Back to the Future is 33 years old! Whenever I see that film, I remember the first time I watched it, thinking we’d definitely all be on hoverboards by 2020. While humans still haven’t really got off the skateboard yet, we’ve managed to come up with some impressive technological innovations in other areas. Two of these are augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
For those new to the subject, you’re probably wondering, what are AR and VR? Simply put, AR adds a digital layer over your real-time view of the world through a phone screen. Popular examples of this include Snapchat lenses and Pokémon Go. VR, on the other hand, is a fully immersive experience that removes the user from their real-time view of the world and places them somewhere else. This usually involves visual and audio gear and hand controllers, for complete involvement.
Experiences can range from participating in a space mission to riding a roller coaster. The technology is also used for playing video games, bringing the scenario to life, and is proving a popular purchase among consumers
So what does any of this have to do with food? Surprisingly, quite a lot. Powerhouse brands like Coca-Cola have used AR in advertising and
production. Leading wine brand 19 Crimes introduced AR to bring the infamous criminals on its bottles to life through phone screens. Dinner Time Story has also attracted quite a following for Belgian brand Le Petit Chef, with its projector-based 3D animation shows telling a tale across a six-course menu, sending the internet mad and launching the operator onto the international stage.
The use of AR and VR isn’t limited to eye-catching advertising or tabletop entertainment for the hospitality sector, though. From showing the proper portion size of a meal on a plate, to walking an employee through the process of a maintenance repair, AR and VR have a lot to offer our industry as we’re seeing the know-how applied on the production side to streamline employee training. Set-up might take some investment but, over time, this has got to be a sure-fire way to contain operational costs for restaurants in the future.
Training in this way is consistent and thorough. VR can instruct staff on specific tasks, such as cooking noodles correctly or the art of the perfect espresso, over and over again until it clicks.
AR is also helping trainees estimate serving sizes and teaching technicians to disassemble and reassemble equipment for cleaning. The capacity does seem almost limitless and a pretty watertight way to clone your head chef during on-boarding or to teach the kitchen team all the elements of a menu refresh.
Some operators are even training their customers. AR and VR have been noted on the hospitality event circuit recently, providing virtual and augmented reality restaurant tours, as well as VR footage to complement tastings. Coupled with the proliferation of reliable food delivery partners and the popularity of dining out without leaving the house, this might be a whole new way to bring the restaurant experience home.