Event review: tech update from NRA Show 2017

The NRA Show 2017 in Chicago, US, saw new restaurant industry technologies with 3-D printing and better operating systems at the fore, reports Amelia Levin

At the National Restaurant Association Hotel-Motel (NRA) 2017 Show in May in Chicago, US, plenty of new technologies were on display, catching the eyes of designers and operators alike.

From tableside tablets to mobile payments, more advanced reservation systems and the power of big data, technology is a critical part of how restaurants and foodservice operators navigate today’s uber-competitive hanging business landscape.

In fact, the next generation of restaurant concepts and even non-commercial operators such as colleges/universities and healthcare facilities are using technology to reinvent the dining – and even eating – experience and define the smart restaurant of the future.

Here’s a look at two technologies disrupting the current landscape.

3D printing

While 3D printing is nothing new, having been used in the automotive, biomed and even archeology sectors for a handful of years, some businesses and operators are now experimenting with it in the foodservice realm. Perhaps the most well known experimentation that happened with 3D printing was by the late Homaro Cantu, a master of molecular gastronomy at his now-closed Moto and ING in Chicago.

Pasta product maker Barilla, in partnership with TNO, a Dutch research institute, has introduced a prototype to be able to actually print the first 3D pasta in order to make shapes that cannot be made by current industrial pasta making processes.

With the current model, graphic designers develop the unique shapes using computer graphics tools, and then by the click of the button, can produce up to four fresh, not dried, pieces of pasta – soon to be a whole plate – in 2 minutes. Chefs are finding use for it by being able to personalize and customize their creations without having to labor over making fresh pasta in-house.

We’re still some time away from seeing 3D printers more heavily tapping the marketplace in the US, but that could change. Typical printers, used to make chocolate primarily, cost between $1,500 and upwards of $4,000.

Operating systems

Yesterday’s POS systems simply no longer cut it for most restaurant and foodservice operators. Modern systems can do everything from not only manage orders to the kitchen and track sales but manage much more advanced methods of Big Data management to help operators better understand their customers, manage loyalty programs, deal with complicated reservations and now, even bring down or eliminate costs that prevent them from reaching profitable levels.

At the NRA Show, SALIDO introduced its latest prototype – an all-in-one platform reporting on labor, inventory kitchen and consumer management in one dashboard. Chefs and restaurateurs like David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Stephen Starr, Phi Suarez have Jimmy Haber have been installing the system in their multiple restaurant concepts and locations, including Chang’s Fuku, Made Nice by Eleven Madison Park + Jean-Georges’ ABC Kitchen last week.

And now, Resy, the restaurant reservations and technology platform “developed by restaurants” announced plans for continued expansion throughout the country, including New Orleans, Nashville and Portland in Summer 2017. Restaurant partners in those cities include Shaya, Cane & Table, Paladar 511, Hemingway’s, The Waiting Room, Ned Ludd and more.

The program uses a cloud-based system with flat pricing, automated waiting lists, live text messaging with guests and a paperless check payment system.

Amelia Levin

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