Restaurants are always under pressure to change with the times, and diners in Silicon valley are seeing the effects, both good and bad. The New York times has been reporting on tech giants’ impact on the area, by driving staff and potential customers to their own in-house dining facilities, which causes pressure on the little mom-and-pop chains first to innovate or be left behind (and the big guys not long after). There are a number of ways that this is playing out, one of which is the delivery-only restaurant; app-driven experiences that ups the cheap takeout game to include fine dining home delivery as the primary customer experience as opposed to a secondary one.
Even when one wants to dine in, restaurants are turning to technology to overcome cost pressures and reduced staff, as well as to standardize the customer experience. Some leading restaurants are becoming more like vending machines, in a way – Eatsa, for instance, allows customers to order, pay, and receive food without any human interaction at all. Even Eatsa’s founder claims that his “food delivery system” (as opposed to a traditional restaurant) isn’t for everyone, at least yet – but it drives down costs and naturally appeals to a certain segment of people who would rather not deal with the overly-friendly greetings and small talk that some companies feel is their service differentiator.
For several years now, academics and futurists have been predicting the continued loss of jobs to technology, and rightly so. However, continued innovations such as interactive tables, customizable and app-driven table lighting, tableside purchases and bill pay, and individualized data-driven loyalty promotion programs are just the beginning. In a low-margin, highly competitive business, technology is the wave that will either carry businesses to new heights, or out to sea. Making the right bets, with the right investment, is critical. The restaurant owner who doesn’t understand where she can afford to be on the technology adoption scale will be left behind, and will surely find herself with a bitter taste in her mouth.
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