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Restaurateurs Get Gizmo Conscious


Food outlets like Mirah, Think Tanc, Saravana Bhavan, Faasos, Billion Smiles, Nilgai Foods, Touche, and many others are making good use of new-age  gadgets and gizmos like iPads, buzzers, touch screens and other new devices in restaurants to serve their customers better and increase footfall.

It is not just a new fad in technology, but buzzers, iPads, mobiles, touch screens and Wi-Fi digital systems clearly seem to dominate the F&B segment, thanks to the seamless ease with which these devices streamline services and help run a system more effectively. Hospitality experts choose to shift quickly to high-tech gadgets in order to deliver to their equally savvy consumers through direct interaction. With technology, things cannot go wrong.”

Mirah Hospitality also puts to use different kinds of technology to manage sales, mainly one at the point of sale and another for material management, accounting software, and guest relations.

Touch Screen Menus

Bangalore-based restaurant Touche is the first to introduce built-in, single-touch menus. Jiby Mathews, Director, Touche and the brainchild behind the concept, elaborates, “We have touch tables that cover the whole menu; a good portion of the table has a touch surface. It is an interactive menu and shows the actual plating of the dish with descriptions, which is a usual feature of the basic menu, and the actual guest rating for each dish. So customers can go for a dish with a good guest rating. Also, when a customer chooses a dish, say steak, we have five unique options in the steak menu from which they can pick.”

The orders from the table go directly to the kitchen and orders for beverages go directly to the bar. Despite the technology, there are captains present who promptly confirm the order through a tablet, which is again connected directly to the kitchen and bar. Even though the table interface is user friendly, there are times when a captain has to explain the operating process to first-time customers.

Mathews feels that locations are crucial for such business models. He had the first Touche outlet situated at a very high IT ground in Bengaluru, close to the centre of the city and Whitefield area. According to him, the IT hub attracts 30 to 55-year-olds from corporate companies during lunch hours, and families during dinner.

Quicker Bill Payment

The popular Indian vegetarian restaurant, Saravana Bhavan, serves authentic Indian food to 1,20,000 customers every day. For this restaurant, time plays a key factor with the challenge to serve almost 5,000 customers per hour. In 2008, Saravana Bhavan implemented the wireless billing solution using Order Taking Hand POS (Point of Sale). Says Subramanian Siva, Head, IT, Saravana Bhavan, “The technology has helped us a lot to enhance customer satisfaction. All we wanted is satisfied customers and more people to come back, which we feel we have achieved. Now, we plan to implement this technology in many more centres of Saravana Bhavan and make it one of our key USPs.”

Amit Roy, Partner, Think Tanc, a consultancy firm specialising in the F&B industry, has implemented technology in several areas of Skyye and The Tower Kitchen, which are under the management’s guidance. Roy and his partner Anupam Sehgal had installed buzzing systems at each table of Skyye lounge, which is an open air bar.

Roy explains the innovation, “The buzzers, imported from Canada, are installed at each table. We have three buttons which are linked to a wrist band of the captain and to the manager’s desk.”

Buzzers have also lent efficiency in quick billing, especially during late nights, when customers are in a hurry to leave and find it tedious to call the captain for the cheque.

Think Tanc has also implemented the Wi-Fi pourer, an innovation from the UK. Roy elaborates, “The digital pourer system is fixed onto the bottle and if a customer orders for 30 ml of vodka, the bottle will pour out exactly that amount when tilted. This is again connected to the wifi system, so the manager gets an exact reading of how much alcohol is being consumed. So, the advantage is that we have  strict control as the digital pourer is programmed according to the weights and measures in the world and customers from anywhere in the world know how much they are actually having at Skyye.”

The billing again is fed into a new system, which processes pricing, menus and stocks, so by the end of the night, the manager gets a report on how much is sold, the amount of raw material going out, inventory, and the cost price incurred.

The Tower Kitchen and Skyye’s music system is also a new technology of digital tuning and programming, where the music is controlled from a laptop. “We can play different kinds of music at different zones and control the volume through the laptop. It is a technology from Italy that has a digital sound processing system,” adds Roy.

Placing Orders Online

Abhay Jaiswal, CEO, Nilgai Foods Pvt. Ltd., which runs the well-known Café Pico based in Mumbai, sticks to software, bulk SMS and social media for better efficiency. Entertaining a young, typical urban customer with a busy lifestyle, Abhay explains his approach of targeting customers, “We use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter to award customers and to extend our loyalty promotions. If a customer likes any of our posts or pictures posted on our Facebook page, they will be able to redeem the virtual points. Our system is designed to recognise or identify the customer from their contact number.”

Faasos, a chain of fast food outlets, also uses social media. Soumyadeep Barman, Chief Technology Officer, Faasos, says, “We are the first company to take orders on Twitter. We also have our web ordering system in place, which works on a ‘one click order’ function, so a customer can repeat any of his previous orders.”

Orders can also be confirmed through SMS with the order number. Customers can track orders online through different stages like ‘order placed’, ‘wrapping up’, ‘out for delivery’, and ‘delivered.’

Faasos has installed the world’s first cloud-based EPBX solution with a call centre located at Gurgaon. Once the call centre employees punch orders on their system, the prints come out at the respective Faasos store just as any offline order.

Says Barman, “Implementing this technology helps us deliver fresh desi wraps in just 30 minutes, which increases customer experience and satisfaction. Faasos’ target age group is between 18 and 30, so there are mostly professonals, students and couples.”

Pros and Cons

As technology continues to take over a major part of the service industry, customers can avoid the hassles of yelling over loud music or getting their orders confused. However, firms like Think Tanc, who plan to integrate ipads and tablets into Skyye and The Tower Kitchen, still feel that customer feedback always works well with the old school method. Says Roy, “However much you use technology today, customer service works best with human interaction. Customers like that person to person contact.”

According to Aji Nair, gadgets are mostly used at the customer end for loyalty programmes, PR, or for restaurants that regularly change their menus. The major advantage that he finds is that customer data goes directly into their system, which in turn helps him to follow promotions and business communications. He says, “With the mobile and iPad revolution in the country, people in India are used to technology as it is customer friendly. At least for people in metro cities, they do not require any educating.”