you are going to deliver and using technology to simplify experiences. This small act inspires me to continue to do what's right for the brands and focus on the solution. I often lead client conversations by asking them how I can make them their most successful self. At the end of the day, when your clients know that you invest in them, it’s reassuring. Everyday, I wake up excited to do my job.
What are some trends you foresee happening in the franchise restaurant space?
I foresee four major trends in the franchise restaurant space. As I mentioned earlier, consolidation of technology platforms will be prioritized in order to streamline operations and cut costs. Specifically for franchises, I also foresee the consolidation of location owners to increase due to regional shutdowns. Virtual ghost kitchens will be another big trend, as it serves as a completely contactless and low-cost, low-lift solution for restaurants hoping to boost their off-premise offerings. And lastly of course, an increased priority on guest and employee health and safety through the continued evolution of contactless and voice-lead technology.
What about the hotel F&B space?
Some major trends I see happening in the hotel F&B space include elevating the in-room dining experience for guests and making that a really memorable experience. Secondly, I foresee hotels getting creative with the extra space that once was the lobby bar or ballroom. Because of capacity rules, hotel restaurants will have to get creative with communications, too, since waiting crowds will be unable to gather around a host stand or at the bar. I see two-way SMS communication and virtual waitlists really coming into play here.
Who is your dream client?
My dream client is Landry’s. I spent so many memorable moments at their locations, including birthday parties and other celebrations! SevenRooms’ guest experience platform would be the perfect solution to constantly keep tabs on which of their guests are there to celebrate and what their preferences are -- like a favorite bottle of wine or dessert (like Mastro’s Butter Cake!). I always associate Landry’s concepts with a fun time, awesome drinks and a great meal in so many different ways
What gets you excited about the future of restaurant tech?
The future of restaurant technology is always changing. In the beginning, restaurant technology revolved around PCI and credit card compliance. Recently, there has been a notably large push around the capitalization and monetization of loyalty programs through data. Moving into the end of the year and into 2021, it will be interesting to see how technology helps with capacity management, health safety for staff and guests, reservation optimization, online ordering and marketing retargeting. Restaurant technology is always evolving, and that’s the best part. Stay tuned!
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