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David Chang thinks the restaurant industry is in need of a massive tech upgrade.
In his SXSW panel titled The Future Role of Tech in Dining and Food, Chang -- the founder of the Momofuku empire and the food magazine Lucky Peach – voiced his strong frustrations at the lack of technical innovation available to him.
“I’m here because I don’t know anything about tech, really, other than where I think we need areas of improvement in the restaurant industry, particularly in the restaurants we run.” He wants system that enables restaurants to collect and catalogue data on their customers, so that when a diner comes in, the staff can pull up the “entire catalogue of everything he’s ordered.”
Just as Google uses search history to tailor a web experience, restaurants could use the information to better serve their guests. This is particularly key for high-end restaurants. For instance, a selection of wines at Chang’s Michelin-starred Momofuku Ko in New York City should be opened hours before they are consumed, to aerate. Which means when consumers order certain expensive Burgundies, “they aren’t really enjoying it.” If Chang had an easy way of tracking guests’ wine selection, he could call select diners in advance of their reservations and check if they’d like a bottle opened before their arrival. “That is a very small thing, but it enhances the experience…a great restaurant, it’s all about those little things that you add up to make a great meal. I think data is not being used not nearly enough.”
At one point, Chang says he considered hiring a data mining company to create a platform that would collect guests’ order history – until he heard the $6 million a year price tag. (“That’s more money than we make! I thought they were joking.”) He’s currently working on an in-house solution.
Although not a fan of Taco Bell’s cuisine, Chang is infatuated with the food chain’s app, which allows customers to place, customize and pay for an order on their phones; location features then alert employees when customers arrive and check in, allowing workers to quickly prepare the meal. “That is pretty rad. I would love that for Momofuku,” he says, “You walk in, you don’t stand in line, you sit down and boom! You have what you want. It’s right there.”