Inside FoodNotify

SXSW 2022: Trends for the Hospitality Industry

Thomas Primus attended SXSW 2022 in the U.S. We talk to him about his impressions and what trends the event will bring for the hospitality industry.

The South by Southwest event, or SXSW, annually brings the top trends from the technology, film and music industries together in Austin, Texas. In 2022, the focus was on the metaverse, NFT, blockchain and Web 3.0, as well as sustainability and climate change. This year, our CEO Thomas Primus attended the event – both as a guest and as a speaker. Now he is back in Vienna and we chatted with him about his impressions of SXSW 2022.

For those who haven't heard of SXSW before: What is it and what makes it so special?

SXSW stands for South by Southwest, and is a huge event that's been held since 1987 every year in Austin, Texas. It's a gathering to discuss topics from the tech, film, music and media industries. SXSW is the only event that brings all of these things together. And I think the mix of all of that is what gives it its special flair.

How can we imagine the festival grounds to look? What was your impression?

The whole experience was extremely positive. People were very open and interested in exchanging ideas and talking to each other. The whole city of Austin was involved and there were events all over the city. The streets were closed off , so the visitors could easily walk from one venue to the next. There were conference centers, meetings in hotels, concerts and much more. Again and again, there were also places in the city that large tech companies converted into outdoor booths.

Which talks did you attend?

The variety of events taking place at the same time was really overwhelming. When you looked at the program, you didn't really know where to go, because everything was so interesting. I decided that I would go with the flow and attend two talks per day that really interest me. Mainly, I attended talks that were relevant to the restaurant tech and supply chain. I also met with people, caught up and went to a concert or two. Once, I even got lucky and was able to see Wyclef Jean live on stage. All in all, it was really special.

What are the most important digitalization trends for the hospitality industry that you brought back with you?

I would definitely say: food waste, NFTs, and digitalization of suppliers. The topic of food waste also includes the topic of the supply chain. It can be noticed that the entire supply chain in the food sector is extremely inefficient and completely disorganized. And that is something we are addressing with FoodNotify and creating transparency. So it was nice to see that what we're working on is having a big impact and is important to the issue of food waste and climate change.

There was also no getting around the NFT topic at SXSW. You could go to talks and panels, but also buy NFTS from artists on site or visit NFT galleries. There was also interesting input on its use in the hospitality industry. For example, the world's first NFT restaurant will open next year. [Author's note: Thomas Primus published an article on the topic of NFTs in the restaurant industry.]

A very big topic that we have been dealing with for quite some time is the digitalization of suppliers. This is the best example of a bottleneck, because they are not digital and hold up the entire supply chain. This was discussed, for example, in a panel with speakers from Google, Compass Digital Labs and Shelf Engine.

Thomas Primus talks about his impressions at SXSW 2022

A main topic of SXSW 2022 was also the metaverse. How will this be related to the hospitality industry?

I think this is an exciting topic that can be interesting for the future of the restaurant and hotel industry. For example, there are already some companies in the hospitality industry that are thinking about joining the metaverse. For example, McDonalds has the idea of offering its guests a virtual restaurant in the metaverse. There, they can order products that will be delivered to their homes.

What I've also noticed is that hotels could benefit just as well. So in the future, hotels could virtually map their premises in the metaverse and give potential guests a taste of what the hotel and the rooms look like. A virtual tour, so to speak.

I think that this technology has potential for the restaurant and hotel industry and I'm already excited about the possibilities that will arise.

Which insights did you take away from SXSW and from the panels?

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the different areas, there were always moments in the talks, in which I was able to take away a lot for myself, but also for the company. The creativity, in combination with the speakers from a wide variety of fields, made the whole thing an event in which thought-provoking impulses could be felt almost constantly. And because there was so much to see and experience, you definitely had to write down your impressions. I also did that and I have to admit that it helped me a lot to be able to let the ideas have an effect again afterwards.

The whole experience in its atmosphere and openness is definitely something that we as Europeans are not used to. In any case, it impressed me so much that I would like to visit SXSW again next year.

You also had the opportunity to pitch FoodNotify to a larger audience. Can you describe the experience?

It was really a unique and amazing opportunity. But I was also a little nervous, to be honest. After all, I pitched to about 70 people from all over the world. What helped me was the good preparation in San Francisco via Open Austria's Go Silicon Valley initiative, in which I was able to participate with FoodNotify. I would like to emphasize that the organization was top-notch and the reception with over 700 guests was a complete success. After all, celebrating is also part of the event. As the saying goes: work hard, play hard.

I think that a pitch in an international context is a different challenge than a pitch here in Austria or Germany – simply because it was in a foreign language. Nevertheless, I am satisfied with my performance. I was able to learn a lot, also from the other participants. The reaction in the audience was also positive and I received valuable feedback, which of course will be an advantage for my future presentations. I am truly grateful for this opportunity and that I was able to pitch FoodNotify at SXSW 2022.

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