High Tech or High Touch?
Different technologies around the world are shaking up the dining scene with AI & big data. But some restaurateurs still emphasise the importance of human connection.
Contactless platforms that deliver more than a menu could be a way to serve up what consumers need in a time where many venues are short staffed. Digital menu platforms such as Meandu can suggest beverage pairings, provide ingredient traceability and allow guests to order and split payments direct via a combined table locator & app. Making service less transactional, it is increasing the tailoring of customer experience even more.
Whilst technology shapes customers experiences, the human touch defines emotions. Restaurateurs around the globe are continuing to define what the essence of ‘hospitality’ means to them. Intertwining contactless with single use print menus for specials, signature cocktails or degustation, creates a seamless mix of old and new world. For some restaurateurs, the interaction and conversation during ordering is an important part of the dining experience. Hospitality will always be about experiences and connecting to people. Even in the face of new technology.
A Digital Takeover
China and emerging countries are leading the charge with digital currency. But what does this mean for the future of traditional payment platforms?
Digital wallets and currencies aren’t anything new but with the advance of digital everything, now Central Banks in Sweden, Barbados, Cambodia and China are testing digital currencies. China’s e-yuan rolled out in four cities last September creating a digital payment ecosystem designed to operate independently to Alipay & WeChat pay, but can also operate within it.
The advantages for both business and consumers are clear; convenience, lower transaction costs and the ability to transact without a mobile network. How is this going to be integrated into payment platforms in restaurants? There are multiple options available already such as Super Apps, mobile wallets, bank apps etc. so it will be seamless. Fintech company Clik Asia a POS payment aggregator for Cambodia’s Digital Currency. It also provides consumer data to its merchant partners, and is developing a platform focused on bolstering merchant profits through consumer loyalty.
These new platforms will be able to store transaction data, which could mean payments may be fully traceable in addition to transfer cross-border payments. Talk now is of Central Banks partnering with Mobile Phone operators to provide a wallet in order to offer digital currency direct to consumers. One thing for sure, it’s going to provide a lot more data about customers.
Strategies that harness the full power of digital technology are where businesses can leap ahead. Hospitality businesses are very much aware convenience is at the forefront of customers perceived needs, which is also why platforms that can handle the complexity of data such as Mega apps continue to rise.
But how can this be utilised? As the transition to apps where check-ins, ordering and payment increases, restaurants, hotels and venues will be able to read digital data from mobile phones (which already exists) to create a completely unique and individual experience where your name is known before you enter the hotel or restaurant and are greeted by the AI host.
As Mega Apps require handing over more data in order for unrelated systems to be housed into a single and convenient space, users’ data is becoming more readily available. Especially as many people value convenience over privacy. Many apps built in China and Asia try to learn as much as they can about users, directing them to content they might like with more of a focus on exploration.
But probably more futuristic is how scientists have come up with a creative solution to store data. Harvard University recently managed to develop a way to encode music from Super Mario games into synthetic strands of DNA and play it back on a computer. The BBC explains it quite easily in a short video with scientists saying it will be available in 10 – 15 years.
Perhaps in the future, the use of phones and facial recognition may fall to the wayside as our digital data is stored in our own DNA strands.
Is Health the New Wealth?
Building on a movement that was already in place, people’s awareness of what they consume is becoming more focused. Mindful eating is sitting side by side with mindful drinking, incorporating health, quality and transparency of where produce comes from.
Vegetable focused dishes and foods are continuing to become more desirable as a healthy and environmentally aware way of eating which may be considered a luxury item through their lack of animal contact in the future.
A healthy immune system is predicted to be a main priority, through eating well, keeping fit and exercising. With this in mind, menu’s may need to incorporate ‘medicinal’ profiles alongside flavour profiles in a similar way to dietary requirements in the future.
Going beyond ‘farm to table’ food transparency and tracking may emerge as paramount. Creating a clear chain of how it is grown and where it’s from that is easily portrayed and understood by guests. There may be a new range of symbols or marks that depict ‘safe’ of ‘plant based contact’ food items and/or dishes.
Health may become the new wealth, becoming even more of a prominent feature in food, beverage and restaurants.
New Forces of Nature
Previously overlooked and underutilised parts of familiar ingredients and plants, such as beetroot greens, sweet potato leaves and avocado blossom are getting more attention. Coffee grind and old bread ground to use in fresh loaves for added flavour.
