Boston, MA– Historically, the restaurant industry has always been among the first to accept emerging technologies. With few exceptions, restaurants tend to be cognizant of the changing demands of diners and the impact on the food service industry. As a result, automated purchasing apps and self-checkout kiosks are no longer novel offerings, but a daily part of the dining routine.
For the most part, at least. While you may have come to expect interactive menus at the likes on Panera or McDonald’s, you don’t see them all too frequently at independent restaurants—where the quality of service is equally as relevant as the quality of food. And while many of us would like to think smaller establishments are more likely to take an actual interest in the livelihood and well-being of their staff, it’s possible that adopting new technologies are frequently more cost-prohibitive than efficient.
One local innovation startup is looking to change how local establishments view technology.
PinOn was founded in 2016 by Leon Cheng, a recent Northeastern University graduate, alongside a team of six. The mission? To “build smart restaurants.”
The iOS app, developed at a UMass-Boston incubator, allows patrons to scan an entree via a QR code. They can then choose to download high resolution pictures of their meals, as well as information on how its being prepared and a list of potential allergens.
To date, the app is only being used in only two local restaurants—Wow Barbecue in Brookline and Rhythm ‘n Wraps of Boston and Providence—PinOn has plans to expand their presence, having already secured an investment of an additional $250,000 from a local angel investor.
“The food waste for traditional restaurants is typically as high as five percent of their revenue,” Cheng told local innovation blog BostInno last month. “If we can help them save even some of the cost from the food waste, it would be a huge savings for restaurants.”
How an interactive smart menu can reduce food waste is an unanswered question, however. While it’s a sad truth that restaurants in the U.S. are responsible for an estimated 11 million tons of food waste annually, many efficiency experts have long pointed out that much of this is frequently the result of management inefficiency and customer habits—overstocking, poor storage facilities and insufficient demand. None of which can be downloaded.
"In today's Instagram culture, everyone wants visuals," Peter Wolfinger, PinOn’s VP of sales and Business Development told Boston 25 News earlier this week. "We took that concept and applied it to the menu. We want to provide full images, full video of every single dish so someone sort of has the idea of what they are getting before they get it."
Because, apparently? If you can’t Instagram it, you can’t eat it.
For more information, please visit https://www.pinon.io/