The just-ended 2014 Consumer Electronics Show seemed to be about one thing – the Internet of Things (IoT), from smart collars that keep tabs on your dog’s health to connected ovens that cook your dinner while you drive home from work.
The tech press spilled barrels of ink writing effusively about the IoT. And why not? Cisco’s CEO predicted that IoT is a $19 trillion (yes, trillion with a t) in the coming years.
Soon, the Internet will be a seamlessly embedded, naturalized part of almost all parts of our lives, as envisioned in the new Spike Jonze movie, Her. As Kyle Vanhemert wrote at Wired.com this week, the film envisions a “slight future” where “technology is more people-centric” but much less obtrusive than today.
IoT technology is not something you do, that requires you to focus on and manipulate. It’s something that, naturally and independently, makes things around you operate more efficiently.
Today’s Restaurant Technology is a Good Example
Indeed, in some ways the future is already here. Take restaurant technology, for example.
Today, restaurant owners and managers employ several types of smart, embedded technology that both enriches their guests’ experience and makes their businesses more efficient.
During their busiest times, full-service restaurants can manage their wait lists through apps that display how many parties of each size are waiting. With the touch of the appropriate party size, the list can be sorted to quickly and easily find the perfect fit for every open table. Guests are seated faster, more tables get turned and revenue goes up.
Guests stay connected through a paging device or via SMS texting to their phone, so they never feel out of touch. Estimated wait times are accurately quoted, to the minute. They can get a drink in the bar without worrying that they won’t hear their name called by a host or hostess, and noise and congestion are both alleviated.
Embedded Technology Improves Fast-Casual Eateries
In the fast-casual setting, the benefits of embedded technology extend to kitchen efficiency and speedy delivery of customers’ orders via advanced table location technology.
When a customer places his order, a timer starts and the cashier gives him an RFID-enabled tracking device that he places on his table. The device reads the table number and sends it to a touch-screen computer in the food-prep area.
Two types of efficiency result from this technology. One, the kitchen can keep tabs on the time since an order was placed. After so many minutes, the order changes colors to alert staff if delivery goals are at risk. When an order is ready, the food runner doesn’t have to waste time running around the dining room because the system tells him the customer’s precise location. The runner collects the tracking device and stops the timer.
On the back end, the table location technology helps managers keep tabs on service quality because data on all the orders goes to a database that renders easy-to-read reports to point out where inefficiencies lie.
To Vanhemert’s point in the Wired piece, everything about today’s evolving restaurant technology is people-centric.
That is, rather than gee-whiz gadgetry for technology’s sake, it works beneath the surface of our daily operations to improve and inform human experience – less chaos, fewer delays, greater efficiency. The technology simply blends into the scenery, and only the efficiencies are apparent.
Find Out More About the Future of the Restaurant Industry
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Michelle Strong is chief marketing officer at LRS and an advocate for meaningful customer engagement.