Parasole Boss Still Roots for 'Humanity' in Restaurants
Could a robot serve us better than a human? We say no!
With all the talk about automation and technology today, people still trump machines. So believes Pete Mihajlov, co-founder of Parasole Restaurant Holdings, who spoke on a panel in Minneapolis about running a restaurant in 2016. What does he think of tabletop kiosks for ordering? “You’ve lost the humanity. You’ve lost the soul,” he said.
Hear, hear, I thought, as I covered the panel for our sister publication, Foodservice News and its spring Restaurant Business Summit. Regular readers might recall our story in March in Franchise Times, in which my colleague Tom Kaiser and I ran around town seeing who could serve us better, people or machines. Our verdict: Two stars for humans, one-half star for machines.
The operator of Chino Latino, Manny’s, Pittsburgh Blue, Salut and many more restaurants was asked to name the top factors beyond great food that make a restaurant successful. Mihajlov studied that question when he chaired the marketing committee at the National Restaurant Association several years ago. “They asked us to do a deep dive into the psyche of what we call the frequent diner,” he said. “We wanted to validate, how does the frequent diner choose among all the restaurants where they could dine?”
After several focus groups in several U.S. cities and with diners who prefer all types of restaurants, the answer came back. “It was unanimous. It was the human connection that guest had with the individuals that they met,” he said. “In spite of all the IT stuff that’s going on—and it’s not going to go away—we can’t forget that the real variable in our industry is the human connection we make with the people we serve.”