And the use of less familiar plants, such as sea beans, seaweed and a wealth of foraged ingredients are also appearing in more restaurants. Ancient grains such as fonio and spelt are being used in everything from artisanal bakeries and savoury entrees as people become more interested.
At Teranga, a West African eatery in NYC, chef/owner Pierre Thiam supports underutilized crops and features ingredients such as baobab, moringo and fonio.
Restaurateurs who present their guests with previously unknown, forgotten and novel taste nuances in their dishes are also paving the way for a change in the food trade embracing forgotten flavours, new stories and potentially revenue saving ingredients.
Consumers are turning to waste-free and planet-positive solutions going beyond simply maximizing the use of an ingredient, but embracing a complete change in mindset.
Leading the charge are chefs creating innovative dishes, new products and zero-waste ethical kitchens. Grounded Foods co-founder, Shaun Quade, a chef based in Los Angeles – formerly from Melbourne – created a game changing range of non-cheeses from hemp and fermented cauliflower. Or Josh Niland from Saint Peter, Sydney who not only dry ages whole fish but uses all the components including drying the liver and skin to use as garnishes.
Direct-to-table and farm-to-table concepts are in greater demand to meet the focus on sourcing and quality. Restaurants telling the story of local producers through their menus and staff offers a clear transparency between restaurant and guest. Some restaurants have their own farms, growing their own cattle, pork and produce for themselves and other restaurants such as Palisa Anderson’s Boon Luck Farm or Coombeshead Farm in the UK.
From the rise in online food delivery, to the growth of online farmer’s markets, this trend is picking up steam as more farmers and local suppliers start selling through platforms such as community groups on Facebook and WhatsApp.
Founded by Singapore-based Proof & Co, ecoSPIRITS is an innovative zero-waste spirits packaging solution that offers a substantial reduction in the delivered cost of premium spirits, single use glass, waste and C02 footprint.
It means that provenance and origin of unique spirits can still be celebrated for producers, large scale hospitality operators and bars without the impact on the environment. An added benefit is the savings made in packaging, labour and logistics.
Inspired in part by the sustainable way wine and spirits used to be shipped prior to 1880’s – in casks and in ancient civilizations, Amphoras, the ecoSPIRIT team developed their unique distribution technology.
At the heart of the system is the ecoTOTE, a reusable 4.5L vessel that is filled up at a small footprint facility (ecoPLANT) where different spirits from distilleries are stored in bulk.
EcoTOTES are then sent to bars where businesses can fill their own bottles and send the container back. Compact and stackable for easy storage, including a graduated inventory check window for seamless stock takes with machine washable enclosures and caps, they provide a solution particularly in SE Asia where there is limited glass recycling facilities.
Building on its success in Asia Pacific, in December ecoSPIRITS announced a global licensed operator program, which will bring its closed loop spirits distribution technology to new markets worldwide.
Brew Box of Miracles
Swedish company Wayout has developed a revolutionary ‘plug-and-play’ beverage microfactory. Now, restaurants can customise their own drinks on site. From craft beers, ciders to soda with the help of Wayout’s brewmasters via a smartphone app, all served cold from the module. Simple to operate, it’s engineered to have minimal impact on the environment and can be powered by the sun. The container-sized module also has an advanced water purification system + microbrewery. Ingredients are loaded manually and the rest is fully automated – from water treatment, beverage mixing, brewing and cleaning. Brewing up to 3,000 liters of beer or cider and 70,000 liters of water per month, it saves thousands of bottles from recycling/waste.
Going Against the Grain
The rules of alcohol classification are being re-written. In today’s heavily saturated drinks market, producers are diversifying their offering and pushing the boundaries with innovative and genre-defying spirits. Known as freeform, botanical and hybrid spirits, they are sneaking out of the rules of categorisation in the pursuit of flavour. Think wine-based hard seltzer or agave based vodka.
Inspired by how memories can be captured through flavours, Copenhagen-based Empirical Spirits produces a double fermented clear koji spirit. Marrying barley koji with Belgian saison yeast — bringing together the east and west in its fermentation methods. In San Francisco, Endless West redefines spirits with “the world’s first molecular whiskey,” Glyph. Drawing from chemistry to identify the molecules needed to create specific flavour notes for specific profiles, science is their craft.
Waste products from drinks manufacturing are also being used to create entirely new products. Australian distillery Archie Rose produces a Shiraz-based spirit distilled from salvaged smoke tainted grapes, repurposing those that are no longer suitable to make wine.