Guest post by Darren Wan, co-founder & CEO, Easy Pairings. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Food+Tech Connect.
Innovation in the restaurant industry has lagged behind the likes of the finance, healthcare, and entertainment industries, but the industry is in the nascent stages of incorporating technology. With greater Internet and mobile device penetration, we will all see technology play a greater role in elevating the customer’s dining experience as well as allowing restaurant operators to improve the efficiency of their daily operations.
Today, the impact of technology in restaurants can be experienced on a daily basis by both consumers and operators. Restaurants have numerous technology-driven solutions at their disposal, such as services to improve advertising (Yelp, Facebook, Google), handle reservations (OpenTable, Urbanspoon) increase delivery orders (Grubhub, Delivery.com), and offer sales promotions (Groupon, Gilt City).
All of these offerings are focused on driving more customers into seats in an effort to grow sales.
The Dining Experience Reimagined
Mobile devices can play a significant role throughout the dining experience. Reserving a table ahead of your arrival, taking photos of each dish placed before you, or even settling your check without taking your wallet out.
But imagine if your taste profile traveled with you on your smart phone. ‘Checking In’ becomes more than just a location confirmation. It’s an announcement to the restaurant on your arrival, and gives the service staff an opportunity to personalize your experience. For the health conscious consumer, this means being directed to a dish that would lead to a more balanced diet. For those with strict dietary restrictions, your allergies are carefully taken into account at the time of your order. And for the rest, this means being presented with more personalized options: ‘Oh, we see you really enjoyed a particular Cabernet Sauvignon served at a nearby restaurant. You should try a glass of our Petite Sirah.’
Enjoying a meal at a chef’s table is an experience that the everyday consumer may not be able to try (watching your sandwich being put together at Subway doesn’t count). What if you were able to watch your food being prepared and plated live right from your mobile device? That’s one way to improve the connection between customers and the talented chefs who work behind the scenes.
Operating a Restaurant: More than a Game of Pennies
Technology will have the greatest impact on what consumers aren’t exposed to: operations. The efficiency of restaurant operations, especially when it comes to administrative and manual tasks, will improve dramatically. This means restaurants will save time, reduce costs, and eliminate the repetitive tasks of daily operations.
Restaurants can receive many deliveries during the course of the week and invoices and delivery slips pile up easily. Companies like ChouxBox give restaurants a better way to manage this paper trail nightmare, and can provide real-time insights into their daily operation expenses.
Based on my experience as a restaurant operator, I started Easy Pairings to help restaurants navigate their way through the high levels of employee turnover this industry experiences and connect them with well-matched potential employees in a timely manner. Once employees are hired, companies like Sidework transform the traditional 50-page handbook to an interactive online training.
As with any industry, it will take time and money for the restaurant industry to incorporate more technology into customer experience and daily operations. Most restaurants are single-unit operations and therefore lack the corporate infrastructure and resources. This will impact the speed of the changes, but will not stop them from occurring.
It’s going to be very exciting to see how current products evolve and new innovations arrive. I’m glad I have a front row seat.
Hacking Dining is online conversation exploring how we might use technology and design to hack a better future for dining. Join the conversation between June 2-30, and share your ideas in the comments, on Twitter using #hackdining, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr.
Darren Wan is the Co-Founder and CEO of Easy Pairings, an online marketplace for the hospitality industry that allows restaurants to find great staff quickly and easily. The idea for Easy Pairings came from Darren’s experience as the Operating Partner of Red Egg, a popular Chinese restaurant in downtown Manhattan. For four years, Darren observed firsthand how technology is underutilized in a restaurant’s operation processes especially when it comes to its biggest pain point, the employee search and hiring process.
Prior to cofounding Easy Pairings, Darren was an integral part of growing and expanding small companies in a variety of industries such as fashion design and retail as well as general construction. Previously, Darren worked for Putnam Investments as an Analyst for their International Equities team.
Darren is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.