See what these smart trends are doing in restaurants’ dining rooms.See what these smart trends are doing in restaurants’ dining rooms.

Famed restaurants across the globe have always been challenged to outstrip the competition in quality, freshness, and taste. Eventually, marketing efforts enveloped an entire dining experience rather than just the food itself.

From real-time mobile orders to crafting and adapting to robotic support, restaurants are taking things to the next level.

Expanding on Takeout
Restaurants across the globe accommodate customers hoping to dine out without actually having to go out. Numerous outlets introduced the option of ordering online for delivery. This has certainly saved us a number of hours in the kitchen and on the road.

Those who have jumped on the takeout bandwagon are certainly profiting from their efforts. According to a report released earlier this year by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household now allots more than $3,000 annually to dining establishments: a per-family uptick of well over $200 from just a couple years ago.

This surge is being largely attributed to an expanded margin of variety on the takeout front.This new age calls for dining establishments to hone in on making their food and dining experiences stand out.

Consolidating Delivery Tech
There are far more ordering options from our favorite restaurants now, and many companies have taken their delivery orders to yet another level.

Yelp got in at the early stages, using technology to drive business to local establishments. The multinational pacesetter started by giving viewers insight into the best local eating places as well as other types of service providers. Yelp got the message and established Eat24, another revolution in food delivery.

Yelp isn’t the only one bringing multiple restaurants together on a single site. In the past, BOSS Magazine has covered how DoorDash, Postmates, and UberEATS bring local eateries to our fingertips with user-friendly apps. Though they are a welcome convenience, these companies are only the beginning of the convergence of applied science and foodie desires.

Today, collaborations like that of four-year-old DoorDash and Mendocino Farms makes perfect sense. Mendocino Farms has experienced a such an impressive boost in sales that sometimes the restaurant has had to turn off the DoorDash app just to keep up with their deliveries.

How is the app changing the face of Mendocino Farms? Co-Founder Ellen Chen has knocked down walls for an exclusive DoorDash pickup window and negotiated with landlords for more 10-minute parking spots for delivery drivers.

The DoorDash app has partnerships with countless local eateries as well as national chains including Jack in the Box, Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, Carl’s Jr., and Taco Bell and now delivers to 350 cities across the U.S. and Canada.

Partnerships are part of GrubHub’s strategy with El Pollo Loco and Rubio’s. Also, UberEats announced a partnership with McDonald’s to offer home delivery launch from over 1,000 restaurants earlier in May.

“Through the ease of the UberEATS app, our customers can enjoy their [favorite] McDonald’s foods delivered right to them enjoying greater choice, control, and personalization than ever before,” explained McDonald’s President and CEO Steve Easterbrook.

Similarly, meal kit market giants are reaching new heights: Blue Apron—which is often considered a tech company—is reportedly the next major consumer IPO. In terms of users, Blue Apron had 4.3 million orders in the first quarter 2017, up from 3.7 million orders in the fourth quarter of 2016—a number steadily growing. The company not only facilitated the tech to build out the sourcing network, but also the technology to guarantee a smooth logistics journey.

Chomping at the Bot
A number of establishments have dug a bit deeper than opening their ordering portals up for the online public to enjoy. Sandwich giant Subway implemented a Facebook Messenger bot to allow customers to order custom sandwiches and salads from their phones.

Users Swing by to pick up their orders during their lunch breaks or on their way home from work. This latest courtesy is available at more than 26,500 locales across the nation.

Carman Wenkoff, the international chain’s Global CIO and Chief Digital Officer, affirmed, “We’re proud to offer our guests an innovative new way to order and pay outside the restaurants. This is a new initiative in the ongoing quest to enhance the guest experience.”

Numerous other restaurants, such as Wingstop, Taco Bell, and TGI Fridays, are following suit with the launch of their own bots. Burger King has also caught up in the developmental stages of this new movement.

Bots have the ability to receive and distribute customer feedback, respond to consumers’ questions, and provide a range of other courtesies.

Recent Facebook updates to its “M virtual assistant” will help users order food through delivery.com and the launch of Messenger Codes (basically QR codes that can be scanned via Messenger).

As of April 2017, the M virtual assistant can recognize when you are talking to your friends about getting dinner and suggest placing an order with delivery.com, all with group ordering and payment built in.

