From the first keynote speaker’s revelation that Tesla has plans to drive into the restaurant space, surprising comments and implications kept FSTEC attendees’ ears and eyes open. Here are seven such moments that had eyebrows rising.
2. Hacking convenience
The mobile ordering app for Microsoft’s many foodservice outlets isn’t keeping the company’s young workers at their desks. They’re walking down to the cafes, looking at the food, then using the app as a line jumper, according to Mark Freeman, senior manager of dining global services.
3. Getting personal
It won’t be long before a restaurant can make a menu recommendation based on someone’s mood, said Astra Insights founder Shawn DuBravac. Health trackers, in-home sensors and the weather report will find that it’s cold and raining, you’re alone when there are usually others in the house, you seem down and “Say Anything” is playing on Netflix. Your favorite restaurant will text you, offering to deliver a pizza with a side of macaroni and cheese, and they’ll throw in some chocolate chip cookies.
4. A cafeteria bests chain tech
Restaurant Business awarded its highest technology award to a nonrestaurant. University of Colorado Boulder’s campus dining services won the Tech Accelerator of the Year Award thanks to its newest dining facility, the Village Center Dining and Community Commons, where the windows automatically tint when the sun is harsh, garbage is “digested” before being channeled into the wastewater stream, and students can pedal an exercise bike that powers the smoothie blender.
6. Checking references
Operators weren’t the only ones hit with surprises. Vendors learned that they’ll have a tougher time snowing operators with tech talk because their potential clients are comparing notes on how the hard and software actually performs. USHG’s Cushing let the secret out, noting that it’s important that restaurants continue to collaborate this way.
7. AI thinks, therefore it is
Google X employs philosophers because of the moral implications of their advancements. PayPal CEO Dan Schulman noted the example of autonomous vehicles. Imagine that you’re in a driverless car, and a bridge starts to open ahead of you. The car has to make the decision to go into the river or swerve—but there are children walking down the street that it might hit. Artificial intelligence needs to be programmed in advance to figure out these philosophical options.
Some of the more senior members of the team smile at the junior staff who are excited to uncover an interesting trend in “eatertainment” or the latest single-ingredient concept. We try not to be condescending when we suggest they do some research by looking at past issues of Restaurant Business or old Technomic top chain reports before calling it the next big thing.