FoodParc: Pizza's digital signage prototype?

Some digital signage company heads will tell you, in confidence, that QSR pizza restaurants are less likely to use digital menu boards and signage than their non-pizza counterparts. That's because their delivery-heavy model makes it so that many customers don't even set foot near the store.  But increasingly, forward-thinking limited-service pizzerias like the expanding Naked Pizza, whose new prototypes are fitted with customer-greeting Media Walls, are beginning to realize digital signage's experiential and marketing benefits.  

A new digitally savvy concept in New York could show the industry many more uses, including POS-integrated ordering, and the kind of watch-while-you-wait customer-facing updates that has helped pizza mobile ordering apps like Domino’s gain traction.

Using an integrated system of digital signage, kiosks and mobile interactivity, self-service tech provider NEXTEP SYSTEMS helped create a new Manhattan restaurant concept that the Serious Eats New York blog calls "a most unusual stylized and ambitious food destination in the southern reaches of Midtown."

FoodParc is a 20,000-square-foot multiconcept eatery that opened Sept. 22 in Kimpton’s Hotel Eventi in New York City. FoodParc utilizes the efficiencies of NEXTEP SYSTEMS’ MyNEXTEP software that powers the eatery's digital menu displays, touch screen kiosks and order management systems shared by its four restaurant concept operators.

The new dining hotspot is a collection of five gourmet food and beverage purveyors, including The Press, a coffee shop with to-go French press cups; RedFarm Stand, featuring Asian cuisine; Fornetti, with Tuscan offerings on oven-baked flatbread, very similar to pizza; 3Bs (Bacon, Burgers and Beer), serving custom, artisanal bacons and 16 domestic and international beers; and The Bar at FoodParc, a full-service bar.

FoodParc guests have the choice of placing their orders directly with a cashier at any of the food concepts or may make selections and payment for one concept — or multiple concepts — via 16 integrated touch screen kiosks. Order statuses are tracked on multiple digital display panels, and guests have the option of receiving a text message on their mobile phone, alerting them when their food is ready.

NEXTEP president Tommy Woycik said that what makes FoodParc’s technology suite unique is not just the self-order kiosks integrated with the Micros-built point-of-sale terminals, but the seamless integration of both those things with the digital menu boards, digital order status boards and the mobile text messaging system with the kitchens for all the restaurant concepts.

Using the touch screen displays, customers can even order items from the different restaurant concepts — the different menus are displayed on a dozen dynamic menu boards displaying daypart-specific menus — and have it all included in one order, and then track all their mini-orders on one of eight order status monitors, Woycik said.

"They can look up on the order status boards and see the status of each of their sub-orders within their overall orders," Woycik said. "The idea was, 'Hey, this is a very busy Manhattan eatery, lots of concepts, lots of flexibility with the menu, and keeping impatient New Yorkers apprised of their order statuses is paramount to the success of the concept.'"

And FoodParc patrons can decide to receive progress-tracking text messages on their phones or choose to follow their orders on the monitors, providing for constant communication with the customer, he said.

"It is really nice; wait times don’t seem as painful when you’re getting feedback," Woycik said. "It’s the hourglass, right? Sometimes computers aren't going very fast, but when you see the progress bar the wait doesn't feel quite as bad because you know there's progress, and that's what we try to display on the order status monitors and text messages: 'Hey, the kitchen’s working on it, and it'll be there shortly.'"

All of the components have been done separately by NEXTEP before, Woycik says, but putting all the elements together this way makes FoodParc something of a rarity.

"It really is seamless integration from the customer perspective, regardless of preferred order method," he said.

Foodparc is the brainchild of restaurateur Jeffery Chodorow and futurist Syd Mead, who helped design the look of iconic science fiction films such as "Blade Runner," "Aliens" and "TRON" — and Woycik says the multiconcept design is still expanding, with a courtyard, a larger digital screen and more seating likely to open soon.

And while there are actual people on staff there to help customers with their orders if need be, Gothamist.com calls FoodParc "a misanthrope's utopia," since "it's not necessary to interact with any of them."

*additional reporting by Jennifer Litz

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