When High Tech Touches Your Food

It’s not a stretch to say that high tech touches everything these days. You almost certainly own a smartphone or tablet (probably both), which you no doubt use for any number of ways to make your life easier, faster, and more convenient. Now you can add one more thing to that list: How to buy the perfect steak.

And while you definitely don’t want anyone touching your food, when high tech does it, there are benefits. Read on.

Codes, calories, and consumer confidence

Steak and other cuts of meat have gone high tech in Thailand and other countries. And not just beef, but pork, chicken, eggs, fruits, vegetables, frozen food, baked goods, and ready-to-eat meals.

Consumers simply use their smartphones or tablets to scan the QR code—those blocks of black and white squares typically used for storing URLs and other information—on the food package to trace the history of the contents. For example, you want to know about the producer, the farm, the slaughterhouse of your steak? Just scan the QR code. It’s a great way for consumers to get information about the freshness and quality of the food they are buying.

But there’s even more information to be had from that QR code. You want all of the nutritional information—vitamins, minerals, calories, and fat content? Scan the QR code. What about favorite recipes—what’s the best way to cook your steak? You got it: scan the QR code.

Information is power, and when it comes to food, not only does information help to establish safety measures and help to ensure quality, it’s a great way to instill consumer confidence.

The new fast food?

Is fast food not fast enough for you? Maybe delivery to your front door step (or your neighbor’s roof, depending on the strength of the wind) via parachute is the next step in food convenience. Some folks Down Under have come up with a clever way to deliver your calories. While the QR code gives you information about your food, the parachute delivers your food. Although it’s certainly a new twist on food delivery, it’s probably not too practical. However, maybe a floating piece of toast with melted cheese will satisfy your craving for something “light.” I’d say Swiss cheese just got lighter.

Maybe food by parachute is not the next trend. But how would you know if it is? Food Genius might. The big data startup claims it is able to detect future food trends. Lately, Food Genius has been aggregating data from restaurant menus and has determined that burgers are one of the most popular foods in the country. Maybe you already thought that, but what you might not know is that peppers are a more popular topping than pickles. And if you like cheese on that burger, cheddar is the most popular cheese for primping the patty.

I’m no genius, but they might be on to something. Dang, I’m getting hungry all of a sudden. Maybe something topped with peppers. And cheese! Hmm, I wonder if that can be delivered by parachute? Who would refuse a peppered patty provided by parachute?

Improving efficiencies

Not only is high tech figuring out food trends, high tech is also helping restaurants increase efficiencies.

Avero’s  software lets restaurants track purchases and voided items at the time of transaction. Restaurants can use that information to improve service, increase sales, and identify employees who might be stealing food, like burgers topped with peppers and cheddar cheese. This type of information is vitally important to staying in business when you consider that pre-tax margins for restaurants is a scant three to five percent. If profits were food, those would be low in calories.

But let’s say you didn’t like your burger (because you never really liked peppers), you could use Punchh’s mobile app to share your disappointment by writing a review. But if you loved that burger because it was dominated by those peppers, you could proclaim the virtues of the pepper-topped patty. Pucch’s app does more than just provide a way to share your gastronomical experience. Restaurants can use the app to let you sign up for their loyalty programs, take surveys, or even order your next burger. That’s one small touch to get your hands on the next great burger.

Using the cloud to help prevent waste

And because we’ve been talking about food and high tech and how the two get along (unlike those nasty gray peas that rolled into your applesauce when you were a kid), what about the food that goes uneaten? According to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a whopping 40 percent of food in the U.S. ends up in landfills. Americans throw out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, according to the NRDC report. Can high tech change that?

LeanPath is one company that’s passionate about food waste. Making the most of their cloud-based analytics platform, they’ve helped their customers reduce food waste by as much as 80 percent. Before throwing away any pre-consumer food waste, including overproduction, expired items, and food trimmings, restaurants are able to “catalog” it, analyze it, and then use that data to gain insights into making future food purchases and running the business more efficiently.

High tech and food go together like two peas in a pod. And that involves a lot of data in one form or another. So, be sure that whatever you’re doing with your data that you’re also backing it up and protecting it—and that it’s fully and quickly recoverable. And that’s more than just food for thought.

Tell us how high tech has influenced what you eat. And let us know if you are one of those people who likes peppers on your burger.