Tech restaurants: tastemakers or just tasteless?
Since before the advent of Deliveroo, Just Eat and takeaway menus on the fridge, restaurants have been trying to strike the perfect balance between food and atmosphere.
For decades, diners were mostly just hungry for good food and good service.
Fast forward to 2017 though and there’s an increasing appetite for more unique ‘experience’ restaurants.
There’s also a danger that these experiences could come at the expense of those pillars of good eating.
Like with many other industries, technology is at the vanguard of the changes.
At the most basic level, the majority of restaurants are now adopting tech for a smoother customer experience.
This is seen in the scannable cards that track customer’s orders at Vapiano, in the wine lists on tablets at Manchester favourite Australasia and in the completely unnecessary levels of rage I experience if I can’t book a restaurant online.
Last year I wrote an article on tech in restaurants for BusinessCloud and I spoke to inamo, a London-based restaurant going particularly hard on tech. Ever since then I had been curious about whether it was just a fun gimmick or if the tech really adds to the eating experience.
My boyfriend and I were in London last weekend so I booked a table for lunch and we went to take a look.
The basic concept is that overhead projectors beam on to each table to interact with little clickers, letting you doodle, play games, change your tablecloth and order your food.
It’s a great date restaurant as it’s full of fun icebreakers. We definitely stayed longer than we otherwise might have, ordering a couple of small dishes at a time and playing on games in between.
Being able to order, ask for the bill and call over the waitress via the table was a revelation too – forget waiting around or awkwardly trying to catch the waiter’s eye, your order goes straight to the kitchen where you can watch the chefs cooking via the table’s ‘chefcam’ option.
As my boyfriend pointed out, it would also be great for pulling up spreadsheets and documents during business lunches to show the group.
Luckily the food was great too, but the worry is that it could be overcomplicating the experience unnecessarily – the clickers got a bit confused sometimes, for example.
Ultimately, it’s always got to be about food and service, and no amount of technology will change that.
Used well though, tech can definitely make a dining experience about more than just eating.
High levels of gadgetry certainly won’t be to the taste of every restaurant but if this weekend was anything to go by, it’s likely that more of them will want to take a bigger bite out of tech soon.