Dining with Data

Monday, January 8, 2018

Dining with Data

Eating out at your favourite restaurant, discovering a hidden gem or even trying out a new recipe at home are some of the best ways to spend time. Some would go as far as to suggest that food ought to be included as a sixth love language. The US National Restaurant Association predicted that the restaurant industry was worth $799bn last year and it is a sector that continues to grow. In this blog, we explore five ways in which your dining experiences of the future may be shaped by data science and artificial intelligence. Starters anyone?

Restaurant table with wine and food.
Figure 1 : Restaurants and diners are increasingly benefiting from Big Data.

Reaching the right customers


One of the most important challenges for any restaurant is effective communication. Consumers are increasingly demanding and want to interact with the brands they like on their terms. Marketing campaigns can be extremely costly (both in terms of money and time) but Big Data can be the key. Technologies such as Smart Steps provide valuable insights on the movement of people based on mobile data. For example, a restaurant could send a targeted text to potential customers who pass them on their way home, with a promotional offer included. Analysis of the data available means that the risk of promotions can be minimized.

"Data is the underlying force in how to be meaningful and engaging to your guests.”  Prem Kiran - Fishbowl Inc.

Location site planning


Using origin and destination information can also help businesses in the important decision of where to open a new chain of their restaurant. The aim is to find a site with a large number of potential clients whilst avoiding cannibalization of existing store. Well-known brands such as Starbucks, who seem to have a shop on every corner, are already using data to optimize location planning. If you're interested in finding out more, have a read about the LUCA collaboration with Natura, the largest Brazilian cosmetics company.


View of a busy coffee shop
Figure 2 : Data science can be used to find the optimal location for a new restaurant or café.

Improving the dining experience


Technology is playing an increasingly important part in the reservation process too. One of the most common apps is OpenTable, who claim to seat 21 million diners each month. The company also provide services for restauranteurs, offering insights about table availability and the dining habits of customers. Reviews are a key source of data, and analysis of which words come up most frequently can show companies not only how well they are performing, but also which dishes are "trending". Food Genius offers a similar service, analyzing millions of menu items to offer the best suggestions. Using such techniques, restaurants can improve the dining experience though reducing queue times, improving waiter service and offering a menu that appeals to the customers' taste buds.

Ordering with your eyes


We all have that one friend who takes ages trying to decide between three options on the menu, and then ends up ordering the same thing they always do. Fortunately, restaurants of the future may be able to help them decide! Back in 2014, Pizza Hut worked in collaboration with eye tracking technology specialist Tobii to develop a menu that analyzes where your focus lingers and suggests the perfect pizza for you. You can watch a demo here. With the ongoing improvements of artificial intelligence technology, it could be expected that interactive menus like this will become even more accurate over time.

Pizza on a slate table.
Figure 3 : Would you trust your eyes to order a pizza by themselves?

Computer generated recipes


Imagine the scenario; you're having a few friends over for dinner, but you don't want to serve the same thing you always do and you're stuck for ideas. What do you do? Well, in the future you might turn to an AI chef to offer a creative and delicious new recipe! A few years ago, IBM developed a program that harnessed the power of Big Data, combining chemical and mathematical principles in its algorithms. Check out this TED Talk about cognitive cooking to learn more.

These are just five examples of how data can change how we enjoy food, and at LUCA we're exciting to see what other developments take place in the coming years. Which of these uses would you most like to see in your favourite restaurant? Don't forget to follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn to be the first to hear about the latest news and events!

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