Creative New Technologies in Foodservice: Two Examples
Last week, I saw an omniscient waterfall, a self-driving car, and a bar-tending arcade cabinet. These were some of the technological wonders shared at Four A’s Create Tech conference. Such marvels came largely from in-house R&D labs or sizable marketing budgets – luxuries not often available to restaurateurs. Nevertheless, creative technology is gradually finding its way into the foodservice industry, and the conference speakers offered some broadly applicable wisdom. Take these two examples:
According to Wendy Clark (SVP, Integrated Marketing Communications & Capabilities at Coca-Cola), the best promotional content will engage its initial audience, then continue to spread organically. NYC’s Baked by Melissa – a purveyor of cupcakes – offers a prime example with their smartphone app. In addition to standard fare like product information and a store locator, the app offers an augmented reality feature called the ‘Magic Cam.’ This camera breaths digital life into static, printed marketing material by overlaying an interactive box of (you guessed it!) virtual cupcakes. The app tracks the position of the printed material in real time, so the virtual cupcakes move in tandem with their physical base. You can also read trivia about each cupcake, swap them for different flavors, or start a virtual firework show. Trifling? Perhaps, but engaging for a moment.
So the customer plays with the app for five minutes. Then what? They show other people. Because the technology is novel and exciting, it offers value to customers who share your content. They get to be the cool kid with shiny new tech, while you extend the longevity and impact of your promotional material. I showed the app to at least ten people, which means ten effortless impressions for Ms. Melissa – earned media couldn’t be easier. Best of all, companies like Vuforia offer the SDK for augmented reality apps free of charge.
Panelists at Create Tech also addressed the amount of time that new technology remains exciting. Summarily: not very long. But if the technology is central to a business model and offers customers a unique and exciting experience, it’ll probably stick around. Head down 6th St. in Austin, TX and you’ll come across an innovative bar called the Brew Exchange, where the price of each beer is based on its relative popularity. Better-selling brews increase in price, while the sub-par suds sell for proportionally less – it’s supply and demand; Econ 101. Prices are updated continuously, which makes for a highly dynamic (beer) market.
This system is a win for both customers and managers. Customers can affordably explore new products, expand their palates, and directly impact the atmosphere (watch how prices change after buying your friends a round!). This mechanic also helps managers unload their slower selling products, while maximizing profits on the more popular beer. Most importantly, the Brew Exchange differentiates from its competitors in a way that would be difficult to imitate.
Though it may be a while until we’re eating and ordering off of table-sized iPads, technology will continue to permeate the foodservice industry. Restaurateurs who embrace the technology in creative ways will have both a practical and stylistic advantage over the competition.
Have an example of creative new technologies in the foodservice industry? Or just a wacky idea? Share it below!