Richtree Natural Market Takes Technology to the Next Level


Toronto’s Richtree Natural Market Restaurant has taken the burgeoning world of digital dining to a new level.

The 20,000-sq.-ft. restaurant, located in the Eaton Centre, features a hologram hostess, 50 LCD screens, a 23-ft.-long video wall, touch-screen kiosks and a high-tech kids’ area featuring interactivegames — it’s a vision that was conceived in less than six months.

“Our goal was to create a place that people could connect with and recognize as a unique experience,” says Joshua Sigel, chief information officer at parent company Natural Markets Food Group in Irvington, N.Y. “We wanted to differentiate first and foremost through food and secondly through an amazing customer experience that is delivered through these technological innovations.”

Given Richtree’s bustling location and 11 different food stations, one of the company’s missions was to speed up the ordering process. “People are on the go and don’t have a lot of time,” explains Sigel. “We wanted to focus on optimizing the space to move people through as efficiently as possible.” To that end, customers can place their orders on touch-screen kiosks, which allow them to browse the menus of all the food stations. Orders are then picked up at an express counter.

Richtree also wanted to make it easier for groups who split up to get their food: it can get frustrating if one person is picking up the tab. Now there’s an app for that. The Richtree Market Pass app allows customers who are dining together to create a group. When the members scan food items via a QR code on their smartphones, the items all show up on the designated group leader’s account, then the group leader pays the bill.

“The Market Pass is also applicable to children who love the idea of taking mommy and daddy’s credit card and running off at Richtree,” explains Sigel. Kids can use wooden pass cards with QR codes to order their food, and the orders show up in real time on their parents’ smartphones.

The Market Pass can be associated with a credit card, so it serves as a mobile payment option and loyalty program. “The Market Pass is a way of providing our customers an easy and efficient way to pay throughout the marketplace,” says Sigel. And, to make the model work for everyone, each station accepts all forms of payment, so customers can pay for any item at any station.

The restaurant’s cloud-based point-of-sale system is fully integrated: everything from the self-serve kiosks to the digital menu board connects with the POS system. “If we make a change in the point-of-sale system, it updates the digital menu board, it updates the online ordering system, it updates what you see on your phone,” says Sigel.

Sigel can’t reveal how much the company spent on the technology, and it’s hard to measure the ROI. “But, we believe the experiences we’ve created are giving people a reason to want to return,” he says.

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