Designing memorable dining experiences through the finest of technology

Gustavo Imhof
Posted: 11/06/2017

The latest tech is helping to streamline CX in the hospitality industry, but what are some of the key players to look at to create that unforgettable experience?

There is no denying that over the past ten years technological advancements have taken up a much more prominent position across industries; from chatbots in customer contact centres to smart devices like Amazon’s Alexa in retail and hotel rooms.

In this article we’re taking a closer look at the restauration sector, where innovations such as McDonald’s self-service kiosk, Lightspeed’s self-order menus and interaction-free Eatsa have been most noteworthy. What do all of these tech disruptors and redesigns have in common? They aim to streamline the customer experience!

When it comes to the restaurant sector, people eat out for the experiential factor as much as the actual food; it is a hallmark of dining out. And despite the above examples, we can notice the tide shifting towards enhancing the experiential and emotional element of this service rather than inhibiting it. Technology is at the epicentre of innovation, with AR becoming an ever-more present feature of experience design.

Let’s imagine together what the restaurants of tomorrow might look like using some of the most recent technology available in the space today.

People eat out for the experiential factor as much as the actual food.


1. Starter

You arrive to the restaurant and are seated by the staff – pretty standard thus far. You decide to get some cocktails before having a look at the food menu. Your martini arrives and you take your smartphone to open up Mirage, an AR app, which creates a complete environment around the drink on your table. Each drink has its own theme – reportedly inspired by a painting, live music or warfare – that plays with the drink’s flavours.

2. Main course

Your drink well underway, it’s time to choose your food. Since it’s the first time you go to that restaurant you don’t know much about the dishes listed, which until recently would force you to either interrogate the waiter about every single dish or play a culinary variation of Russian roulette. Fortunately, you don’t have to do either anymore, thanks to New York based Kabaq, your AR dish menu.

The waiter brings you a tablet with the menu and you can visualise the dish through the tablet. In just a few taps, you can view every single item as if it was already on your plate thanks to a 3D model coupled with what the camera on the tablet is capturing. This enables you to easily understand the portion sizes (to scale) and know what to expect, ensuring you choose the most appetising dish rather than making a stab in the dark (or play it safe). You can’t eat it just yet, but you certainly can salivate in expectation.

Taking the meal to the next level, you spot a label next to one of the dishes saying ‘with entertainment’. Curious, you decide to be daring and order the dish – it already tempted you greatly seeing it on your plate through the tablet, after all. Once the order is placed, you realise something is changing on your table. You see a hole appearing, and from that hole a person who’s only a few inches tall crawls out.

It’s a very cleverly made animation from the Belgian firm Skullmapping, displayed to you through a projector fixed on the ceiling. You then watch this tiny cook (called Le Petit Chef) prepare your steak and side dishes on the grill (which happens to be your plate!). By the time the show is finished, your actual dish arrives for you to enjoy.

3. Bringing the meal to a close

After your experiential meal you might be in a rush to leave, and Glance Pay has you covered. You can access your bill, define the tip you’d like to give and redeem any loyalty reward you might have all via your smartphone. You pay directly through the app and you’re done.

Technology is at the epicentre of innovation, with AR becoming an ever-more present feature of experience design.


Conclusion

At this point in time there is not a single place in the world where you can experience all of this together. These solutions are currently used, but all in different places. If a business was to combine these, it clearly would make for an extremely sensory-rich and memorable dining experience, one which would make Joe Pine and James Gilmore (the pioneers of customer experience, with their book The Experience Economy) very, very proud.

You could argue that these technologies are currently too expensive to be used in a restaurant setting. Granted, it is still early days so it might well be a tad pricey but the returns on experience are many; greater opportunity to upsell through the interactive augmented reality experience and a greater likelihood for customers to want to stay longer and order more. But, ultimately, provided the food is of a decent quality, their likelihood to recommend the location will be much greater than any restaurant would experience without these features.

The tide has turned and the hospitality industry is looking into ways of embellishing the emotional experience, rather than impoverishing it. And augmented reality and other new tech can pave the way for just that. This, right there, is customer experience next practice in the making.

Gustavo Imhof
Posted: 11/06/2017