Spotlight Interview: Yilmaz Ozturan, President and CEO, Somfy North America


Yilmaz Ozturan is the President and CEO of Somfy North America, a leading provider of smart shading solutions. Somfy works with a nationwide network of dealers and partners that provide restaurants and other businesses with motorized and smart awnings, pergolas, exterior screen shades and blinds. Somfy’s products are purchased by manufacturers that assemble products for a number of use cases, including natural light control (interior window coverings), protection from pests (exterior screens), and protection from the elements (pergolas). Yilmaz has been with Somfy for the past two decades, serving in multiple capacities (including such positions as Eastern Europe Managing Director and Strategic Marketing and Business Development- Access/ EMEA), before assuming his current role three years ago.

Has the pandemic accelerated digital transformation of the restaurant industry?

The pandemic has certainly accelerated digital transformation on several fronts. With a shift to exterior dining due to occupancy restrictions, restaurant owners are looking for new opportunities that optimize their outdoor environments regardless of weather conditions. Motorization and automation optimize the operation of exterior pergolas and awnings that enable more space for tables, thereby improving business outcomes for restaurant owners.

In an effort to limit virus transmission, restaurant owners are also embracing automation to limit the touch points where employees or customers might need to interact in order to adjust motorized shades, pergola louvers or awnings to improve the dining environment. Automation through scheduling, weather-based rules, and voice control can allow owners to optimize the dining experience without physical touch points.

Motorized awnings, pergolas, screens and more can be controlled in various ways, from a handheld remote control to in-wall switches, or even through app-based scheduling and voice control. The control options for smart outdoor shading are variable and flexible to be able to fit the needs of food service businesses of all kinds. These solutions also integrate with home automation systems for a full smart restaurant experience, both inside and out.

How in your view can technology help restaurants survive the pandemic and beyond?

Technology should work as a contributor to the other resources that a restaurant owner brings to build his/her business. Outdoor shading technology can expand a restaurant’s seating options, whether in-door capacity is limited or not. Providing comfortable outdoor seating to patrons extends the usable space a restaurant has to offer and allows the restaurant to host more customers. As diners become accustomed to outdoor seating and come to expect being able to eat outside, the restaurant owners and managers who have considered the comfort and usability of their outdoor spaces year-round will have an edge in the market. Smart shading technology with pergolas and awnings provides comfortable seating areas to customers, protecting them from the elements while they dine, and makes the outdoor seating section more attractive for customers planning a special night out or even a special event.

Recent innovations in restaurant technology have made a big impact on the overall ROI of
restaurants. What are your thoughts about this in the context of your solutions?

Whether during a pandemic or otherwise, automated shades, blinds, awnings and pergolas contribute to staff efficiencies while providing a consistent dining experience to the customers. This enables restaurant owners to maximize revenues while decreasing wasted time in managing structural or weather induced challenges.

Shifting consumer demands for “outdoor comfort” may cause a challenge for restaurant owners.
How do you plan to help them navigate this?

We work closely with our manufacturing partners and connect restaurant owners with
reliable local retailers that can help manage all aspects of specification, planning,
installation and maintenance.

How do solutions offered by Somfy help restaurants gain a competitive edge over others?

The use of motorization and automation for products that improve the local environment is becoming mainstream. In addition to the benefits to the business, restaurants need to embrace this technology to remain relevant in the future.