The Restaurant Technology Guys brought in Derin Alemli, founder, and CEO of Square Roots Kitchen, a high-tech restaurant in Chicago with a custom self-ordering platform to talk about the conceptualization and creation of his totally techy restaurant. Here’s what we learned from the conversation:
What Makes Them Different
Square Roots Kitchen offers a totally automated system to allow guests to order fully customized meals with live updates on cost and nutrition. This keeps lines short, service fast and the customer experience top notch. Because the company has been able to minimize labor costs, they have been able to spend more on high-quality food and provide high-quality products at reasonable prices.
How They Came up with the Idea
Derin worked in the restaurant industry for most of his life, working his way up to become a head trainer one of the busiest Macaroni Grill’s in the nation, however, after college he ended up with a career in investment finance. After working in the industry for many years and earning his MBA, Derin developed his own earbuds for concerts and realized entrepreneurship was his calling. He saw a desire from the consumer in fast casual dining and wanted to provide quality food without the line. He saw that both technology and restaurants have been around for a while and didn’t understand why no one had decided to integrate the two from day one until he decided to.
How They Decided What Technology to use
Derin and his team started with clear ideas of what they wanted to provide their customers with. They wanted a database of their ingredients that was linked to certain dietary restrictions, so they could have dietary restriction settings, this originally started as an excel sheet that then was built into an application. They went through each goal they had for what they wanted to provide then worked out how to achieve that goal with technology.
In choosing their technology, they ensured that the use was as intuitive as possible, so anyone could walk in and not be overwhelmed.
How the Technology influences the Kitchen
As orders come in from online ordering or the in-store kiosks, they are issued their own individual tickets with a name and all of the ingredients in the meal that was ordered. This means that anyone could be thrown into the kitchen and be able to stumble their way through making things, with no training. Obviously, they still train, but this concept saves a lot of time and money. This system works because while deciding to use technology Derin kept in mind how it will impact the kitchen, and this is a huge thing to think about if you are considering integrating technology.
Because such a large number of orders are customized, each and every dish ordered has the ability to be associated with the person’s name that is ordering. This keeps things organized and eliminates the guesswork out of whose dish is whose when it gets back to the customer, especially with group orders.
But What About the People
Automation gets a bad reputation because it takes out a lot of the human element. However, at Derin’s restaurant, although the ordering is automated, the kitchen is open, and all employees can see, greet and assist customers. Because there is a limited headcount, employees are well trained and paid a premium rate, and for those who argue that tech is taking jobs, this restaurant has created upwards of twelve jobs, with the anticipation of adding more in the future. Technology integration if done correctly doesn’t have to take people’s jobs, it just changes what they do and how they do it. In the restaurant industry, the process always starts with people, then moves to the process and then finally how the technology can help.
Derin’s restaurant is a great example of how technology can be properly integrated into the restaurant industry to enhance the guest experience. Use his model as an example if you are considering implementing some new technology elements into your brand, make sure it solves a problem, is easy to use and flows with your business and brand. In the end, implementing tech is not right for everyone, but you never know until you start tinkering with the ideas.
To listen to the full podcast, click here.