Written by: Ricardo Tellez
The hospitality and, more specifically, the food and beverage (F&B) industry are two that live by the motto: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Unlike almost every other industry, the F&B industry prefers to stick to tradition; despite the incredible leaps in technology made in the past decades, many restaurants have stuck to using pen and paper. However, in recent years there have been glimpses of a shift in this mentality. Instead of uniformity and conformity, people have begun to seek new and unique experiences. Additionally, with the rise of social media platforms, celebrity chefs have boomed, allowing them to unleash their creativity and curate dishes few could ever dream of. Unfortunately, the restaurant venues themselves have seldom changed, as most venues consist of the same formula: four walls, tables and chairs.
Astonishingly, a single computer used to occupy an entire room, but now it fits in the palm of our hand. During that time, the evolution of restaurant venues has remained stagnant. Fortunately, there are a few companies that have been experimenting with augmented reality (AR) and 3D modeling that aim to revolutionize the traditional dining experience. These technologies can transcend the gap between the things we see on a screen and what we see in real life.
Whenever a restaurant implements AR, they allow customers to experience a new dimension through their phone. The restaurant group Vino Levantino partnered with the technology company Kabaq in an effort to modernize the traditional static menu – allowing customers an unprecedented view of their dishes. Utilizing their smartphones, customers can load the restaurant menu and see a list of dishes offered by the venue. Unlike traditional menus, customers can select any dish, and a 3D representation of it will appear on their table, which they can see on their phone screen. This allows the guest to visualize the dish from multiple angles before they place an order, with the ability to see its texture, presentation, and how each ingredient is used in the dish. Not only is this technological application beneficial for the customer who gets to experience the restaurant menu in a unique way, but it also brings benefits to the owner. A study conducted by Kabaq found that since the implementation of AR in the menu, dessert sales increased by 25 percent. This proves that not only can technological innovations elevate a traditional dining experience – they can also reward its adopters.
Though this partnership between Kabaq and Vino Levantino showcased the power of AR for restaurant menus, its application does not need to be limited to that sole aspect of the restaurant industry. In fact, the company Le Petite Chef has created an entire dining experience around the use of AR and 3D modeling. Le Petite Chef is a two-hour dining experience in which screen projectors display a virtual film on the tables. Upon arrival, customers select dishes from a set menu of at least four courses. Shortly thereafter, the restaurant’s lights will dim, and the show will begin. The customers will witness a cartoon chef walking around their table and interacting with virtual elements that he will use to prepare the customer’s selected dish. Once the cartoon chef has finished the dish, the restaurant’s lights will brighten, and the real dish will be brought to the table. Le Petite Chef has become a worldwide sensation, and this experience can be found in over 30 countries, in luxury cruises and hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles. This is a one-of-a-kind experience that customers are clamoring to witness, as many locations are fully booked months in advance. Furthermore, it can potentially bring enticing profits to its owners as the Ritz Carlton location charges $145 USD per person.
Today’s customers are tired of the traditional restaurant experience; they want something new and fresh. Fortunately, social media platforms allow restaurants all around the world to receive worldwide exposure. However, the restaurants that can harness innovative technology and implement it in their venues to create unique experiences will be the ones that gain the most notoriety and, potentially, profits. Thus, it is imperative that restaurant owners and managers seek ways to use these technologies to gain market share and avoid the risk of becoming obsolete.
This blog post received Second Place in the Fall 2022 HFTP/MS Global Hospitality Business Graduate Student Blog Competition presented by the HFTP Foundation. Participants are students participating in the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business, a partnership between the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and EHL. The blog posts that received the top scores will be published on HFTP Connect through March 2023. Learn more at HFTP News.
Ricardo Tellez is is a student in the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business with a passion for the food and beverage (F&B) industry. He enjoys learning about how restaurants are evolving to entice modern-day consumers and researching strategies for restaurant owners to increase profitability with new technology solutions. When possible, he travels throughout the world to visit and experience renowned chefs and famous culinary venues.
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