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Keep your vodka on the cloud, use a beer ATM and pay for vada pav with bitcoin. Technology is making eating out increasingly efficient

Imagine walking into a restaurant and ordering a machine made dosa. Or returning home after a long day at work to a fully automated kitchen that dishes out gourmet food.

What once seemed like a Utopian fantasy is fast becoming reality. The world’s first robotic kitchen developed by Moley Robotics uses 20 motors, 24 joints and 129 sensors to recreate human hand movements and whip up over 2,000 exquisite dishes. While this might still seem a little far-fetched, restaurants closer home are also embracing technology in a big way. And most of it is to enhance user experience.

Take for instance, Restaurant. A low-key eatery in Bengaluru’s bustling Indiranagar and Whitefield areas, the restaurant is known for its Maharashtrian fare. In September 2016, the scion of the restaurant and co-owner Tejas Suryawanshi decided to up the ante by introducing a new payment method for patrons. “I’d just learnt about bitcoin and thought it would be an interesting feature in our restaurant. So we put up signs encouraging people to pay through bitcoin. A lot of them, though familiar with the term, had little idea about the technology itself. This led to conversations with our customers about bitcoin. The thing about bitcoin is that its value appreciates based on a demand-and-supply basis,” he says, adding, “The first bill a patron paid with bitcoin was for the value of ₹530. The value of that bitcoin today is around ₹1,500.”

Suryawanshi was not the first eatery in the country to accept bitcoin though. A Mumbai-based pizzeria led the pack in letting patrons pay using cryptocurrency. Kolonial, in Mumbai’s upscale Worli, began accepting bitcoin as early as December 2013.

At Waf O’Bel at Chennai’s Harrington Road too, patrons are promptly handed tabs upon being seated, to browse through an exhaustive waffle menu, after which they place orders directly through the tab.

Buying loyalty

Leading the pack however, is The Beer Café, the country’s largest beer chain, with branches across most major Indian cities. The chain uses technology extensively, according to founder and CEO Rahul Singh, who says The Beer Café sees a footfall of over a million people every year (they have 35 outlets across 12 cities at the moment). “Of these, 30% are repeat customers, and loyalty takes a long while to build. We’re here for the long run and wanted to introduce loyalty programmes for our patrons. But we didn’t want it to be a plastic card or via the mobile number. There are issues of privacy, spamming and an extra card to carry. So we developed our own app last year, that currently has 1,00,000 users,” he says.

Apart from menus and offers, the app also features Brew Miles. “These are much like air miles. People can use the QR code scanner to scan their bills and points are added to their accounts. These are then translated either into cashback or free beers. We also have referral programmes and gift points. From what we’ve observed, 34% of the bills we generate use this feature; which is great because its popularity is growing,” says Singh.

The Beer Café also recently introduced Pour Your Own Beer (PYOB). “This is like a mobile wallet, where a user can load cash and buy beer with it. Simply scan the QR code on our PYOB wall and the machine will pour you your beer. All of this is cloud operated,” says Singh.

The Café is set to launch a new feature soon, called ‘Ur Bar’, which allows people to buy three kinds of containers of a drink of their choice on the app. These drinks can be accessed at any of The Beer Café outlets across the country. Talk about convenience. They can also be shared with friends. So the next time you want to buy a friend in another city a drink, simply tap on the app. Another entrant in the technology and F&B segment is Hip Bar, a bar on the cloud. Developed by Chennai-based Prasanna Natarajan, Hip Bar is a wallet for your drinks. The app is available on Android and iOS and allows one to reserve their choice of drinks by paying for it online and then redeeming them at bars or retail stores.

At The Vault Bar Stock Exchange in Chennai’s T Nagar area, patrons can place orders via a free-to-download app, which reflects the changing prices of drinks on the watering hole’s menu. Vault follows the stock exchange model of pricing, with prices of drinks changing as per the demand. So if you walk in on a busy night, don’t be surprised if you find people glued to their smartphones. It’s probably just the next round of drinks being ordered.

Source: The Hindu

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