Commercial Fit Out and the Rise of Technology

From fast food outlet McDonald’s touch screen ordering to diners that don’t deal in cash and an app that can record precisely how much – and what – food is being put in kitchen bins, technology is becoming a big deal for today’s restaurant fit outs. And it’s certainly giving designers and commercial fit out companies food for thought.

That’s because not only do automating certain processes of the restaurant business result in lower staff costs, but they also benefit customers. If diners can order their meal for themselves, for instance, then there is likely to be fewer mistakes and happier customers. As an added bonus it also means less money spent on wrong orders – an extremely important point for restaurants these days; many of who are struggling with reduced profit margins.


Rise of the cashless restaurant

Just as today’s office managers are looking to reduce the amount of space they need by introducing hot desking and remote working, one restaurant owner has introduced his cashless restaurant onto the high street to do away with the need for a checkout desk and staff. Billed as the UK’s first cashless restaurant when it opened two years ago, Tossed in London has no tills. Instead diners settle their bills using Apple Pay and in a self-service kiosk fitted with a digital display and card reader. They also order their meal in the first place via a touch screen menu.

Tossed’s finance director Neil Sabba explained the group had been working with Pointone EPOS on the proprietary technology. He added: “Contactless, digital ordering and mobile payment make cashless payment systems so quick and painless nowadays.”

And it looks like more restaurants will be following suit in terms of cashless paying – only recently credit card company Visa announced that it was happy to offer ‘financial incentives’ to other restaurants who also agreed to cut out cash payments.


Technology to cut queues and reduce need for floor space

Meanwhile a recent study carried out by Barclaycard showed that 37 per cent of restaurant customers are adamant that when they go out for a meal they would rather have quick service than a varied menu or even value for money. And that’s another uptick for cashless ordering and paying. Pub giants Wetherspoon’s have already introduced such a system via their Order and Pay app, while Jamie’s Italian and Wahaca are doing likewise. As well as resulting in a faster dining experience, customers also benefit from instant nutritional information when they choose meals and – in the case of Wetherspoons – no queuing at the bar (which, for the pub group’s next commercial fit out, could mean the need for less floor space).

Two London restaurants – Rum Kitchen and Salt Yard – are using technology to stop fights over bills. Their apps calculate the cost of each diner’s meal so there’s no resentment between those who ate expensively and quaffed a lot, compared to the frugal diners in a large group.

Over the pond a handful of restaurants in San Francisco are using Google-linked paying apps which involve both voice and facial recognition. Once they have finished their meal diners don’t even have to ask for the bill but simply tell their phone they will ‘pay with Google.’ They’re then charged instantly and can leave without worrying about having to catch a waiter’s eye in the first place and then struggling to find spare cash for the tip. Rumours are rife that global coffee concern Starbucks and fast food outlet McDonald’s are already onto the same thing.


Increasing profits by reducing food waste

UK tech company Winnow is on a bid to cut back on the horrific food waste most restaurants experience (and pay the price for). Such is the extent of this problem that it’s reckoned around £13 bn of food is wasted annually – of which the hospitality sector is guilty for around £2.5 bn worth of food.

Winnow is a noble enterprise, launched five years ago, and which founder Marc Zomes – who has a background in business consultancy – is confident can help do its bit for the world’s food waste issue. The tech works by means of a scale that weighs the restaurant’s food bin. At the same time kitchen staff log the perishables and non-perishables that are being dumped in there. The app calculates the cost of the discarded food and looks at the environmental impact it has.

Chefs in the kitchen can then look at what is being dumped and work out how they can incorporate the food into their menu in order to make, what is essentially, a more efficient running kitchen. One example was a kitchen where chefs were using only the  juice and seeds of tomatoes and discarding the pulp. Using Winnow they worked out they could later use the pulp to make a tomato sauce to add to an existing meal on the menu.

According to Zomes, his Winnow app can result in a food waste saving for most restaurants of between 40 and 70 per cent. Fans of the new technology include Ibis Hotel owners Accord Group and furniture giant Ikea’s in-store restaurants. The latter said Winnow helped save them the equivalent of around 350,000 meals in a mere eight months – and which could be put towards a trendy new commercial fit out.


commercial fit out


Robotic waiting staff are a turn-off

The next obvious step for tech in restaurants commercial fit out would be the introduction of the robotic waiter or even chef. But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon  – if ever. That’s mainly because customers prefer human interaction (although admittedly they’re already not getting this, with the likes of Wetherspoon’s Order and Pay app, for instance). According to Oracle’s Restaurant 2025 report, 40 per cent of restaurant customers said they definitely didn’t want cyber staff handing them their next meal.


Tech-connected waiting staff and chefs

It definitely wouldn’t be a step too far to see waiting staff in restaurants using wearable technology (we’re all at it ourselves to help monitor our fitness levels, after all).

In the US fast food restaurant chain Shake Shack has signed up with Apple Watch to use integrated technology for front-of-house service in a handful of their New York restaurants. The tech will allow the restaurant’s managers and sommeliers to share info about menu changes, data on VIP customers and complaints about service or food.


And now for the truly bizarre…

Ever sat at a meal in a restaurant and wished you were somewhere else entirely – somewhere warm, sunny and er, underwater? Well, that’s all possible now, thanks to Samsung’s virtual reality glasses. The Hard Rock Hotel in Ibiza allows diners to enjoy a starter in a Tuscan garden and their main course underwater while swimming with dolphins. The immersive experience was in collaboration with chef Paco Roncero on the island and is all about creating an experience with a meal (rather than just serving up a plate of food). And you thought Heston Blumethal with his liquid nitrogen trickery was a bit different….


Get help to fit out your new restaurant or cafe

At Steampunk it’s our business to keep up with the latest trends in the restaurant and commercial fit out business. And we always enjoy seeing the delight on our client’s faces when we reveal their finished venue. Looking for help designing your new venture or fancy a refurbishment? Then get in touch with us for a chat on 0800 197 2922 or check out our past and current projects on our website