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A few years ago, I came across a restaurant in Dallas, Texas that had a menu written entirely in emojis. It was unexpected and creative, but clear enough that a server didn’t have to come and explain everything on the page again.
I’m not (necessarily) advocating that we fight the current fallout of the restaurant industry with emoji menus, but maybe we could use some of that original thinking when it comes to revising menu formats. to adapt to the new reality in which we live.
Since reusable menus are essentially germ repositories, it’s no surprise that they’re available now that dining rooms are reopening. The CDC’s recently released guidelines for reopening suggest that restaurants “avoid using or sharing items such as menus” and “using disposable or digital menus in place.” . . The National Restaurant Association guidelines ask restaurants to ‘make tech your friend’ and suggest ordering on mobile, and every other restaurant tech company that contacts me these days has some form of digital menu that restaurants can integrate into their operations.
Many restaurants will certainly start with simple disposable menus. Paper is most often cheaper than software, and typing and printing a menu is faster than integrating your business into a new technology solution.
Over time, however, that could change. As the focus is on digital ordering for everyone, we will be accessing more restaurant menus through our own phones and mobile devices. This opens up a whole world of possibilities in terms of what restaurants might one day offer on their menus beyond just the food items themselves.
Just a few examples: Menus can provide detailed information about the ingredients of a dish, such as where that cilantro came from and how many months the apple traveled before it reached your plate. Menus may also include reviews from other customers, and Amazon “you may also like” recommendations may appear on the screen. You could perhaps dictate how much portion size you want, reducing food waste.
As AI increasingly finds its way into restaurant technology, restaurants could also incorporate dynamic prices into menus, based on time of day, foot traffic, weather, and offer coupons. and promotional offers in real time. And of course, if someone really wanted it, an emoji menu would probably be flying in more than a few places right now.
Most of these things already exist, although they are not widespread and some are still in the conceptual stage. The massive overhaul of the restaurant menu is an opportunity to start bringing these disparate elements together to revamp the way we order our food.
Kitchen United opens in Austin
One of the effects of this whole pandemic is that we’ve seen a slight increase in takeout orders, and that trend isn’t going to abate anytime soon. Now is a good time for restaurants – some of them, at least – to consider adding ghost cooking to their operations.
Those in Austin, TX can add Kitchen United to their list of choices when it comes to choosing an establishment. The company, which provides ghost kitchen infrastructure (space, equipment, etc.) to restaurants, announced this week that its new location near the University of Texas is open for business.
A number of restaurant chains have already moved into the space or plan to do so in the coming weeks. Kitchen United has also awarded one of the kitchens in the new space to Keep Austin Fed, a nonprofit that collects surplus food from commercial kitchens and distributes it to charity. As part of the deal, Keep Austin Fed will be able to “save” restaurant food with cooking operations inside the new KU facility.
A press release emailed to The Spoon notes that “additional kitchen space is currently available” for restaurants wishing to expand their off-premises operations. With that, a word of advice for restaurateurs: make sure your restaurant is in need of ghost cooking before signing up. Kitchen United CEO Jim Collins recently told me that restaurants need some customer demand for the ghost kitchen economy to make sense. This is not a small request either. In an age like this, when the future of all restaurants is uncertain and the little money available must be spent prudently, it is best to be cautious, even when it comes to new seductive trend like ghost kitchens.
Los Angeles to cap third-party delivery commission fees
Here, no more fee caps for third-party delivery companies. This week, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 to ask lawyers to draft a law capping the commission fees that delivery services charge restaurants at 15%. “Why should restaurants and their customers be able to subsidize application delivery companies? We need to level the playing field, ”City Councilor Mitch O’Farrell told the Los Angeles Times.
This week’s proposal would also require that 100 percent of tips customers leave on delivery orders through these apps go directly to the driver, which is pretty standard these days but has caused a heck of a row in the not-so-distant past. Fee caps would end 90 days after Los Angeles lifts its dining hall closures.
Needless to say, the move – which several other cities have already done – isn’t popular with delivery companies. Postmates, which is LA’s most popular third-party food delivery service, said governments setting a price on fees threaten jobs and create “a bogus choice between local restaurants and the delivery network companies that deliver them. support ”. Rather, the service wants a fee to be charged in delivery orders that would help restaurants. This in turn would result in additional charges for the customer and be another way for restaurant food delivery services to suggest / try anything to avoid having to bear some of the burden that the pandemic has taken. imposed on the restaurant industry.
As restaurants slowly reopen and the industry begins to adjust to its new normal, now we’ll start to see if fee caps actually make a difference for struggling restaurants, and if they’re here to stay. long-term.