About 15 years ago, I was given a copy of William Gibson's 1994 sci-fi thriller, Virtual Light. If you're unfamiliar, it's the story of a San Francisco bike messenger, living in the future, who comes across a pair of steel-framed eye glasses that allow her to see a digitally enhanced version of her surroundings.
At the the time, the concept of augmented reality was very forward-thinking. Today, we've entered into an age of digital convergence, and fast change is all around us. What passed for a cell phone in 1994 wouldn't even function on today's 3G network. Cellphones were once these annoying devices that rang in all the wrong places; now, they serve as status symbols and extensions of our personalities, connecting us to the ever expanding social web. By all accounts, they are here to stay, and life will continue to adjust and shape itself around them.
As a restaurant industry professional focusing on social media integration and adoption, I am particularly interested in how these trends will translate into applications and tools for our industry.
Last night, while I was waiting tables, a guest pulled out his iPhone, selected a Yelp app called Monocle, and proceeded to scan the room in sweeping motions. Monocle "uses the phone's GPS and compass to display markers for restaurants, bars and other nearby businesses on top of the camera's view (source)."
The guest also used another app called Red Laser to scan the barcode of the 2008 Duckhorn Decoy Bordeaux Blend that I had been pouring. He proceeded to show all his guests the website for Duckhorn, and a number of other sites that showed the suggested retail price and options to purchase the wine online. All of this took place during the normal course of the dinner. He literally accessed all this information while holding a fork in one hand and his phone in the other.
At what point will servers have access to the same tools? When will POS systems be freed from their current lowly status as internal software programs, and integrated with the social web? When will a server be able to access his sales history online, complete with product descriptions, tipping patterns, upselling suggestions, links to vendor websites and social networks,etc.? What if a server could receive a detailed report or dashboard readout of his performance, measured against his coworkers and across the company, given he worked at a multi-unit restaurant. What if all this could be tied into his social network, so that he could talk about the wine he sold the night before, or visit the fan site of a ranch whose farming practices he describes tableside each night? Would he do all of this on his own, or would there need to be incentives and encouragement from his employers and the restaurant industry?
Is this closer than we think? If so, what in the world are we doing to prepare ourselves? Will this kind of engagement just start happening? Will we all self-organize, or will we need to be intentional and focused? As members of FohBoh, we are all talking about these issues, and that gives us an advantage. But, this is more than just being prepared for new technologies; this is about radical adaptation and connectivity. How are you processing this digital phenomena?