Big Brother remembers what you like - and brings your dinner to boot!
During one of my recent treks to the southern hinterlands, I had the pleasure of dining at Coins Pub and Restaurant in Ocean City, Md. This popular watering hole at 28th and The Highway was opened in 1988 by the Coyne Family, and has been dishin’ up bar food, cocktails and brews ever since. In 1991, veteran restaurateur Charlotte Kuti joined the Coynes, bringing her hospitality and restauranting skills to locals and vacationers alike.
Enter Jack Schachter: It’s a rare restaurant or bar on the Delmarva Peninsula that doesn’t know his name. Jack is one of the prime movers at AC Beverage, one of those “behind the scenes” services without which no bar or restaurant could operate. There’s nothing like watching a cold, fresh draft beer flowing into a frozen mug, and there’s a surprising amount of science on the other end of those tap handles. That’s what Jack and AC Beverage bring to the food industry.
Jack gets to experience hundreds and hundreds of restaurants and bars, from fine-dining to cozy taverns. And his love of the industry extends past his daily interaction with the high-tech pressurized systems and refrigeration that put the sparkle in your soft drinks and the foam on your brew. So last year he teamed up with partner Marc Custodio and took over the reins at Coins. In the process of updating and modernizing the restaurant, Jack invested in several leading-edge systems that made beer drinking even more convenient. One of the most impressive is Bartrack. This app-based technology works in conjunction with the restaurants’ POS (point of sale) computer system to give owners, managers - and even customers - a real-time look at what’s available - and what’s not - at any given moment. The beverage-sensing software and hardware monitors beverage quality, compares pours to sales, and provides real-time keg levels and alerts - all instantly accessible from a smartphone, computer or on a big screen in the restaurant.
A similar system is also running at Adam Newman’s Rehoboth Ale House. That system, known as Digital Pour, tracks the sale of each pint of beer and extrapolates that information to the quantity of liquid remaining in each keg. It then converts that information into a graphic interface that shows little multicolored kegs in various stages of emptiness. Restaurants that use all the features of the software can promote new additions to the beer menu and even allow users to post their favorites online.
Smart devices have replaced much of the drudgework that used to be part of restauranting. Case in point: At restaurants like Touch of Italy and Theo’s Steaks, Sides & Spirits, servers take your order on a handheld device that communicates wirelessly with the kitchen. As the server enters your orders, the system alerts the kitchen, while tracking the ingredients in your order. It can even order food to maintain inventory.
I guess I’m too old not to smile when I call for pizza delivery and the person on the other end of the line immediately knows my address, what (and when) I last ordered, and maybe even my credit card number, next of kin and waist size. It’s like “1984” … but with pepperoni. Technologies such as caller ID, online shopping cart systems and customer preference tracking have merged to allow restaurants to blend the ordering process with cellphones, landlines, texts and even faxes (remember them?). In fact, recent trends - some good, some bad - have brought about order kiosks and table-mounted iPads that eliminate the order taker entirely.
If you’ve ever ordered delivery from Grotto, Pete’s Steak Shop or Papa John’s, for example, you’ve been on the receiving end of that technology. Deliveroso uses a system that recognizes you automatically, knows how close you are to certain restaurants, and prompts the delivery person to keep you informed as your food moves toward you.
So whether it’s keeping track of the liquid/fume ratio of your favorite craft keg, knowing where to dispatch your pizza or tracking gift cards and frequent diner cards, smart restaurateurs know that technology can make this business of eating even more fun than it already is.