The question we are always asked at the National Restaurant Association show is, "What trends are you seeing?" Well, this year it hasn't been so much about new products or flavors as it has been about how companies are using social media to communicate what they offer. If you thought you could ride it out until the technology wave is over, think again.
One of the buzz phrases has been, "Human interaction with technology." Think about it as a conversation with R2D2. Words may not actually be spoken, but the machine understands your needs. That's what is happening in the restaurant world.
It's happening in menu development. Right now, restaurants are considered upscale when they print their menu fresh every day. Next up? They'll simply update the app and you can place your order on your smart phone or notebook before you even arrive.
Want to order from the wine list but you have a few questions? The sommelier can now interact with you through a notebook application. Think of the fun your table can have pouring over the options electronically, asking all the questions you want, and then having a great wine delivered?
Want to know the latest deal, or find out where you can get a discount? There are all kinds of services now that will put you in the loop.
And, if you simply want to order a soda? Coca Cola has been working on its Freestyle machine that offers 125 flavor combinations in one vending machine—and it can even track your ordering history and recognize you as a customer.
Move over ATM's. Our interaction with technology has just moved to food.
We'll be bringing you interviews with some of the trend-setting companies, with examples of the products we've seen, in our video series from the show floor. Check back for more from the NRA.
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