Posted: Jan 15, 2019
Restaurant tech company Presto dropped a couple new products today for front-of-house operations in the restaurant: Presto Wearables and Presto A.I. These join Presto’s tabletop terminal, on which guests can order, pay, report feedback, and contact the manager if needs be.
According to a press release, Presto Wearables are smartwatch-like devices that notify the servers wearing them of a customer’s needs (e.g., refill table six’s Diet Coke). In the event of a bigger issue, guests can also notify the manager via the wearable device. Presto A.I., meanwhile, does real-time data analytics and predictive modeling, both of which typically improve things like inventory management and labor costs.
Presto launched in 2008 after founder Rajat Suri — also a cofounder of Lyft — dropped out of MIT and spent a year waiting tables and testing a prototype device. The ensuing tabletop terminal, dubbed PrestoPrime, allows guests to order, pay, play games, and leave feedback, and is currently at major chains like Outback Steakhouse and Applebee’s.
One thing Suri highlighted was the “easy to use” aspect of the new offerings, which brings up a certain issue. Recently, I had a conversation with someone in the restaurant industry about the burden GMs now shoulder of having to not just manage a restaurant but also act as de facto IT person for the many devices and software systems now part of a restaurant’s operations. Which is to say, wearable tech and A.I. sound great in theory, but it’s too soon yet to tell whether these new offerings will be a blessing or another tech burden for GMs to wrestle with. Plus, rating a server via tablet has gotten an understandably bad rap; I can’t imagine expanding that capability to a device the server is wearing will make the idea any more palatable.
As for AI, it’s currently sweeping the restaurant industry, from voice ordering to more robust POS systems to facial recognition. Given that, Presto will definitely face competition in this area.
The company may stand out more on the wearables front, since that’s an area that hasn’t really entered the restaurant industry as of yet. Oracle’s Restaurant 2025 report from last year found that only about half of restaurant operators surveyed found the idea of wearable tech appealing; fewer than half of consumers surveyed said they would use the tech for things like ordering.
Presto’s device isn’t yet primed for ordering capabilities, but it does seem like the logical next step. And if Presto’s watch-like device can grab the same high-profile chains its tabletop device did, we may start to see more wearables on the dining room floor in future.
By Jennifer Marston
January 14, 2019
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