In the ever-changing, ever-evolving Restaurant world, it’s difficult to stay on the cutting edge. We live in a time where technology is advancing at an exponential, some might even say alarming, rate - the new thing is new for all of five fleeting minutes, only to become obsolete. The Restaurant business is not immune. It is, and has always been, forced to grow and change to meet the demands of the current time’s customers. In the 1950’s, people found out they wanted their food fast, and we took off from there. Today, we don’t want our food fast - we want it instantly, and restaurants are doing their best to make that possible.
1. Touch Screen Tech to Involve Customers
This technology has been around for a long time. Touch screen kiosks have long been replacing face to face interactions; ATMs, self-scanners at grocery stores, & today you can even copy a key or sell your phone, all with no human interaction. With the touch-screen craze taking off, it was inevitable that they would make their way into the Hospitality Industry, and more specifically the Restaurant Industry.
Touch screens made their first significant mark in the restaurant business, from a customer perspective, with the introduction of the Coca-Cola Freestyle; a drink machine that offers many different beverages as well as flavor options. This machine, while cool, only allowed the customer to go crazy with their beverage selection. However, the restaurant that invented “fast food” is revolutionizing the US food industry again. McDonald’s, after a debate with its employees who were demanding $15/hr, has decided to instead implement a touch screen ordering system, effectively removing the face-to-face interaction of placing your order with a human being. While McDonald’s adoption of this system was clouded by the fact that many found their decision to be in poor taste, touch screen ordering is the way of the future. It’s more cost-effective - you don’t have to pay a tablet an hourly wage. It’s more efficient - no mishearing of orders, or rude interactions with a disgruntled employee. It’s cool, seriously.
Touch screen technology, such as tablets, is also beneficial because it involves the customer. Suddenly, the customer is part of the order process. We saw a little of this with the introduction of the tablet Point of Sale (POS) system, simply turning the tablet around to have people sign for the credit card purchases was neat. Now, we have interactive touch screens that allow people to place their entire order, it’s like being a part of the action. Besides, there’s something pretty cool about pushing a couple buttons and then someone handing you food. Of course, it’s really a small change: the only difference is that you’re pushing the buttons instead of someone behind the counter pushing similar buttons. That small change makes a huge difference; it’s like you’re part of the team instead of being on the sidelines.
2. Mobile Pay
Our phones seem to do everything; they can take pictures, access the Internet, tell you where to go and how to get there, hell, they can even make phone calls. (We can remember a time when “Snake” was all a body needed to get by, but that’s neither here nor there.) Our devices have combined so many essential things into one place: a computer, a bank, a game system, a calculator, a telephone, a camera, an MP3 player, a book - so it makes sense that they would eventually replace our wallets as well.
Enter Apple Pay and Google Wallet. Sporting an already impressive list and an even more impressive soon-to-arrive list of stores that accept Apple Pay, it looks as though it’s here to stay. Google Wallet won’t be going anywhere either, with plenty of stores accepting payment in the same way. Having a secure card on your phone prevents you from leaving your card behind somewhere, or having it stolen. Instead, all you need is your Smartphone. Simply put, you may as well hop on board.
3. Flashy Foods
We live in a globally connected world. One would think that with this awesome ability to connect with anyone around the world, whether it be your friend in China or your friend down the street, that we would use it make new connections with new people everywhere and maintain old connections with good friends who are far. Well, we do that, but we also use it to post pictures of food.
Social commentary aside, you can’t argue with the facts, and one quick trip to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram will prove it. Endless pictures of peoples’ meals will fill your feed. Restaurants realize this, and it’s becoming more and more important that your food be photo-ready. No longer is it adequate to have a brilliantly posed, fake-food-photo shoot for your menu, and serve sub-par looking dishes. Instead, the end product has to match the promised meal, lest your restaurant end up looking silly on the Internet. This recent surge of food photos is no coincidence. As the “Millennials” grow older and start making their own food choices, they will become the target market for restaurants worldwide. Also by no coincidence, these Millennials are the very same kids who were pretty much born with a phone in their hands. Everything they do makes it online, and is shared for the world to see. Restaurants see this for what it is, a free marketing campaign. Social networking has always been a thing, but with the inventions of social networking sites like Facebook, it has never been easier or more popular. Pictures of your food or product seen everywhere for free is pretty awesome, and restaurants worldwide will continue to take advantage of that. So word to the wise, make sure your product leaves the kitchen looking perfect - every time.
4. Mobile Ordering
You know it, you love it, seriously. I mean you can take out your phone, tap a few buttons and then thirty minutes later a pizza will show up. If you tip the guy extra he’d probably walk in your house and hand it to you. You literally wouldn’t have to stand up. What a time to be alive.
5. Green Kitchens
This one is our personal favorite, simply because there are absolutely zero drawbacks to it. Everyone wins. Finally, we are seeing a move towards a more environmentally-aware nation, which is better for you, me, and everyone and everything on the only planet that we call home. Electric cars are gaining popularity again, people are learning about ways they can reduce their environmental footprint on both small and large scales— and the restaurant business is falling right in line with this trend.
Although many restaurants are moving towards energy efficient appliances, in the next few years it will be the norm, and that is fantastic news. Not only do energy efficient models of stoves, ice makers, refrigerators, deep freezes, and all other commercial kitchen appliances save money and energy (which they do, lots actually, we’re talking thousands of dollars per year per piece of equipment), but they are actually better at what they do, all while using less energy. Hence the term efficient. Not to mention, they also offer tax breaks as another form of incentive, what do you have to lose? Nothing, and that’s why you should expect to see a gigantic push towards more and more energy efficient appliances and equipment.
6. Local Sustainability
Right now our world is run by the huge chain grocery stores. Actually, we’re not even sure we can call them grocery stores anymore. Super center is more accurate, and they’re very helpful if you need: a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, a diamond ring, a couch, a tank-top, a pair of shoes, your car’s oil changed, a cup of coffee, a sandwich, your kid’s glasses, a haircut, to file your taxes, a bicycle, a DVD player, two cans of paint, and a grill. If you are like most, however, you don’t enjoy spending your entire day in what can only be compared to a small town. We’ve all seen the documentaries, and we know these huge stores are driving out local businesses because they simply cannot compete with the monumental scale at which these super centers operate.
Thankfully, and finally, there is a new push for local growth and sustainability. People want to know which foods are grown locally, and support their hometown farms instead of huge corporations’ already flush wallets. This means a refocused attention on Farmer’s Markets, and small, local businesses. Restaurants are doing this as well— many are seeking local ingredients for their recipes, and we think this is special, because that would only mean that certain areas would offer certain foods, which would enhance your experience as a tourist, or allow people to take pride in the part of the country that they call their home. Thankfully, many people are making this switch. After all, it’s important to know that fruits and vegetables are seasonal, and yet all of them are always available year round. Seems strange to us.