Choice and Control: In Your Hands.

Dinner. Thursday Night. You and 5 friends. You walk up to the restaurant entrance. Cue Music: Mission Impossible theme track…

You’re about to commit the cardinal sin known as “Cheffing” – the practice of changing elements of a dish/meal to meet your personal nutrition/health requirements. Your request is usually met with reluctance, and you’ve already noticed the “NO CHANGES”/ “NO SUBSTITUTIONS” in bold uppercase letters at the bottom of your menu, but you decide that you’re game enough tonight to ask about a few different dishes and try your luck for a change or two. No sooner have you uttered the words, “I was wondering if I could change…”, the waiter directs your attention to the bold print at the bottom of the menu, and you’re back to square one, or, if you were Agent Ethan Hunt, you’re hanging dangerously close to the pressure and temperature sensitive vault floor in a truly precarious position, and you’re not quite sure what to do next. In essence, what should be a simple meal with friends or family is fraught with difficulty or compromise and the experience is just not as fulfilling as you hoped it would be.

Creating your own products, aka, customisation, has been around for decades across multiple platforms, in fact, it’s been a driving force behind some of the world’s most well-known services and brands. Think: Amazon, who use data to present us with a personalised set of products to choose from each and every time we shop and Starbucks, where we have up to 87,000 different options to create our beverage of choice! Come to think of it, today you can go into almost any yoghurt, salad or juice bar and customise your order to the exact ingredients you like!

So, what about Restaurants?

As a customer, we know that our “Cheffing” usually has a little something to do personal preferences - those that are concerned with what they eat from a lifestyle/nutrition/health perspective or those that have an allergy, intolerance or condition associated with a certain ingredient(s).

The Australian Bureau of statistics collected data in the Australian Health Survey in 2014 that indicated that almost 4 million people reported a food type allergy or intolerance.  Additionally, with Australians becoming more informed and knowledgeable about their health and the significant impact food and nutrition has on their overall wellness (key trends include alternative lifestyles/diets – paleo, vegan, pescatarian, the rise of nut milks and substitutes for dairy, avoiding processed/refined sugars, gluten-free etc - see article HERE), it’s becoming clear that the adoption of customisation for customers by restaurants will allow for greater customer satisfaction. And heck, even if it’s not about allergies and intolerances or lifestyle/dietary choices for YOU, maybe you could simply just order what you feel like!

How can this be enabled?

Change how we Choose

(Menu/Options vs. True Customisation)

The most common way restaurants give us choice is by giving us more options on a menu. Have you ever been to a restaurant where there are so many options that it becomes overwhelming and you don’t know what to choose/can’t choose/end up not ordering enough/ordering too much? Yeah, us too. Research has shown that by giving us too many choices our overall experience is impacted negatively -  it all becomes a bit too stressful. But, it turns out, we want to choose what is on our plate, not just which plate ends up in front of us. Empowering us with clear options and information, and the time to make the choice might just go a long way!

Digital Ordering

Believe it or not, we’ve been customising for a while now. The best example is when we’re ordering pizza – we can choose the base, sauce, toppings and have a hot, fresh pizza delivered to us, just how we like it. The next generation of digital ordering is also enabling us to order multiple dishes from multiple cuisines/restaurants and have it delivered to us at home -  it’s not so much the customisation of the dish itself, but more so the choice of different foods you can get.

So, then what’s next?

We’re just starting to see restaurant assisting technology sitting with us at our tables – we can view and order from the menu and pay for meals from our phone from inside the restaurant – check out one of the leaders of this new wave of interaction and our good friends: Tayble at www.tayble.co

But, what if technology could empower us to customise our in-restaurant food experience? Book, order and curate our food and beverages, pay and even share our experience with others that aren’t with us, all from our phones. Helping us focus on enjoying our time with others and our food too.

Now that’s taking tech and food to another level - like secret agent expert rappel level, level ;D