Software is offering new opportunities within the food industry.

There is no doubt about it, as the Internet of Things becomes more and more creative the world becomes a more exciting place to be. Every industry is having its own private revolution, moving in a million different directions and trying out new possibilities all of the time. The restaurant industry is no different.

To chronicle the history of food technologies and how the consumer interacts with restaurants is fascinating. As an industry it stood still for hundreds of years, with only the occasional innovation. 1940 saw the fast food revolution. The 1950s saw the integration of drive through food joints - and then the industry stood still. Yes, there were those who were constantly pushing the boundaries on culinary creativity, but technologically speaking the industry remained the same for fifty years.

As the Internet of Things evolves into the Internet of Everything there has been a boom in what restaurants are prepared to do in order to deliver the best possible dining experience. We are seeing a huge rise in interactive restaurant technology. 

The form this has taken in particular over the past year is interactive dining experiences, integrating touch screen technology with ordering food. Some of the latest to develop such technology are McDonald's and Pizza Hut. The below video is an exploration into this by Buzz60.

The whole idea behind interactive restaurant software is twofold, with both the customers and the restauranteurs benefiting. In fast food joints it speeds up service, reducing interactions between the staff and the public making it the perfect environment for getting food out efficiently. This also cuts down on staff overheads.

Traditional restaurants and smaller chains can benefit from interactive technology in a way that is drastically different to that of the fast food franchises. 

As well as offering a faster experience, developments in restaurant software are creating ways of enhancing the customer experience in a way to turn gourmet into grandiose.

What Opportunities Do Progressions In Restaurant Software Offer In The Future

Interactiveness is the buzz word at the moment. Restaurants are ushering in a new age of technology with fully integrated customer (and user) experiences through the development of bespoke programs designed to make their meals more than just food. These range from interactive menus with custom filtering options (ie. vegan options, containing lactose, etc.) to immersive experiences where the table can control the entire dining experience. This is what is being affectionately termed "Digital Dining".

Digital Dining is an interesting term as, unlike with most things when they make the move to digital, the dining will always be the same method of eating we humans have developed over hundreds of thousands of years. The whole experience, like with other industries, cannot become totally digital. This is why restaurant software is to complement a physical dining experience, and not the other way around.

What Digital Dining does mean is that the customer experience can be customised and improved upon depending on their own preferences. Not only do most Digital Dining experiences incorporate the ability to order and call a waiter when needed, but some even allow for ambience change such as lighting and music. These are revolutions in having a dining experience that is truly unique to the diner. Finally, and the integration we are most excited about, Digital Dining allows for the customer to pay at the table. This cuts down on having to wait for a waiter at the end of a meal, and instead speeds up the whole process. 

Allowing for the customer to place orders and pay whilst at the table, with reduced interaction, makes pre-show dinners so much more accessible. 

This technology has been around for a while, with the first restaurants opening up digital tables in 2010, however it is constantly evolving. Now the dining experience is completely customisable. AmI Programme ICS-FORTH explore this kind of technology in the below video.

How Do Restaurants Take Advantage of Advanced Restaurant Software?

Restaurants wanting to integrate digital to some extent are looking at three basic levels of interaction to choose from:

  1. The first option is by simply integrating a payment system such as Flypay into a restaurant. This will allow for customers to pay on the go. To find out more about Flypay please follow the link below.
  2. The second option is to have interactive menus as well. This is the Pizza Hut method of doing things, designed to provide an interactive experience which simplifies the order process.
  3. Finally the third option is to go fully interactive, with tables such as those seen above or showcased in the Soho Restaurant, Inamo St James. This is explored in the video below from the Inamo youtube channel.

The key to interactive dining is user experience. No matter the technology used, if the user experience is rubbish then the dining experience would reflect that accordingly. This being said, if the user experience runs smoothly then the customer will come away with a generally uplifted opinion of the technology. Naturally enough, the food is up to you.

Restaurants implementing such systems would want their own bespoke software in order to have a unique customer experience. There is no point in having an interactive menu if the customer is viewing it on an off-the-shelf product. Why be the same when you can so easily be different?

Interaction is, much like Inamo, a fusion experience. It is an experience between the traditional and the future. This is the marketing power and prowess of the Digital Dining experience - beautiful, fluid, bespoke, and a truly unique dining experience the customer will not forget in a hurry.

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