8.13.2013 New Resto Tech + Food Content


Meet Butter: a Digital Menu/Ordering System for Restaurants

A new startup called Butter, part of the Y Combinator class of 2013 and founded by Sergey Brin’s younger brother Sam, attempts to digitize the restaurant menu process via (Google, of course) tablet. Butter allows customers to place orders via tablet at their convenience, instead of worrying about flagging a waiter, and also allows customers to pay at their convenience — though that transaction is handled by a person, not the digital interface. On one hand, this sort of ordering removes some personal interaction — the server taking your order — but does work for convenience’s sake.
I’m envisioning this working well at fast-casual places and chains (like Chili’s or Applebees) — places where server-diner interaction isn’t part of the restaurant experience. Such a system could likely streamline restaurant processes, too, leading to faster service and perhaps greater customer satisfaction. And, naturally, there are plans to include analytics, allowing restaurants to understand customer wants and needs plus popular menu items.



The Way We Ate

Awesome project alert: The Way We Ate, from Brooklyn-based author-photographers Noah Fecks and Paul Wagtouicz, “looks back on a century of great cooking” straight from the pages of Gourmet magazine. (Yes, the same Gourmet magazine that, sadly, no longer exists in print form. Interesting.) Every week, the duo selects recipes from back issues of the magazine and prepares them, posting them alongside magazine advertisements and other historical context. The result: a beautifully well-done log of period recipes that show how people ate during certain times. And occasionally, some extra-special advertising, like this Miller High Life gem.



The Problem with Online Restaurant Delivery

The Grubhub/Seamless merger earlier this year was good news for those of us who love ordering online from our couches without having to pick up the phone — but a dark side is appearing as the takeout-ordering behemoth expands its scope. According to a recent NPR report, as restaurants who use these online ordering systems see orders go up, Seamless/Grubhub are claiming a larger portion of the profits (the restaurateur quoted in the piece now pays 14 percent, versus his previous 10 percent.)
It’s a tricky question, in both the business sense and an ethical one. New technology brings increased profits to small businesses, so how much credit does new technology deserve? And thanks to its recent merger, Seamless/Grubhub has something resembling a monopoly on the market. As with all new technology, it’s going to take some time to work out a model that’s fair to both sides of the business — watch this space. As more small restaurants (and even bigger ones) start to embrace technology, I’m curious if they’ll start to come up with their own innovative solutions to compete.



Would You Pay for Dinner with Your Phone in a Restaurant?

As evidenced above, ordering your meal in a restaurant is about to be disrupted by technology — so the idea of paying via mobile device isn’t all that farfetched. (I mean, people do it with Square and Google Wallet at casual establishments every day.) A couple weeks ago, the NYT reported that OpenTable has started testing mobile payments,  allowing diners in a restaurant to pay their bill with one tap, directly from the app. Chicagoist likened the tech to “Uber for restaurants,” and you have to admit there’s a certain… chivalry, almost, to being able to discreetly take care of a bill through your phone — no awkward credit card grab required.



Awesome New Site: The Savory

More new hotness: The Savory, a new food and cocktail site marketed toward “the next generation,” (which I assume means young adults with disposable income who are interested in food and alcohol and restaurants.) Its voice is smart and savvy, and it’s devoid of any frou-frou “lifestyle and entertaining experts” that do little more than aggrivate you at each paragraph. (Today, I’m loving this Fernet Branca piece.)
They also launched with a killer Instagram feed. Well done.



Remember When You Had to Go to a Restaurant to Learn Its Specials?

Easy, smart, use of Twitter that’s now de rigueur: posting specials (lunchtime or otherwise) via Twitter feeds — like this example from San Francisco’s Cotogna. Every so often, it’s fun to pause and look at these now-normal practices that didn’t exist a few years ago. Remember when you had to go to a restaurant to learn its specials?



  • Map of the top fast food chains from all 50 states — Thrillist
  • Well… this is one way to get Twitter followers for your restaurant  — @BaconBrosPUB
  • Another awesome site: TatseMade, “videos for food lovers” — TasteMade

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