An aspect of the food industry that cannot be ignored is the pull of technology for consumers. With younger generations becoming more and more technically savvy, adding innovative technologies to the mix in your establishment will draw in those customers that desire convenience, ease of use, and technologies that make their dining experiences more fun and interactive.
National Restaurant News did a recent survey that showed that one third of consumers are paying their bill on a payment app, such as ApplePay, Tabbed Out or Open Table. Among restaurants in the casual sector, TGIFriday’s was the first to partner with a mobile payment company in 2012 (Tabbed Out). Since then, McDonald’s, Subway, Chipotle and many others have implemented mobile ordering and payment options as time-saving devices for their consumers.
New to the delivery scene, Starbucks will be offering the service starting in 2015, which gives the consumer the ability to place a standing order to be delivered at their convenience. The program is being rolled out with hopes to increase customer loyalty as well as opening up previously neglected revenue channels. They have also made a recent announcement that they are rolling out charging mats in their stores. With the increase in smartphone usage among U.S. consumers, the ability to lay your phone on the table and get an instant charge is an additional draw for techie customers. It seems the company is pulling out all of the stops in the technology area to increase their customer base.
Another interesting technology app, called Venue Vibes, allows the consumer to determine wait times before they ever set foot in the restaurant. The app is integrated with the restaurant POS and tracks the number of open tabs versus the venue capacity to determine the mood, with 4 categories: lively, active, relaxed and quiet. So whether you are looking to hang out in the hippest joint in town or are craving a quiet romantic dinner, the app can find the perfect place for you. It’s available for Android and IOS: http://paywithdash.com/vibes/ .
And while we’re at it, wouldn’t it be cool to order your next pizza with your eyes? Pizza Hut is developing technology to do just that. In a partnership with Tobii Technology, a Swedish firm that specializes in the development of retina-scanning technology, Pizza Hut hopes to be able to simplify the ordering process. By tracking where your eyes linger the longest, the technology hopes to help you build the pizza of your dreams.
If ordering with your eyes isn’t your thing, what about letting a robotic bartender make your next drink? On the new “smart ship” Quantam of The Seas, Royal Caribbean brings you B1-O and N1-C, two robots from Makr Shakr (http://www.makrshakr.com ). The robots are capable of using 30 different alcohols and 21 mixers, with an output of 2 drinks per minute.
The future of foodservice is an exciting frontier and as new technologies emerge, it only promises to become more dynamic. Who knows what innovations will come in the next year, and I cannot wait to find out.