We tend to think of the food industry as being somewhat static. If the quality of the food is high and service is good, most of us are very happy with our favorite restaurants, fast food joints, and snack bars. Just think about the ubiquitous nature of a chain like McDonald's or Burger King, which has looked and felt the same for many years. This is no accident; the major fast food chains are very careful when it comes to making changes to their brand, because they know that familiarity is everything for customers.
Yet, there are some big changes happening across the restaurant business as a whole. You may have spotted this in the form of iPad and tablet ordering systems or food being delivered on conveyor belts. Crucially, all of these industry changes have their foundation in one unifying medium – technology. Digital and technological developments are revolutionizing the way in which we select, order, and enjoy our food. From robot waiters to self-service restaurants, touchscreen billing, and sophisticated hygiene alert systems; it really is a brave new world.
This guide to some of the most remarkable technologies set to transform the restaurant business will give you an insight into the future of your food.
Automated Eating at Eatsa
In many ways, Eatsa is a bit of a love or hate kind of restaurant. This is mostly because the main staple here, quinoa, seems to be a love or hate ingredient. If you’re a big fan though, you’ll love the fact that this restaurant in San Francisco has a menu that is primarily based around this protein rich superfood. It’s not the only thing that makes Eatsa different though
There are absolutely no servers present in the restaurant. Apart from one member of staff, who is on hand to solve problems and help with ordering, all of the staff are in the kitchen. The food is ordered on tablet style interfaces, which have colorful pictures and descriptions of all the menu items. Diners are then invited to take a seat and wait for their order to appear in the assigned ‘compartment.’
These white, space age compartments line one wall of the restaurant. They have clear, glass fronts, so that the food is visible when it is passed through by the cooks out back. Rather interestingly, instead of pushing prices up, the technology at Eatsa has allowed them to come down. With no servers to pay, reduced waiting times, and no meat based dishes, the enterprise is actually passing savings on to its customers.
Table Based Entertainment at Inamo
This Asian fusion restaurant is based in London and the special thing about it is that there are no paper menus. Instead, everything that diners need to know is projected directly onto their tables. They can then navigate this information in the same way as they would a tablet. Dishes are ordered by pressing virtual buttons on this ‘e-table.
If customers get bored, they can play around with a range of different options. One function allows them to take a peek at the chefs, as they prepare the ordered dishes. Another provides interesting information about the local area. This is particularly useful for visitors and tourists, who can browse for updates on the weather or check out popular attractions. When they’re done eating, the button for the bill brings a waiter comes straight to the table
According to the owner of Inamo, the e-table concept was introduced as a way to give servers more freedom. If waiters aren’t constantly checking and monitoring tables for signs that they’re needed, they can focus on the tables that they know are asking for assistance. Calling for the bill is a perfect example of this. It is such a small part of dining out, but it can take longer than expected if a restaurant is busy and the servers are watching a lot of tables.
A Garden of the Future at Bell Book and Candle
In the Big Apple, there’s a restaurant that is growing its own vegetables without land or soil. While it might sound like magic, the system is based on clever science and technology. The Bell Book and Candle restaurant has a cutting edge aeroponic garden located right on the roof. Here, it grows everything from peppers to tomatoes, lettuces, eggplants, herbs, and more. All produce is grown organically, without chemicals and pesticides.
It is also grown without soil. The veggies and other plants are nurtured inside huge plastic columns that carefully deliver water and nutrients, in place of the soil. For Bell Book and Candle, it means that dishes are about as fresh as they can be. Plus, without extra growing and transportation costs, the price of meals is significantly reduced; extremely high quality ingredients can be enjoyed at a fraction of what they might cost in a five star eatery.
There are some rather far reaching consequences of gardens and restaurants like this one. As climates grow more unpredictable and space becomes ever more limited, society will need to come up with innovative ways to grow and survive. Sophisticated technology like this aeroponic gardening system will enable us to produce almost anything, anywhere.
Feeding with Five Senses at Ultraviolet
The Ultraviolet restaurant, in Shanghai, is very special indeed. Its primary concept is based around the five senses, so it encourages diners to use all of them while eating. The extremely intimate (only ten diners per rotation) setting is surrounded, on all sides, by video screens and speakers. The menus are carefully constructed, alongside painstakingly compiled visual and audio content, so that they provide a complete and fully immersive dining experience.
Clearly, this isn’t your average meal out with the family. The waiting list for Ultraviolet is staggeringly long and the prices are similarly eye popping. However, it gives diners an experience that they will never forget. Eating at Ultraviolet is like being in a Kubrick film at one turn and a nature documentary at the next. It is dazzling, entrancing, and a real testament to the science of eating. In fact, it is utterly compelling proof that we taste with a lot more than just our mouths.
Get Friendly with a Robot at Muten Kura Sushi
No breakdown of amazing technology is complete without a mention of man’s other best friend; the robot. At Muten Kura Sushi, in Japan, diners can be fooled into thinking that everything is pretty standard. After all, conveyer belt sushi has been around since the fifties. If you were to look behind the scenes, however, you’d see something truly remarkable.
At this restaurant, there are no trained sushi chefs – and no dish washers either. Instead, the entire process is fully automated. The sushi dishes are prepared by robotic kitchen hands, who also clear and wash the plates after they are retuned on a special conveyor delivery system. There are some human employees in the kitchen, but they are only on hand to supervise customers, monitor the robots, and make sure that problems are dealt with quickly.
It is a novel system and one that has to be seen to be believed. It also enables the restaurant to offer ordinarily quite pricey dishes at a knockdown cost, because there are no waiters or pot washers to pay. The food at Muten Kura Sushi has a great reputation, so they must be training their robot helpers pretty well. Unbelievably, isn’t even the most high tech eatery in Japan; that definitely accolade goes to the Robot Restaurant in Tokyo.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker