Seeing the future of restaurant menus is easier than ever before, with new augmented reality technology serving up 3-D burgers, desserts and other appetizing treats via smartphones and tablets.
Burger chain Bareburger has been one of the first to adopt this new AR technology, partnering with AR food menu app Kabaq to make their new meatless Impossible Burgers virtually appear on guests’ plates through the Snapchat app. In the same way they are able to superimpose animated dog ears onto themselves, Bareburger customers can now view their shockingly realistic lunch before they even step up to the counter.
The benefits are twofold, says Kabaq co-founder Alper Guler.
First, restaurants are able to drive revenue by allowing guests to eat with their eyes first: One study conducted by Kabaq found that guests viewing virtual dessert options via tablet at the table increased dessert sales by 25 percent.
Second, restaurants can enjoy the marketing benefits of being on the forefront of new technology and creating campaigns around it. Bareburger’s augmented reality Snapchat integration, for example, was tied to a scannable coupon.
“You can access it anywhere. You see that burger and get that feeling. It may lead to a store visit or an order,” says Guler. “That was our main goal for Bareburger.”
It was actually a night out at a restaurant with friends that inspired Guler to apply to food the same AR he was using to help interior designers conceptualize layouts and decor for homes and apartments. When friends kept asking questions about dishes from his native Turkey, he knew there could be value in allowing diners a sneak peek at menu items.
“If you are in an ethnic restaurant or an international restaurant, it’s pretty hard to get local names. You have no idea, when you travel, if you’ll like that food,” Guler says, explaining that much of human understanding is visual.
Kabaq began working on the restaurant-focused technology in 2017, and already has more than 150 restaurant locations on board. Bareburger is one of the largest clients, and its integration was made possible thanks to Snapchat opening its platform to developers who are interested in uploading 3-D content. The alternative is showcasing the technology through tablets, but buying multiple iPads per location can add up.
“Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram literally changed the food we eat at restaurants. People go there, and before they start eating, they shoot a picture. It’s led to an amazing environment where people create more visual food.” -Alper Guler
“Snapchat just removed that. Now we can pick up codes, and they can now scan to access the 3-D food,” Guler says, noting that Facebook also has plans to follow suit.
The process of creating the AR experience is perhaps surprisingly accessible. Any professional photographer can capture the images, following the guidelines set forth by Kabaq. Once images are captured, Kabaq processes and optimizes a 3-D model on a cloud service, and distributes via apps or tablets. Turnaround times are currently about two weeks, but that stands to get even more simple in the future, Guler says.
“For an older restaurant or small restaurants, you will be able to buy the supplies, put your phone in, and it will do the magic for you,” he says. “That’s coming up in 2019.”
The technology is a logical fit for the restaurant industry, Guler says, especially at a time when presentation is essential.
“Social platforms are the number one customer-driving platform for restaurants, and the food prepared is more visual than ever. That’s what we’ve been basing our story on,” he says. “Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram literally changed the food we eat at restaurants. People go there, and before they start eating, they shoot a picture. It’s led to an amazing environment where people create more visual food.”
Guler expects that this is still only the beginning. In the next 10 to 20 years, contact lenses will be able to show much of what smartphones, or Google Glass, can today.
“My understanding of what future use of this technology is: You walk into this restaurant, or maybe before even getting into that restaurant, you’ll be able to click and see the full menu on a virtual table. Or you basically walk into this restaurant and you see the menu on their table. You see all the food items, and decide–literally–with your eyes, and make the order. They will charge your credit card, and they will bring the food to you,” Guler says, noting how far technology has already progressed from the recent past when you would need to log off of a dial-up modem to place a takeout order via landline telephone.
“We are building a future. We are training the next generation of virtual restaurants, where you can go with your friends and you can literally order food, be connected to your credit card…and get the food on your doorstep,” Guler says. “These are my crazy-ish ideas. But I believe the world is going to be that creative.”