Technology, Slow to the Restaurant Scene, Is Now On the Menu

by Marjo Johne,  The Globe and Mail

A majority of restaurants in Canada are independent, mom-and-pop operations, says Robert Carter, an industry advisor at the NPD Group Inc., a market research and data analytics firm in Toronto. “Because of the fragmented nature of the industry and the very thin profit margins of most restaurants, the sector hasn’t evolved from a technology-innovation standpoint as quickly as other industries.”

However that is changing. The Canadian restaurant industry has been more significantly transformed by technology in the last five years than in the preceding 50, said NPD Group analyst Robert Carter.

The Restaurants Canada nonprofit’s Christopher Barry pointed to automated customer-service kiosks in quick-service restaurants that let customers input their own orders instead of standing in line at the counter, which his organization is working to make available to small operators.

Barry also said restaurants are beginning to use interactive technologies, with Graffiti Market in Ontario allowing diners to tap on Internet-connected “smart tables” to order food, watch meal preparation via kitchen webcam, play video games, and settle their bill.

Said Barry, “We’re also seeing augmented and virtual reality gaining traction. In the near future, consumers can go to a restaurant, put on an eyepiece to look at the menu, and see what the menu items actually look like.”

Food quality and safety is also getting a boost from innovative technologies. Boston Pizza uses automated sensors connected to the cloud to monitor appliance and food temperatures.

“Our solution monitors and records important details like how often the fridge door is open and for how long,” says Loreto Saccucci, CEO of Kitchener, Ont.-based BlueRover Inc., which developed the monitoring technology. “There’s also all kinds of data analytics and reporting capabilities – a restaurant owner with multiple locations can even compare their data.”  Read the report.

DCL: Those of us who eat out often, and quite frequently in other countries, may experience some of these innovations in a restaurant quite soon. I haven’t so far. Being able to see what a menu item looks like, smells like and maybe even tastes like, would be interesting to say the least. I ate at a Guide Michelin 3 star place in France recently, and I found that items on the menu did not look or taste at all like I was expecting when they came to the table. Perhaps because a 3-star Chef has to “innovate”. An eyepiece view of the menu would have been most welcome!  Also, there’s a lot of event processing behind some of these technologies.

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