New app aims to ease path to recovery for hospitality sector

Jul 04, 2020

by ANDREW GIBBS e: news@businessmk.co.uk

THE DAYS of attracting a waiter’s attention in a crowded restaurant or of staff behind a busy bar may be numbered, thanks to a new app.

w8r.ai is an AI-powered digital waiter and menu service that removes the need for physical menus and lets customers order food and drink directly to their table from their own phone.

The service, which aims to increase the safety of both customers and staff, has been launched to help restaurants, cafes and bars to safely reopen their doors as lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted.

w8r.ai does not require any downloads – customers use their phone camera to scan a QR code on their table. This launches a digital menu from which they can browse and tap to order. Each QR code is unique, allowing the table number to be identified and the order sent immediately to the kitchen or bar for service. 

The app is the creation of entrepreneur Craig Holt, who grew up in Milton Keynes. He had been working on a project using AI chatbots for legal advice and QR codes to make legal documents more digital.

Craig Holt, developer of w8r.ai

“I realised the same approach could be used for waiters and menus,” he said. “It is easier, faster and safer than the traditional ordering experience. If you want a round of drinks at a bar, or to order your meal in a restaurant, just tap and your order is instantly sent where it needs to be. You no longer need to wait to catch the eye of a waiter or stand queuing.”

Each venue’s digital menu is integrated with an AI-powered chatbot, that can guide, give advice and even make food and drink recommendations. Customers can also exchange messages with the restaurant staff or request someone to come over in person. 

“It puts the customer in control of their experience,” said Mr Holt.

As well as existing order-at-table venues, w8r expects strong demand for its service in pubs and bars and order-at-counter food establishments as they consider the complexities of socially distanced queues. 

Mr Holt said: “Moving to table service without having to add the cost of a new team of staff to take orders should enable these venues to continue to be both safe and financially viable.

“We are very conscious of the financial difficulties faced by the industry right now. By helping to reduce costs while also enabling restaurants to optimise their revenue through the smart recommendation engine, we hope this product can help safeguard venues and protect jobs.”

Using the app, restaurants can enhance a customer’s digital menu with dish-specific reviews and provenance information, wine suggestions, video or notes from the chef and even the ability to view the dish in front of you via augmented reality before ordering. 

“The only limit is the imagination of the establishment and our creative team,” said Mr Holt. “Rather than a compromise to the traditional menu and waiter, a well-crafted digital experience has the potential to provide an even more immersive and engaging experience. Each venue can find their own balance between human and AI-powered elements of the experience.”

w8r will be available initially to businesses in the UK and USA. A basic QR code to existing online menu service will be madeavailable for free immediately to help to support the industry. 

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