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    Tech Creates a New Class of Restaurant Employees

  • As technology becomes more prevalent in the restaurant space, tech-oriented positions become increasingly commonplace.

    The Piada Group, The Madera Group, PizzaRev
    The modern-day masters: (clockwise from left) Bryant Miller, Zaid Manaseer, and Donald Pierce.

    A generation ago, quick-service restaurants largely concerned themselves with one overriding objective: appeasing the guests who came through the door (or the drive thru) so those same guests might return.

    While that objective continues to reign today—it is, after all, the surest path to sustainable operations—fulfilling that mission is as complex and layered as it has ever been amid intense competition, labor challenges, rising costs, and accelerating consumer expectations.

    Fortunately, the proliferation of technology in the 21st century has offered quick serves a way to sharpen their respective businesses and a window into improving everything from store operations and marketing to inventory management and site selection. Social media, for instance, offers brands a cost-effective means to drive consumer engagement, while data can spark more strategic decisions about menu items, promotions, staffing, and other core business areas.

    Beyond providing quick serves a potential pathway to improved performance, tech’s ascent in the quick-service arena has ignited something else: a new class of employees whose jobs are explicitly tied to managing, overseeing, and interacting with these newfangled tools.

    As recent as a decade ago, positions like social media manager and chief data scientist didn’t exist even among the most progressive quick-service operations. Today, however, such job titles are becoming commonplace, especially as the world turns increasingly mobile, digital, and data driven.

    Bryant Miller

    Social Media Manager, The Piada Group

    “In the social media world, we wear many hats. Sometimes I’m telling stories or sharing insight into the brand. That work can be very PR-heavy and harder to measure. Other times, especially with targeted, paid social, I’m wearing a sales hat, and you can directly link my work to sales.”

    While Bryant Miller spent his teenage years working at a burger joint in a tiny Louisiana town—“cooking short-order items, waiting tables, you name it,” he says—his current role in the restaurant industry isn’t about burgers and fries, but rather Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, basically the pillars of today’s digital marketing landscape.

    As social media manager at The Piada Group, the Columbus, Ohio–based force behind 41-unit Piada Italian Street Food, Miller calls himself a storyteller. Before joining the team in November 2017, he spent four years at Yelp as a community manager.

    Now Miller crafts the Piada’s social media strategy, which paints the big picture of what the brand is doing online, and then implements that strategy to blend the online and offline experience for Piada’s guests. His responsibilities run the social media gamut: creating digital campaigns, answering guest questions, and even “fanboying” with Piada enthusiasts on Twitter.


    Zaid Manaseer

    Systems Integrator, The Madera Group

    “The work I do as a systems integrator helps us optimize and streamline the way we do everything, from paying invoices and contacting vendors … [to] getting the best data possible in front of the people who need to see it.”

    Zaid Manaseer’s day-to-day responsibilities include identifying, implementing, integrating, and managing The Madera Group’s swelling array of technological solutions, which range from Plate IQ for invoice management to MonkeyMedia for catering to Olo for third-party delivery orders. The West Hollywood, California–based group is parent of fast casual Tocaya Organica, which now numbers a dozen units.

    The ultimate goal? To optimize daily operations of both the stores and corporate headquarters. Manaseer spends his days troubleshooting software issues and training employees on maximizing the efficiency of the systems they use. He also constructs dashboards that cross-analyze information from different sources and builds custom automations that bring heightened efficiency and accuracy to the company’s work.

    “For example, if development marks off that they are complete with a certain part of the buildout of a store, [the custom automation] will alert and assign a task to the person responsible for applying for liquor licenses and setting up vendor accounts,” Manaseer says. That built-in feature helps The Madera Group keep projects on track from when the team first visits a potential site all the way through development.


    Donald Pierce

    Marketing Insights Leader, PizzaRev

    “Having a culture where data analytics and insights lead decisions increases our ability to accomplish our goals.”

    A former senior director of consumer and business insights at McDonald’s, Pierce joined PizzaRev, a chain of some 42 units spread across nine states and Mexico, one year ago and immediately embraced a singular mission: to make business insights and analytics a competitive advantage for the seven-year-old brand.

    As PizzaRev’s marketing insights and analytics leader, Pierce tackles a multi-layered effort rooted in discovering hidden information in vast amounts of data. He then combines that data with storytelling and business sense to drive customer-centric decisions about products and the experience, whether they be related to the menu, mobile ordering, or another aspect.

    Pierce’s work also includes measuring the progress of various initiatives. In addition to ensuring financial success, this strategy also allows the team to monitor the industry at large, consumer behavior, and trends so PizzaRev stands well-positioned to drive future growth.

    Sometimes, Pierce says, that means “fast failing” new products and initiatives or making real-time decisions designed to enhance the performance of promotions and hit high returns on the company’s marketing spend.