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Apple Files Patent Certain to Disrupt the Restaurant Industry

Apple Files Patent Certain to Disrupt the Restaurant Industry

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Imagine that you have a food allergy and you decide to go out to dinner, but instead of asking the waiter what your options are, you could simply customize the restaurant’s menu to exclude anything you cannot eat.

Also imagine that you want to go out to eat at a Japanese restaurant on a Saturday night, but the wait is an hour. Is it worth it to wait? Simply scan through a system for your preferred restaurant cuisine, price point, and ratings. This probably sounds like Yelp to you, but what sets this apart is that through this system, you could access the wait time is for each of these restaurants.

…. Spoiler alert, this is likely the future of dining! Apple has reportedly filed a patent application for their own reservation and ordering system. According to Patently Apple, iPhone users could participate in a system which has the capability to provide more accurate wait times, order directly from their iPhones, with optimized reservation-making.

The patent application states:

“Traditional techniques have their shortcomings. For instance, ordering is completely dependent on the waiter’s availability. A busy waitress may not get around to a customer who is ready to order for five or ten minutes. This idle time is magnified if the waitress is busy and unable to provide menus to the customer for five or ten minutes after the customer has been seated. Other shortcomings include the management of the wait list. During periods of high activity, a hostess may have problems managing the wait list given the number of reservation requests over the phone and in person. Thus, there is a need for improved techniques for processing restaurant orders and reservations.”

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Source: Patently Apple 

This system has revved up the restaurant industry, with OpenTable shareholders shivering in their boots. Shares of OpenTable dropped 3% on December 13th from a high of $80.20 to a low of $74.65, right after Apple’s patent application was announced. OpenTable is still currently dominating the online reservations market, with a 23% increased usage in the past year in North America, expanding to nearly 23,300 restaurants. While OpenTable is great for making reservations, it does not address the more common situation of customers coming in without reservations.

With Apple’s new system, a customer could walk into a restaurant and put his name on the wait list. Instead of being told that his wait time is about “30 to 45 minutes,” he would get more accurate updates directly to his phone. Since folks order directly from their phones, the system will more accurately be able to predict how long they’ll stay in the restaurant. For example, a seated patron that ordered one item is much more likely to leave sooner than two folks who order appetizers, drinks, and desserts. Eventually, the data this system collects will be able to more accurately predict the time people spend in restaurants based on what they order, and even more accurately predict the wait time a patron is given.

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Source: Patently Apple 

Ordering on tablets is certainly something that is becoming more prevalent in the restaurant industry. A couple of weeks ago, DineEquity (NYSE: Din) announced that Applebee’s will deploy 100,000 E la Carte Presto tablets to its restaurants next year. However, while restaurants such as Applebee’s intend to allow the customer to order from their system, Apple intends to disrupt the industry by allowing customers to order and manage reservations directly from their devices. Given that Apple smartphones had an estimated profit of $4.6 billion in Q2 2013 alone, the probability of incredible success seems more than likely for this new system. Perhaps DineEquity should have held off on their enormous tablet purchase.

Imagine this technology catches on…  How do you think this will affect the dining experience? Would you prefer to order directly from your phone or do you prefer the traditional dining experience? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!