Technology has played a key role in expansion at Starbucks and tech innovation remains on the front burner as the coffee chain works to increase traffic and sales. "They have a test, learn, and adjust mentality; they embrace change, and they don't worry about being perfect," said Tom Kneubuehl, an executive at UK-based cloud technology firm Preoday.
Emerging technologies such as facial recognition and robotics can help streamline operations and enhance the guest experience, panelists said during a session at The National Restaurant Association Show. Global trends expert Daniel Burrus moderated the panel discussion that included the chief executives of Bear Robotics and Cali Group, who showcased new technologies being tested in restaurants.
Coca-Cola has unveiled a fountain soft-drink dispenser that lets consumers create custom drinks using their smartphones. The machine, dubbed the Freestyle 9100, uses Bluetooth technology, and other features that could be unlocked in the future would let users place voice orders.
A growing group of startups that includes Eat Club and Peach contracts with companies to deliver lunch orders from local restaurants to office workers. The startups provide curated menus and take orders in advance, then they either make the deliveries, farm them out to delivery companies or place the orders for delivery with the restaurants.
Chef Ferran Adria transformed Spain's elBulli from a French restaurant into a gastronomic testing ground before closing it in 2011. During his years in charge, Adria and his team devised new words and methods to explore creativity, efforts that come into play in the current version of elBulli, which opened in 2014 as a foundation dedicated to exploring and sharing innovation.
Campbell Soup is embarking on a portfolio review to determine the company's path for the future, and executives will announce the results of the review in August. "Everything is on the table. There are no sacred cows," said Chief Financial Officer Anthony DiSilvestro.
Several CPG brands are releasing new products, including Nestle, which is rolling out Simply Delicious Morsels -- chocolate chips made from just three ingredients. In addition, Cholula is introducing a Sweet Habanero hot sauce variety, and Noosa Yoghurt will debut a line with two yogurt flavors in separate compartments within the same container.
As competition in the condiment category increases, Unilever and Kraft Heinz are innovating, tweaking prices and boosting advertising to retain fans. "We're engaging toe to toe," said Unilever Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly.
Chef'd has teamed with Byte Foods to put its meal kits in about 100 of Byte's unattended, refrigerated vending systems in hospitals, offices and other locations. Byte operates refrigerators that consumers can use like a vending machine to buy grocery items by swiping a credit card.
Kantar Worldpanel has chosen Nestle as one of the world's top fast-moving consumer goods brands, according to its 2018 Brand Footprint report. Nestle was credited with 14.4 billion consumer reach points, which are calculated using the amount of households that buy products from the brand and how often the products are purchased.
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