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How the Apple Watch will affect restaurants—or not

After 90 minutes, too-many-to-count video montages, a lesson in pronouncing “aluminum” (according to the narrator of the Apple Watch Sport video, it’s “al-loo-MIN-um”) and … model/mom Christy Turlington, Apple released the details of its Apple Watch at a live-streaming presentation Monday afternoon.

The early read from the people who handicap this kind of thing for a living: We heard not much new information on the smartwatch beyond what we learned from a preview last September, but Apple’s more attention-stealing, ultrathin MacBook sure sounds cool.

Even so, tech watchers concede that the Apple Watch will likely dominate the still-fledgling wearables market when it makes its debut April 24, giving the segment a much-needed shot in the arm, er, wrist. But price and an initial dearth of watch-friendly apps could mean little change to the way most consumers make transactions throughout their day. The idea of the masses talking Dick Tracy-style into their sleeves might still be a few years off.

So, can you buy meals with the flick of the wrist?

Yes, Apple Pay—Apple’s version of an e-wallet, which launched in November—will be available on the new Apple Watch. Consumers buying food at one of the restaurants that already accept Apple Pay (such as Starbucks and Panera) will just have to double-tap the side of the watch and hold their wrist near the reader to pay. It’s “super easy,” said Kevin Lynch, Apple’s VP of Technology, who walked viewers through an Apple Watch wearer’s typical day.

OK, OpenTable, but what else?

Last week, Domino’s Pizza announced its new app for Pebble and Android Wear smartwatches, competitors to the Apple Watch. On those devices, users will be able to call up a saved pizza order to summon a fresh pie via their watch and follow its progress to their door using the Domino’s Tracker in the app. So far, Domino’s has made no such announcement for the Apple Watch—at least, not yet. At press time, neither had Panera—an inaugural partner in Apple’s rollout of Apple Pay and a rumored early Apple Watch app provider.

During the demo, Lynch previewed Apple Watch-friendly apps for Uber, W Hotels and Instagram among others, but there were no restaurant companies showcased (unless you count a sample WeChat message suggesting a meet-up at Fig & Olive).

OpenTable announced on its own Twitter feed that it will be one of the apps users can experience when Apple Watch launches on April 24. A quick Twitter troll revealed little more, however. Apple’s own App Store Twitter feed said, “We can’t wait to see the apps that come out for Apple Watch.”

I even rushed to download the iPhone software update, so I could get a peek at the first wave of Apple Watch apps in the special “App Store built just for the Apple Watch,” but was met by a dream-crushing “coming soon” message. I guess we’ll have to see what the next few days and weeks bring.

What else do I need to know?

There was little info for business owners wondering if wearables will change back-of-house operations any time soon. But a few other tidbits are worth filing in the back of your mind if you’re a restaurant owner or operator:

• Apple Pay continues to roll out: While there were no stats showing the number of actual users, Apple did say that it has tripled the number of locations accepting Apple Pay to nearly 700,000 across the U.S.

• Restaurants might need to think about updating their food-porn policies: Apple Watch acts as a remote viewfinder for the iPhone, allowing users to set up a shot with their phone, put themselves in the picture and then snap the photo from their watch, taking food photos to the next level.

• Nudges during long lunches: As a fitness companion, Apple’s watch will “tap” users on the wrist to let them know when they’ve been sitting too long.

• Watch out for cars. If restaurants offer compatible apps, it’s not a big leap to assume consumers could order ahead before arriving at the drive-thru by speaking into the Apple Watch, never taking their hands off the steering wheel. But they may not need a watch to do so. Apple also announced at the event that “every major car brand has committed to delivering CarPlay,” the company’s in-car operating system, adding that more than 40 new models will offer the service by the end of the year. Just last week, Pizza Hut announced its own in-car ordering system, which brings together Visa Checkout, Bluetooth and Accenture. Last year Domino’s unveiled a similar service through Ford Sync.

• The cost of the Apple Watch likely will be a deterrent for many. Prices for the base-model Apple Watch Sport start at $349 for the 32 mm version (read: ladies)—tack on $50 for the 42 mm size—and leap upward from there. The next level Apple Watch Collection will set people back at least $549. And if you want a gold one? Well, you probably have to be Dr. Dre, because they’ll only be available in limited quantities at select retail stores. Oh, and they’ll start at $10,000. (Did I mention my birthday is coming up in April?)

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