20 April 2019
Local restaurants are more conservative in adopting new technology than their foreign counterparts, said Keith Li, co-founder and CEO of Innopage. Photo: HKEJ
Local restaurants are more conservative in adopting new technology than their foreign counterparts, said Keith Li, co-founder and CEO of Innopage. Photo: HKEJ

New technology to reshape dining experience

Hong Kong is widely regarded as a culinary paradise that offers eaters a wide variety of food and international cuisines. As a smart city, how can Hong Kong improve the dining experience of customers with new technology? Several food delivery apps launched in the past few years could be the answer.

With mobile phones, people can order luxury food from Michelin-star restaurants or street food such as egg waffles or even Chinese herbal tea without leaving the couch. It’s even more advanced overseas. Some restaurants allow customers to shop online and reheat the food by themselves while others use drones to deliver orders.

“Nowadays most consumers are used to order food delivery with their mobile apps as they can make mobile payment easily with fingerprint authentication,” said Keith Li, co-founder and CEO of Innopage, which has developed more than 300 mobile apps since its establishment six years ago.

Various food delivery apps are providing a wide range of choices, from high-end restaurants to budget eateries, to suit consumers’ needs, Li said, who is a foodie and has strong personal interest in searching for underrated restaurants.

Pay-at-the-table service

However, restaurants in Hong Kong are generally more conservative in adopting new technology than their foreign counterparts, he said.

“Most restaurants in the US or Europe are offering pay-at-the-table services. Waiters will take the payment terminals to the table where guests can pay for their meals using their credit card or mobile phone,” said Li, who likes to compare technologies being used in restaurants.

“Such practice, which can actually reduce security risks by not passing your payment card to others, is a very tangible way to increase the level of customer service for restaurants in Hong Kong,” he said.

“What’s more, with the pay-at-the-table service, customers can complete the payment process without having their credit cards out of their eyesight and save a lot of time.”

There’s also an “Order Ahead” service for food purchases where customers can order and pay before picking up the food. This is not limited to coffee shops but is also used at some salad stores in supermarkets.

“The pickup app is convenient to customers as they don’t have to queue up any more, especially during rush hour,” Li said.

New technology does not only help consumers save time in queues but also shorten the time for online payments. The “Visa Checkout” service, for example, enables customers to make online payments without having to re-enter their credit card information and shipping address every time. Some pizza stores in Canada have included this feature in their delivery apps to allow faster checkout.

Self-service machines in restaurants

Li said restaurants in China have moved far ahead in embracing new technology.

“In China, many restaurants have already rolled out self-service machines, some of which even use the face recognition technology,” Li said. The machine would display the menu automatically when it is approached by a customer, who can then order a meal and finish the payment through the touch-screen, he said.

“The whole process does not involve any cash transaction. In this aspect, China is more advanced in terms of payment technology adoption,” Li said. If Hong Kong wants to speed up, it can do it in other ways, instead of merely copying what has been done in China or overseas, he added.

“The GPS technology is very mature. Consumers would not feel odd to receive advertisements from some nearby restaurants,” Li said. “Such service does not involve any sophisticated system and will be very popular in Hong Kong.”

Last year, Li and his colleagues launched a mobile app called Foodbulous, which aims to help users search for restaurants. “When we go to some unfamiliar districts such as Tai Po or Yuen Long, we may not be able to find a good restaurant there as newspaper or online information could be biased. Most people would rely on recommendations from their friends.”

Foodbulous has a function that indicates the restaurants the user’s friends have visited and their comments about their experience in those eateries.

Indeed, technology has introduced a lot of innovations to improve the diner’s experience, from choosing what and where to eat to how to settle the bill. Bon appétit!

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