Technology

4 eye-catching tech products at the National Restaurant Association Show

Smart trash bins and computer vision are a couple of out-there innovations that could be making their way to restaurants soon.
Photo by Joe Guszkowski

Roaming the Tech Pavilion of the National Restaurant Association Show can be a somewhat repetitive affair. But technology is innovative by nature, and there are always a few diamonds in the rough that bring something truly unique to the table. 

Here are four examples that caught our eye at this year’s show.

Charging extra for the best table

Want the best seat in the house? You might have to pay for it.

A company called Tablz is allowing restaurants to sell reservations to their most popular tables. It integrates with the big reservations platforms like OpenTable and Resy and gives users the option to pick their table, for a price.

Those prices can range from as low as $5 for a spot at the sushi counter to as high as $150 at a high-end steakhouse. And company founder Frazer Nagy said customers seeking experiences and exclusivity are willing to pay that.

Restaurants keep 70% of the price and Tablz takes the rest. There’s no monthly subscription. 

About 100 restaurants across 20 multiconcept restaurant groups are currently using the technology.

Tablz interface

Tablz' reservation system gives guests a 3D walkthrough of the restaurant. / Photo by Joe Guszkowski

Letting customers create their own sauce ...

We wrote about the Heinz Remix machine last week, but seeing it in action was an experience worth mentioning.

The Remix is like Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machine, but for condiments. Customers can choose from one of four sauce bases, two of four flavor enhancers and three different intensity levels to create as many as 200 sauce combinations.

Heinz Remix

The Remix machine attracted a crowd at the show Monday. / Photo by Nico Heins

The different elements are dispensed individually into a cup, which is then shaken up by the machine to mix them together. As a Kraft-Heinz employee noted, this potentially messy process is accomplished without spilling any of the sauce. 

While the machine seemed to be attracting a lot of attention, don’t expect to see it in the wild anytime soon: The employee said just two have been manufactured, and the company has yet to settle on a price. But the goal is to start piloting it in restaurants later this year or early next.

Heinz Remix sauce

Smoky chipotle mango salsa, courtesy of the Heinz Remix. / Photo by Nico Heins

… and preview their pizza.

PreciTaste’s computer vision system is primarily designed to help operators track product levels so they know when to start prepping more and how much to prep.

But the company’s smart cameras can do a lot more than that, including at least one thing that would be a first for restaurants: allowing delivery customers to see their food before it goes out the door.

Account Executive Alex Reidess said PreciTaste has developed a system for pizza concepts that takes a picture of the finished pie and sends it to the customer for approval. 

Not only does this help with accuracy, but it also creates a record of the pizza to protect the restaurant in case something goes wrong in transit.

PreciTaste

PreciTaste's cameras can measure product levels in real time. / Photo by Nico Heins

Recycling smarter

The most interesting thing at the Coca-Cola booth this year (for a tech editor, at least) was not a drink but a trash can.

The beverage giant has partnered with a company called SmartSortAI on a high-tech recycling system that helps customers determine which bin to toss their waste in. 

A screen above the bins detects what a person is throwing away and then tells them whether it’s recycling, compost or landfill. 

The idea is to boost sustainability in the supply chain by making sure recyclable materials actually get recycled. It also eases a frequent pain point for eco-conscious consumers.

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