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SuperSession: The Future of Restaurants

Robots, facial recognition, and other emerging technologies are already changing the restaurant business. Are you ready for the future?

The Future of Restaurants

A look at foodservice technologies shaping tomorrow


Getting Ready for the Tech Revolution

  • About SuperSession
  • Daniel Burrus
  • John Miller
  • John Ha & Penny
  • Sarah Lockyer
  • Watch SuperSession 2018

About the 2018 SuperSession

Renowned futurist Daniel Burrus kicked off a conversation about disruptive technologies saying he'd rather restaurant owners not say they're going to use technology to change their brand, but to elevate it.

Burrus distinguished "hard" trends from “soft” trends—hard trends are those that are based on fact, like demographics, the presence of government regulations and technology innovations. “The good news is that you can see them well before they hit,” he said. “You can make a choice on how to respond.” Strategy based on certainty is not as risky, he noted. He challenged businesspeople to shift from adapting to trends to anticipating them in advance.

He then introduced a panel of experts who led the audience toward an understanding of how restaurant operators can plan to capitalize on the coming changes: John Miller, CEO, Cali Group, which has successfully implemented facial recognition and robotic assistants in the kitchen, John Ha, CEO, Bear Robotics, creator of Penny, a robotic server, and Sarah Lockyer, senior vice president, Winsight Media and Restaurant Businessa journalist with deep knowledge and insight about the restaurant industry.

Explore all the tabs for highlights of conversations with people on the cutting edge of developing and implementing technology we used to only dream about.

Daniel Burrus

Renowned Futurist & Author of "The Anticipatory Organization"

An international expert on global trends and innovation, Burrus was the first futurist in the early 1980s to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change into the 21st century. He established a worldwide reputation by continuing to correctly predict the future of technology-driven change and its direct impact on the business world.
Burrus advises Fortune 500 executives in developing game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes, among others, Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Toshiba, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM.

His company, Burrus Research, monitors global advancements in technology-driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social, and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities

John Miller

CEO, Cali Group

Miller spoke about several technologies being developed by different subsidiaries of Cali Group. The first,  a robotic arm called Flippy, cooks burgers, then passes them to a human employee to dress them for customers. Cali Group has also created a gaming platform that lets customers compete in a Minecraft game, with the action appearing on a large screen in the restaurant.

And they are testing self-ordering kiosks that use facial recognition. The screen recognizes a frequent customer, can pull up previous orders, and even let them pay with their faces. “We want to see our customers like Amazon sees their customers,” Miller said.

The company is also working on artificial intelligence that will use weather, local events, social media chatter, and other data to predict traffic and purchasing patterns.

John Miller is CEO of Cali Group, a holding company focused on using new technologies to transform the restaurant and retail industries. Cali Group owns a global QSR chain, CaliBurger, and has major equity positions in five affiliated technology companies (Super League Gaming, FunWall, Miso Robotics, PoP, and Kitchen United. Prior to founding Cali Group in 2011, Miller was an early employee at Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals.

John Ha

CEO, Bear Robotics

Ha discussed the rationale behind Penny, the robot his company has developed. He found there were two types of front-of-the-house staff: those who were efficient as food runners and those who were good at engaging customers and providing great service. In busy periods, there was only time for running. If a robot does the running, the servers can always focus on the guests.

“We can’t eliminate the human touch in restaurants,” Ha said. “We don’t want to dine in a factory.”

Even he was surprised when the results came in. Since he started using Penny in his restaurant, sales are up by 8% and tips are up by 18%. “Servers are less tired and can work on service even through the busiest times,” he said.

During Ha's tenure at Bear Robotics, he has overseen the development of an AI-driven robot able to perform running and bussing tasks in a restaurant. Before this role, Ha was a senior software engineer and technical lead at Google and adjunct professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST).


Penny is an AI-driven running and bussing robot from Silicon Valley. Her mission is to improve a restaurant's environment for customers, employees, and owners. Her human co-corkers can shift their responsilibities to provide those special touches that yield an outstanding customer experience.

Sarah Lockyer

Senior Vice President,  Winsight Media and Resaurant Business

Since many operators feel they lag in technology, but are fearful of it, Lockyer suggested starting small. “Make sure you have menus online; make sure your website is optimized for mobile,” Lockyer said. Younger consumers consider these basics to be absolutely necessary. 

She also said that technology and service don’t have to be at odds—technology can enhance service as well as the guest experience. Finally, she recommended that operators think about what a new technology can bring to their brands. “Don’t do something flashy just to do it,” Lockyer urged. “Make sure your brand demands it. Make sure your customer demands it.”

Lockyer oversees content strategy and execution for Winsight media brands, including the foodservice group of Restaurant Business and Foodservice Director. Prior to joining Winsight in 2017, she served as executive director of content for Penton’s Food & Restaurant Group, which included Nation's Restaurant News, Restaurant Hospitality, Food Management, and Supermarket News.

Embrace the Future: The 2018 SuperSession

Missed SuperSession at the 2018 Restaurant Show? Want to experience it again? Or share it with a colleague? Here it is, in its entirety.