Eating out can be one of life’s great pleasures, but the restaurant experience can be anything between a total hit or a disappointing miss.
The food, the service and details like the music can vary hugely between restaurants, or even between visits to the same restaurant. Then there are the things we don’t see, like how much food is thrown away or how ingredients are ordered.
While the restaurant industry has been relatively slow to embrace innovation and technology, there are hundreds of startups working to change this, one slice at a time. It won’t be long before the way we dine is irrevocably changed if these 7 startups get their way.
Restaurant Startups for Foodies
NoWait, Pittsburgh, founded 2010
Ever been frustrated from waiting in line to get into a restaurant that doesn’t take bookings? NoWait lets you get in line virtually, saving you time and angst. They recently added mobile payments so getting the bill at the end of your meal is an efficient process too.
Over 4,000 restaurants use their platform, and they’ve seated 250 million diners to date. The startup has raised over US$22 million to date.
Hopefully they expand internationally soon, because I for one have given up on trying my luck at trendy no-bookings restaurants while my stomach impatiently grumbles.
E la Carte, Palo Alto, Founded 2008
Could it be that one day we won’t be tended to by waiters who take orders or waitresses who deliver bills at the end of a meal? While they don’t have robot-servers covered yet, MIT-alum founded E la Carte provides tabletop tablet ordering, entertainment and payments at 1,800 restaurants across the US.
For any single diners who’ve forgotten their iPads or Kindles can rejoice – they’ve recently unveiled Presto Trivia, a multiplayer game where diners can play other guests at their respective tables.
E la Carte’s aim is to make the dining experience convenient, social and entertaining for guests. They’ve raised over US$52 million, and are backed by some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley, including Y Combinator.
Servy, New York, Founded 2014
While review sites like Yelp have changed the way restaurants interact with their customers en masse, gaming the system and skewed responses have made some users cynical.
Servy is a crowdsourced mystery diner platform which enables restaurants to improve guest satisfaction and sales. Connecting detailed mystery diner feedback with bills means that businesses can get direct and structured feedback that is specific and useful, while customers get a discount. It’s win-win.
RockBot, Oakland, Founded 2010
Ever been irked while eating out by a restaurant’s choice of music? Thanks to RockBot, that could become a relic of the past.
RockBot can detect when you walk into a bar or restaurant, and add your choices to a virtual jukebox. That doesn’t mean everyone has to be exposed to your preferences (especially if you have particularly eclectic tastes), but if there are songs on your playlist that overlap with the restaurant’s choices (in a catalog of 13 million songs), it will automatically make a selection personalised to you.
You can also upvote songs or use the app to make a request. Backers include Universal Music and Google Ventures.
Restaurant Startups Working Behind the Scenes
Too Good To Go, UK, founded 2015
This localised social enterprise was started in Denmark by a group of friends dedicated to reducing food waste.
Through the Too Good To Go website or app you can order food that would otherwise be thrown away by local restaurants, cafes and bakeries, then pick your order up before closing.
Prices start at £2 and max out at £3.80. They’ve launched in Brighton and Leeds, already have some high-end restaurants on their platform and are eyeing London for their next expansion.
BistroBot, San Francisco, Founded 2015
If 2016 Y-Combinator alum BistroBot has anything to say about it, we won’t have to deal with surly (and oft sloppy) sandwich makers during the lunch hour rush for much longer.
Your friendly sandwich-making BistroBot is currently in demo stage in a Californian corner store. Akin to an on-demand vending machine, you place your order on a touchscreen and BistroBot will start making your sandwich before your eyes.
While the menu, including peanut butter and jelly, and nutella, isn’t exactly haute cuisine, it’s an exciting starting point. We imagine a day when BistroBot and its comrades are doing most of the prepping in commercial kitchens all over the world, with major benefits to food hygiene and reduced costs.
BevSpot, Boston, founded 2014
Good food and good wine are a perfect match, and while there are startups working on streamlining food ordering for chefs, those like BevSpot focus on beverages for sommeliers and bar managers.
The MIT and Harvard alum-founded BevSpot allows cocktail recipes to be recorded, consumption data to be collected and inventory to be managed so your local watering hole never runs out of your favourite tipple.
They just raised US$11.5 million, part of which will go to expanding globally.
Have you noticed a change in the dining out experience lately due to innovation? Did you like what you saw? We’d love to hear about it on Twitter or Facebook!
To read more stories of futuristic restaurants, powered by innovative thinking and technology, pick up a copy of the latest Future of Food Magazine, available now for iPad. Click here or search the App Store for “Future of Food”.