A foodie’s guide to restaurant technology


I opened the menu and there was a gravy stain on the appetizer page from the night before. Even in a world of digital content delivery, it seems there are still some things that have changed very little when it comes to foodies on a feeding frenzy. The truth is most of my fellow technology savvy foodies feel technology almost distracts from the gastronomic experience rather than enhancing it.

You might be thinking about the occasion where the restaurant gave everyone at the table an iPad menu that included pictures of the food items and fancy cocktails, and reviews of the wines by tapping on their names. The eye candy was interesting, but I wanted to go out to eat to escape from technology, not to engage more deeply with it.

Now there are hundreds of other aspects to the culinary world that have been dramatically changed by technology. The whole concept of molecular gastronomy is largely based on doing really weird things to food ingredients using processes like liquid nitrogen and thermal immersion.  In one of the most dramatic examples I’ve experienced, the essence of an olive was deconstructed and, using a process called spherification, was reassembled into a faux olive with the most intense flavors I’ve ever experienced.

On my previous theme, I was also able to eat the dessert menu at this restaurant. Yes, there are printers where the ink and parchment output are edible.

But this is technology behind the scenes in the kitchen, or gastro-lab, as it may be. My question is more one of foodie-facing technology related to the front-of-the-house experience, or even before that.

For example, it goes without saying that such apps as Yelp, Trip Advisor, OpenTable and Reserv have created seismic changes in the restaurant-going experience for good and for bad. The good being ease of access to tables and reviews on food quality and service. The bad being a whole new world of social influencers with the sole purpose of convincing diners not to go to certain restaurants despite never having been there themselves.

That being said, since most foodies have their own backup networks to filter false or exaggerated claims, most would agree that the good of restaurant-related apps outweighs the bad.

One of the biggest gaps I’ve seen in restaurant technology is related to the noise level. I’ve been obsessed with the development of a crowdsourced app (I’d call it “Decibelly”) that would track the decibel rating at restaurants in real time. Think about how many times you take your parents or grandparents to a restaurant and need to sit in stone silence for lack of the ability to hear each other.  Most of us with older children know that you can’t trust their judgment on what’s noisy. Wouldn’t it be great to have data on the average decibel level before you arrive?

Fast forward to arriving at the eating establishment. Many restaurants have developed relationships with rideshare apps to make the economics of travel to and from the venue more attractive. But those driving to the venue still experience the same parking challenges and the same valet parking model that our parents had with “car hops” back in the 60’s.

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