Like tech junkies the world over, at least one restaurant group was thrilled when Apple released its new smartwatch in April. The Apple Watch features many of the same apps and functions of a smartphone—only with the added convenience of always being at hand.
OTG, a hospitality group specializing in airport-based restaurants, seized the moment and introduced a pilot program that offers its proprietary software, Flo 20/20, on the Apple smartwatch. Rick Blatstein, OTG’s chief executive, believes this will be “a game changer for restaurant management.”
“This gives us real-time information,” Blatstein says. “Normally in the restaurant business, you are kind of [thinking] of the next day, and you see what happened the day before. With the Apple Watch, we have tailored 20/20 to give notifications to management and staff in real-time, giving us the opportunity to work better with our crew … and affect what history will be.”
As of this summer, OTG’s entire portfolio of full-service restaurants in the United Airlines terminal at Newark Airport—including Abruzzo, Saison, and Vesper Tavern—had begun using Flo 20/20 on the Apple Watch. The software is designed to allow restaurant managers to check the status of kitchen operations, customer feedback, inventory levels, and sales performance.
“Servers can glance at it, rather than having to take something out of their pocket to look at, so it’s a much quicker and easier process, and more natural for the customer to witness,” Blatstein says. “With Flo and the Apple Watch, a manager can stay with the customer and solve the problem before they walk away. I think that’s really important in customer service.”
While it has only been tested on Apple watches by restaurants at the Newark terminal, the Flo technology is also available on iPads and iPhones in restaurants throughout OTG’s portfolio, which encompasses 11 terminals in North America. The Flo software has managed more than 5 million transactions since launch, across a network of 6,000 iPads. Blatstein thinks that five years down the line restaurants around the world will be using a combination of iPads and Apple Watches to better manage their operations.
“In the future, I envision all of our servers and food runners will be wearing the watch so they can get real-time information instead of having to run back to the kitchen to ask something,” Blatstein says.
Currently there is no consumer-facing Flo app available on the smartwatch, although diners can interface via an iPad. However, customers can use the Apple Watch for Apple Pay, and that is being done at the Newark terminal.