The modern world offers a host of new opportunities to scale businesses, and the restaurant industry is no exception.

You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that extended reality (XR) is a concept from a futuristic film. But, this dystopian-sounding idea is actually fast becoming an everyday part of our world. 

Used as a collective term for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), XR has taken entertainment by storm, creating immersive games that let users put themselves into the worlds they’re playing in. 

Now, though, the potential of AR and VR is expanding, and businesses are beginning to see its potential for skyrocketing success. So, is there a space for XR technology in restaurants? Let’s take a look.

Enhance Your Staff Training

Take your staff training a step further with XR tech. According to AR development company 3D Walkabout, this is one of the main uses of AR for businesses, offering an immersive, real-world experience to take training to the next level.

Give your team the chance to experience training scenarios first-hand by interacting with virtual customers and learning your best practices for serving in a real-world simulation. 

From chefs to waiters, your team can practice skills in a safe environment before working on the restaurant floor. This comes with a range of benefits, including:

  • Preventing accidents from tarnishing your brand image
  • Keeping your team and customers safe
  • Cutting training costs with independent, remote learning capabilities

Rather than reading through endless pamphlets and watching safety videos, your staff can walk through different scenarios themselves. It’s engaging, realistic, and leads to a better-prepared team ready to take on their role in your restaurant. 

Create an Immersive AR Restaurant Menu

Looking to set yourself apart from competitors? 

Consider enhancing your menu with AR, bringing excitement to the dining experience, and offering guests a taste of your culinary inspiration that goes beyond the food and drinks in front of them. 

The idea is pretty simple: diners can use a specially designed AR app to bring their order to life. When holding up their phone to their food or drink, they’ll see a themed display that appears to be moving around your table, interacting with your order, and creating a fun, memorable experience.

One example of this in action can be seen at The Alchemist, a cocktail bar in London. When viewed through a phone camera, their drinks appear to have entire worlds pop up around them, with pirate ships and hula dancers creating mind-bending experiences. 

Take Diners on a Sensory VR Journey

A unique blend of art, VR, and culinary excellence, the Aerobanquets RMX experience is an example of how extended reality can change perceptions of dining out by incorporating technology in restaurants.

Hosted at the James Beard House in Greenwich Village, guests were given VR headsets on arrival. Through these, they watched abstract scenes related to seven different courses before tasting the food that inspired the art. 

A completely new way to connect food with sensory immersion, this limited experience is a great example of how XR can unleash creativity and reshape the concept of dining.  

Improve Your Marketing

XR is a smart way to create a marketing strategy that stands out. In a competitive business world that’s full of constant advertising, it can be hard to pack a punch with your messaging. But with XR, you approach your audience from a new angle, building a brand image that’s immersive, engaging, and forward-thinking.

Some of the benefits of using XR in your strategy include:

  • Creating deeper connections with your audience
  • Enhancing storytelling capabilities for impactful marketing
  • Personalization of campaigns for more relevant content

Why not add a VR tour of your restaurant to your website, enticing potential diners to engage with your space before they book a table? Or, you could create an AR campaign that lets users see your dishes through their phone camera, creating a realistic simulation of what they can expect.

This is similar to the AR menu built by Denny’s, with the aim of enhancing their marketing and building a cohesive brand experience. Through their new “It’s Dinner Time” concept, diners can use their phone cameras to see realistic simulations of menu items before ordering. 

Render Dishes Before You Make Them

From branding to increasing appetite through appearance, your food presentation matters. When looking to grow your restaurant business, XR can make it easier to try out different methods of presenting new dishes and playing around with color, texture, and garnishes.

Not only can you quickly change your presentation for more efficient experimentation, but VR mock-ups also reduce food waste in your business, helping you save money and scale sustainably while you improve your menu. 

Gamification of Your Restaurant Experience

Gamification is the process of adding gaming aspects to your business model. As a restaurant, that could mean creating menus that can be drawn on or ‘order bingo’ loyalty cards. But it can also be more all-encompassing, using VR to make your entire restaurant a game.

On arrival, give diners a VR headset that transforms your space into a gaming haven. They can then choose different worlds to sit in while they wait for their order, playing interactive solo games or teaming up with friends to fight zombies and play Scrabble. 

For more insight into how this might work, check out existing VR experiences, like Dreamscape. Though not a restaurant, they have the business model in place for VR interaction—all you need to do is add the food!

Step into the Metaverse

Looking to expand the ways in which you connect with your audience? For a future-ready, branding-heavy strategy, look into creating a virtual version of your restaurant in the Metaverse. 

With around 400 million users exploring this new virtual world, it’s already attracted the attention of some of the biggest names in the food industry. Wendy’s, for example, has created the Wendyverse, which lets users walk through a simulation of a Wendy’s restaurant, going behind the counter and ordering virtual food for a completely new way to experience the brand. 

McDonald’s has also created their own virtual fast-food chain in the Metaverse. Here, though, you can order food that’ll actually be delivered to your door in the real world for a burger and fries that aren’t made of pixels. It’s an exciting concept and one that brings an aspect of gamification to online ordering. 

The modern world offers a host of new opportunities to scale businesses, and the restaurant industry is no exception. By incorporating XR into your business model, you can use creativity to engage your audience, develop new products without waste, and forge connections that go beyond food—and that’s just the beginning. 

Ashley Harris started her career in hospitality over 10 years ago and has a degree in Global Masters in Management. She is passionate about innovations in the hospitality and food sector and is looking to connect with other professionals in the industry. Follow her on Twitter: @Ashley_Harris91

Expert Takes, Feature, Technology