It’s an option with the potential of smoothing out some of the current kinks in the online ordering world while streamlining certain aspects of customer service.Tech Takes the Helm (in the Kitchen and on the Sidewalks)Tech Takes the Helm (in the Kitchen and on the Sidewalks)
We’ve previously introduced the concept of the world’s first robotic kitchen, including an all-star chef robot, Moley Robotics’ Chef Cui. Now, a growing number of eateries continue to incorporate robots into their daily operations. Sally the Salad Robot is a prime example. She’s a product of Chowbotics, a rising robotics startup and can dish out a broad range of salads at about a minute apiece.

Sure, a sous-chef is great. But in the era of food delivery on-demand, why not employ robots to deliver to your door? Starship Technologies’ robots not only pick up your meal from restaurants, but can turn around and seamlessly deliver them—albeit with human handlers for the time being.

“We envision sort of a 99 percent autonomous model wherein we can retain a sense of human control and oversight,” explained Starship’s Head of Operations Justin Hoffman. The robots boast an alarm that goes off if anyone attempts to pick them up or steal their food, so only the hungry customer can unlock the bot via an app.

“I think robots are designed really well for the short distance or small orders that typical human dashers might not want to take on,” noted DoorDash Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Stanley Tang. “This really allows for us to free up our human dashers to take on more complex longer-distance deliveries.”

As a larger enterprise delivering food, groceries, and alcohol from restaurants and retail locations, Postmates is also looking into Starship Technology’s delivery robots, too.

Both companies will measure data around how merchants and customers feel regarding interactions with robots, comparing current numbers to delivery times robots can aim to achieve.

As Postmates Senior Vice President Holger Luedorf put it,“We don’t have a grand vision that robots would be the ultimate delivery mechanism or something. It’s far too early to say. We do want to gather a lot of data.”

So while robots can help keep humans fed, realistically the goal is to have them complement the human workforce.


Surreal Dining Adventures
As advancements bring an array of new opportunities to the table for the foodservice industry, a handful of establishments are taking matters in a different direction. With help from Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard, some are banking on the rise of virtual reality to serve their patrons a more out-of-this-world experience.

Skullmapping, a Belgium-based animation company, helps restaurants entertain diners while they’re awaiting dinner. In the company’s VR skit, a tiny chef wanders onto the table and whips up a cute little dish. SubliMotion, from the Mediterranean Isle of Ibiza, generates a wonder world for people to enjoy while feasting as well.

At London’s One Aldwych Hotel, The Lobby Bar has created a virtual reality experience around its new drink known as The Origin. When visitors order this particular drink, they receive a VR headset designed to take them on a journey across the Scottish Highlands, the origin of the drink itself. As the experience reaches its conclusion, the cocktail magically appears with the help of human hands, of course.

Patrón is providing its own VR adventure as well. This world-famous tequila giant now offers devotees a virtual tour of its agave fields and distillery. The company’s circuit is also available on a traditional tablet, smartphone, and desktop platforms, but the expedition isn’t quite as immersive as the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard versions.

Tech Takes on Food Waste
In the U.S. and Thailand, restaurants are now able to use MintScraps to monitor their food waste in real-time. Not only can this save businesses money, but identify wasteful habits and prevent overfilled landfills all the while.

Another mindful app, Too Good to Go, finds homes for unsold foods from vendors and restaurants before they shut down for the day. It’s been downloaded 1.2 million times and enables app users to browse “leftovers” and pay through the app. Too Good to Go reportedly prevented 10,000 meals from getting thrown away as of November 2016.

Olio, which launched in 2015, seeks to connect communities, local businesses, and food stores by providing more opportunities to waste less. Thanks to a team of 11,000 volunteers, users can upload photos with descriptions of food they no longer need and simply select a time and pickup location for others to collect it.

This doubles as a social service too, as Co-Founder Tessa Cook explains, “We have people who email us to say thank you because their families would have not have eaten that night had it not been for Olio.”

“Our ambitious goal is that hundreds of millions of people of all over the world are using Olio to share our most precious resources, rather than chuck them in the bin,” explained Cook.

Bottom Line
Between bots and in-app orders, the world of delivery is responding to the needs of an ever-changing, and continually growing customer base. With this extended reach, restaurants and their management must face making major changes—beyond just knocking down walls. Sure robots can assist with manning the online counters, prep work in the kitchen, and even making deliveries.

This new age calls for dining establishments to hone in on making their food and dining experiences stand out. In an industry where you expect the innovations to be made on your plate, the dining experience at large has evolved just as much, if not more.