Restaurant Technology Trends Worth Watching

It’s time to embrace restaurant technology which will contribute to your bottom line

With a new year around the corner, it’s time to truly embrace technology that will contribute to your bottom line in unexpected ways. Here are some of high-tech trends bound to make an impression in 2015. 

Save Some Trees

Electronic wine and beer lists have been quietly brewing for a few years but they’re expected to blow up in 2015. Pick a third-party app you like and stick with it, recommends Maurice DiMarino, wine and beverage manager for the Cohn Restaurant Group based in San Diego, California. 

DiMarino uses Tastevin, which presents his wine list via iPad. iPads (which serve as wine menus for the customers) connect to the restaurant’s POS system. “As wines are ordered, they are depleted from the iPad wine list,” DiMarino says. “When the beverage manager orders wines, he or she inputs them into the iPad inventory. The manager also adds pictures, technical data and tasting notes.”

The app already has a volume of wines built in, minimizing the time staff devotes to inputting them. “Vintages can be updated easily and there is no need to reprint the wine list so frequently,” DiMarino says, adding that having inventory at his fingertips alone is worth the investment, which is about $15 monthly per iPad.

Redefining the Washroom 

A bathroom can speak volumes about a restaurant so imagine a toilet that doesn’t just flush, but also moves, cleans, heats, washes and sanitizes.

After seeing modern bidets in Tokyo restaurants, Amelia Sawyer, owner of Trentina in Cleveland, installed the G500 Toto Washlet Integrated Toilet.

The lid opens and closes automatically, the toilet flushes on its own, and a remote control allows guests access to numerous features, including a bidet with adjustable water temperature, a heated seat, an air deodorizer and purifier, and a warm air dryer. 

No Palming Necessary 

In the old days, greasing the host could land that perfect table. Today, the process has gone online, creating another profit center for restaurants. 

Table8, a website company based in San Francisco, promises “last-minute reservations at the most popular restaurants” that are otherwise full. 

Restaurateur Pat Kuleto of Boulevard in San Francisco was one of the site’s early participants. “We saw this as an opportunity to extend our brand of hospitality to those diners who couldn’t plan ahead,” he says. “Table8 mostly brings us last-minute business diners and locals who want to be spontaneous about their fine dining.”

Restaurants choose the number of tables to set aside and split proceeds from reservations with Table8. While the service is currently limited to San Francisco, it is slated to launch in 15 to 20 cities by the end of 2015. 

Critics at Your Fingertips 

Taste Savant is leveling the playing field among professional dining critics and citizen commentators like those on Yelp.

Taste Savant aggregates reviews from dining critics and food writers while also considering major awards and ratings from diners. The result is an overall one-to-10 score, represented by a graphic of a thumb—either up, sideways or down—to designate “love,” “like” or “skip.” The site, which is free to restaurants and users, links to OpenTable and partners with celebrity chefs, such as Grant Achatz, David Chang and Michael White.

The Digital Delivery Race

Services like GrubHub Seamless charge sizable commissions to restaurants that use their online ordering system. Expect more competition like ChowNow, which charges a flat $99 monthly fee. 

ChowNow doesn’t work through a third-party app; instead, it integrates ordering into a restaurant’s website or Facebook page. 

Operators with multiple restaurants, like Mario Batali and Thomas Keller, have already started using ChowNow. The service also builds custom smartphone apps for restaurants, allowing diners to download and place their orders.

“ChowNow reduces the margin for error because customers are able to input exactly what they want and how they want it, which keeps things from getting lost in translation,” says Chef Govind Armstrong of Willie Jane in Venice, California. 

“They are also able to input the time they want to pick up their food, and if the kitchen is slammed, we can communicate that it may take an extra five minutes,” he says. 

Anthony Todd is a Chicago-based freelance writer.