It is believed that the first restaurant in the Western world was founded in Paris, by a rather aptly named Monsieur Boulanger in 1765. Over the past four centuries dining out has remained a rather simple concept with customers enticed by good food, a warm atmosphere, and (generally) reasonable prices. However, as technology is increasingly incorporated into every aspect of our daily lives, consumers today demand a different sort of experience. From molecular gastronomy to tablets as menus, restaurants are finding unique and alternative ways to attract new consumers.
The marriage of technology and food was brought to London by pan-Asian restaurant Inamo. Opened in 2008, its technology far surpasses that of its competition. Founded by two young entrepreneurs, Inamo shows first-hand how technology will make an impact on the future of the restaurant industry. Featuring modern and innovative technology, through interactive touchscreen tables, customers can order, play video games and watch the chefs work in the kitchen, all whilst savouring some delicious cuisine. And at the end of the night they can even order a taxi home. It has proven a big success having even won the coveted title of Best Restaurant in the Time Out Readers Award in 2010.
A rather complicated term that is often replaced by ‘modernist cuisine’ or ‘experimental cuisine’, molecular gastronomy refers to the process of experimental cooking. It sees professional chefs exploring alternative uses for ingredients that push the boundaries of science and cooking to create the future of food. Spearheaded by Heston Blumenthal, whose restaurant The Fat Duck has three Michelin stars and a formidable waiting list, it proves that people are willing to pay to see how technology and food can be married. This is particularly impressive as Blumenthal’s rather startling menu includes mushy pea ice-cream, snail porridge, as well as black pudding in pickling brine.
Using tablets as menus is not dissimilar to the concept of a self-service checkout. Blending technology, food, and service, tablets gives customers more information; allowing them to view pictures of the food before having their order sent straight through to the kitchen. It also makes updating menus far easier and quicker as well as easing the burden of often overworked waiters and waitresses. Companies like eMenu are catering to this specific market and demonstrating the increasing demand.
Mobile ordering is based on the premise that many busy professionals have neither the time to cook nor the desire to dine out, but still crave restaurant fare without having to leave the comfort of their own home (or even bed). Mobile ordering, allowing users to order from any restaurant, is quickly proving itself to be more than a fad. Notably, JustEat saw its profits increase 62pc to £157 million last year and it served over 8.1 million customers in 2015 alone. Meanwhile pioneering brand Deliveroo, which delivers food from premium restaurants that don’t traditionally offer a takeaway service, has – according to the Business Insider – a valuation of over £660 million.
Social media is proving a popular resource for restaurants. Allowing them to easily create an online presence it gives restaurants a platform on which to quickly engage with their customers as well as show some personality. This is done incredibly successfully by McDonalds who with over three million followers are still able to interact with individuals via social media.
And, of course, there’s Instagram, which is also being used extremely effectively by restaurants. Given that we eat with our eyes before we taste with our mouths, Instagram with its myriad of filters and edit options allows restaurants to put their best food forward and show off their goods to a hungry public. It also provides another method of engagement (as well as some easy advertising) by reposting pictures already taken by happy customers.
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