Interactive dining at trailblazing London restaurant
With an overhead projection system and interactive touch panel table, visitors to inamo could be forgiven for thinking they’ve walked into a spaceship rather than an exclusive restaurant.
Restaurant technology has come a long way in a short space of time – and inamo has been at the front of the tech queue.
Co-founders Noel Hunwick and Daniel Potter met while at Oxford University and were reportedly so fed up at the tardy service it took to order beer that they came up with the idea for the E-Table.
The patented technology was then brought to diners through their pan-Asian fusion restaurant inamo, which they opened in London’s Soho in August 2008.
They have opened a second restaurant in London and will launch a third venue in Camden this November.
“I think the hospitality industry has been relatively slow to adopt new tech,” says Hunwick.
“For many years it was tricky as no one else was really doing what we’re doing, so we had to look outside our industry.”
The team turned to the tech sector, exhibiting at consumer tech show CES in Las Vegas for inspiration.A decade later the team has split the two sides of the business in order to better focus on both.READ MORE: Hotel sector must give customers "experiences"inamo now offers the tech we have come to expect at restaurants – online booking, contactless payments, online reviews – as well as a more high-tech, interactive dining experience that led it to be described as “possibly the best first-date spot in London” by one leading dating site. The tech varies slightly between the different locations, but each incorporates variations of an overhead projection system, touch panels and a track pad built into the table.With these you can do everything from playing Battleships to changing the colour of the table cloth and placing your order.This might sound tech-heavy, but the team wanted to make sure the customer experience wasn’t too ‘computery’ or intrusive. “We see it as something which adds to the experience rather than being dehumanising,” explains Hunwick.“It’s a talking point as well as being something that adds significant functional value, and also helps the waiter.“It’s still vital to have an engaged friendly team on the floor, but also important for them to adapt to a different type of service than they may have delivered in other restaurants.“From the kitchen’s point of view, not a great deal changes.” As tech continues to innovate, so will the team’s plans for the future.“We’re developing a music application to tell you what’s playing and what’s on next which might develop into a jukebox,” says Hunwick.“We also recently introduced the opportunity to choose different backgrounds – for example blackboard or brick wall – so you can graffiti on the table.“We’re also looking at monthly magic nights and ways of integrating some elements of magic into (the) table, which I’ll keep a bit schtum about, but will be fun.“We don’t see ourselves as looking to push out the other types of restaurant – I like going to fine dining restaurants or street food places too.“It’s just a gradual shift in adoption of tech in different forms.“It’s quite funny now – lots of people said ‘tech in a social space? We’re not sure about that!’ Now that’s radically changed.”