China's Alibaba Group is working on apps for connected car drivers that would let them find restaurants and make reservations, the company said. The technology would also let users order food, and Alibaba expects to add additional features that can be performed using voice, touch or motion commands.
Chipotle Mexican Grill and other chains are creating modern versions of the drive-thru lane to cater to a fast-growing group of customers who order ahead via mobile phones. Cava will start testing a drive-thru for digital orders this month, and Dunkin' and Starbucks are also experimenting with the concept.
Fast-casual Dalup Modern Indian will open in New York City next month with a tech-forward strategy that includes a robot that makes fermented crepes called dosas to order. In keeping with its commitment to technology, the restaurant will donate part of its proceeds to the nonprofit Girls Who Code.
Robots in restaurants could be a way to solve staffing issues and produce more uniform food. The trade-off could be a loss of the human touch in the dining experience, said April Harrington of urban-farm nonprofit Growing Home.
Social media has become a bigger marketing tool for catering providers, a panel of executives said recently. Companies should use a qualified marketer to respond to customer reviews and learn to use social platform tools to track the effectiveness of their social efforts, panelists said.
Kroger is playing catch-up with Walmart and Target when it comes to e-commerce, and has joined with Instacart and invested in UK online grocer Ocado to stay competitive. Kroger has committed to investing about $4 billion in digital initiatives and teamed with an autonomous vehicle startup to test driverless delivery.
Soylent has debuted a snack bar called Soylent Squared, available in three varieties, each of which logs 100 calories per bar. The products come in 30-packs priced at $30 via the online channel, and the company aims to sell them in retail eventually.
PepsiCo has unveiled a tech-enabled hydration platform that dispenses six flavors of carbonated water. Consumers can adjust the flavor intensity, carbonation and temperature of their beverages before dispensing the drinks into their own containers.
Restaurants can use coupons to bring in new customers, drive traffic during traditionally slow times and reward loyal patrons. To succeed with a coupon strategy, restaurants need to be able to follow through with food and service levels that make coupon users want to come back, said Ohio restaurant manager David Masterson.
Dairy farmers should have the option to enroll in the new Dairy Margin Coverage program by June. The plan, retroactive to January, would increase coverage levels and compensate farmers at a certain point between milk and feed price disparities.
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