Imagine you're out with a few friends, looking for a place to grab dinner. You haven't got anything in mind so you open an app to look at options nearby. In a Yelp-like (at least in concept) interface, you see options according to your food preferences. Maybe some of the restaurants are offering specials or discounts — you can see that too.
You chose a restaurant and when you walk through the door you "check in" and "invite" your friends to join. By the time you're seated at a table, your waiter knows, via a restaurant-facing version of the same app, exactly who you are. Taking your orders, the waiter adds each dish to the respective diner's profile and orders are sent directly to the kitchen, where, on a screen, they're displayed for the chef to start prepping. When the meal ends each diner gets a push notification with his or her personal bill — you add a tip and pay with one click via a credit card on file.
This is dining with Delect — a new 1776-based company that wants to "completely reinvent how restaurants operate."
Delect founder Serge Amouzou has, by his own admission, "always loved entrepreneurship." In high school he had a web development company and later he launched his own clothing brand. He struck upon the idea for Delect when he was in college at the University of Maryland, eating out with friends.
Waiting for the bill at the end of a meal, and figuring out the math to split it, are huge pain points for Amouzou. He doesn't like the waiting, he doesn't like the awkwardness of deciding whether to split the bill evenly or each pay for what you ordered and he doesn't like the resultant stack of credit cards.
So he's come up with a vision of the future that assuages these pain points while emphasizing benefits for the restaurants like quicker turn over of tables and updated in-restaurant tech.
It is a simultaneously recognizable and understandable future (perhaps too much so?), and one that involves a lot of logistics. So while revolutionizing dining is the goal, Amouzou doesn't expect everything to change at once.
The beta version of Delect, which Amouzou plans to launch in four restaurants soon, will involve a software as a service (SaaS) restaurant app (restaurants will be charged monthly) and a free consumer app. The automatic payment function will be the focal point — the connected kitchen, for example, can wait for later. Amouzou seems confident that users will see the benefits of the app and, from his six months of interviewing restauranteurs, he's betting that they will too.
It doesn't seem unreasonable to expect coming innovation in the restaurant space. As Amouzou is quick to point out, many restaurants still operate using ancient (in tech terms) POS systems. While there has been some updates to the technology (think, for example, Square), there certainly hasn't been a pervasive paradigm shift yet.
If and when there is a major revamp in restaurant technology, it's possible that the solution will be a version of Delect, or a solution that looks a lot like it. Only time will tell. But considering what it will take to "reinvent how restaurants operate" got Technical.ly thinking about some important questions Delect, and others, should be asking themselves.
Who is your customer? This is a huge question, and one with at least two valid answers. The restaurant dining experience is an interplay between the patron and the restaurant itself, so restaurant tech needs to work for both parties. However, while these two parties have some similar or aligning interests, they by no means have the same interests. Building a solution focused on more than one customer is at best hard and at worst a recipe for disaster — trying to make everyone happy can lead to no one being happy at all. Start by defining who your (primary) customer is.
Hardware or software? Delect identifies as a SaaS company, but Amouzou's ultimate dream involves some hardware components. Assuming Delect doesn't want to get into the business of hardware, the company could partner with a hardware solution for those key pieces. Partnering with the right hardware provider will be key for any company seeking to provide the software component.
What do we mean by reinvent? As alluded to above, Delect essentially takes the restaurant process status quo and injects it with more up-to-date software. This is one version of "reinventing," but is it the best one? Should restaurants still operate in fundamentally the same way or is there another option? Also, given that eating out is often an experience of celebration or luxury, how can technologists create a solution that's common sense and elegant, i.e. "simple and clever"?
Do you have other ideas about how restaurants of the future should operate? Or key questions restaurant tech entrepreneurs should be asking themselves? We'd love to hear from you.