Chili’s Showcased their Restaurant Reimage Plans at Annual Conference with InstaVR
Brinker International Overview
Brinker International, Inc. is the owner of iconic casual dining establishments Chili’s® Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy®. Founded in Dallas, Texas in 1975, the restaurants’ parent company is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: EAT).
As of 2018, they have 1,600+ restaurants in 31 countries, and more than 100,000 Team Members serving Guests.
Origins of the Reimage 2020 VR Project
Brinker International, parent company of Chili’s, hosts annual conferences for their restaurant General Managers. The events are an opportunity to come together and reflect on the current year, as well as plan for the future. This year’s conferences, held in San Antonio and Orlando, featured a new piece of technology: Virtual Reality.
The use of VR was spearheaded by Kelly Peterson, digital production manager at Brinker International. His goal was to showcase what Chili’s will look like in the near future, in an immersive VR application titled Reimage 2020 Project.
“We have not used VR experiences in the past and really felt that this was a great way to introduce new technology to our Team Members,” said Peterson. He noted Brinker International’s desire to be innovative when interacting with both Guests and Team Members at their restaurants. “The timing of the conference and the subject matter of Reimage was the perfect fit to help introduce and drive engagement and excitement with our Managers.”
Planning for Filming Reimage 2020
The first step in putting together the VR application was planning the filming days. They obviously wanted to feature an immersive tour of the new restaurant design, but also decided to feature one of their popular Team Members as a host on the 360-degree tour. With the basic idea in mind, they set out to storyboard.
“Before filming, we had certain criteria that we wanted to capture and created a storyboard that would really help our actor understand the goal and keep us on track for the recording,” explained Peterson.
What did the storyboard include? “Script, shot location, key messages to share, potential clickable images, potential additional video, and filming sequence and location.”
According to Peterson, “Without the storyboard and keeping the goal in mind, we would not have been able to produce a great experience for our Managers.”
Filming Day Goes Smoothly
With storyboard in hand, the next step for Peterson’s team was obtaining the 360 hardware to execute the filming.
They decided to use an Insta360 Pro camera, widely considered the best-of-breed camera in the VR space. In a savvy bit of planning, they rented the camera from LensRental at a very good price, allowing them to allocate budget elsewhere. In lieu of using the built-in Insta360 microphones, they attached lavaliere microphones to a secondary camera to capture audio.
Because of all the planning that went into the shoot, and the single location, actual filming went quite smoothly. “Total filming time was three hours max,” according to Peterson, “and that was with multiple takes and setup time.”
Authoring on the InstaVR Platform
Peterson’s team did their homework on which VR platform to use for editing and distribution. “When I found InstaVR and completed additional testing, it was obvious to us that it had the easiest user interface and interactive features we were looking for.” So they set to work uploading the video footage, as well as custom navigation icons they created using graphic design software.
The resulting app, seen in screenshot below, allowed for easy navigation by the General Managers at the conferences. Keeping things simple, intuitive and engaging was the goal.
They also wanted to make the VR experience interactive. “We also used hotspots and informational buttons to allow for additional content to be displayed in a close up manner. By having the hotspots and navigation, it provided for a seamless and interactive experience.”
Publishing to VR Headsets
The next step was publishing. They decided to purchase VR headsets and rent Samsung phones, publishing to the .apk format to load the apps onto the headsets. Peterson’s team used the InHouse publishing feature of InstaVR, meaning they could showcase the app privately, just to General Managers.
“The best part about InstaVR is that it could live on phones without being distributed through App stores. This was a bonus and allowed our event to be a great success.”
A Resounding Success!
At the conferences in San Antonio and Orlando, Peterson’s team had six VR headsets loaded up and ready to go with the 2020 Reimage Project.
More than 500 General Managers ultimately visited their booth and got to immersively experience the future of Chili’s restaurants. The feedback was very positive. According to Peterson, “Our Team Members were highly engaged and really enjoyed the VR experience to see something new. The software and everything worked amazing and the experience was like nothing else.”
The VR experience continues to be used after the event itself. Through WebVR, the General Managers are able to show Team Members the 2020 Reimage Project as well. “We are continuing to monitor the InstaVR traffic, to help understand if General Managers are sharing our site with others in their restaurant.” Peterson added, “With this feedback we will be able to create better experiences.”
Thank you to Kelly Peterson and the team at Brinker International for using InstaVR and showing the power of VR to engage and energize their Team Members!