Will virtual reality and tracking apps transform eating out?

Diners are looking for experimental and ethical experiences, which could be delivered with technology, a new report has found.

10 January 2018
image credit: JohnDWilliams/iStock/Thinkstock

You don’t have to be a genius to know that consumers are looking for distinctive, personalised and Instagram-worthy experiences when dining out.

But what about the fact that tomorrow’s diners will also want to discover the date and time an ingredient was picked or caught at the touch of a screen, without speaking to a waiter?

This is what came out of the results of a survey from consulting firm RSM, in a report on today’s consumers.

So how can restaurant operators tap into this technological trend?

Virtual reality

Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are predicted to be big influences on the restaurant industry, according to RSM.

“What we are talking about is headsets and augmented reality and virtual reality, which will enable you to be present during that picking process or on the truck in the factory,” Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, tells Food Spark.

This ties into the desire for consumers to know where their food is coming from, Newman adds, with companies already offering software that enables restaurant operators to track the supply chain from start to finish.

“I think the next level of what consumer will be wanting is tracking food on provenance, so there are opportunities for businesses to differentiate themselves in a very crowded market. It also plays into the increase in food intolerances and allergies and the challenges that poses for operators, and it can allow them to differentiate themselves in terms of their supply chain and ethical produce.”

Who’s watching?

The tracking technology is particularly relevant for millennials, who have a keen eye on sustainability, says Newman.

RSM’s research shows that 27% of millennials say they would pay a premium of 10% or more for ethical, environmentally responsible or Fairtrade products and services.

But Newman admits this tracking trend is going to be challenging for restaurants.

“It’s another additional cost for restaurants to build into pricing strategy, but for those that want to appeal to the millennial population, the trend is starting to creep out. I can’t see it being mainstream in the next year, but it’s coming down the line,” he says.

The vegan movement is also an influencing factor, he adds.

“I think that’s going to increase animal-welfare awareness, and operators need to think more about it.”

It seems like when it comes to the future of food provenance, Big Brother will most definitely be watching.


The dish on dining out

  • Just 12% of UK consumers plan to spend more on restaurants and bars this year
  • 81% of consumers look at reviews sites like TripAdvisor before eating out and 51% will not visit if there are no reviews
  • Consumers prefer to walk into restaurants to make a reservation (70%), saying visiting a bar or restaurant in-person creates a better experience

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