Sunday, March 16, 2014

Will Austin, Texas SXSW Geek Food Focus Break the Doldrums in the Restaurant Sector?

Each of the last several years more and more chain restaurant Marketing, Technology, Communications, and Human Resource employees have been spotted in the crowds, at the parties or asking questions of presenters at SXSW. The chains are looking for The Next Big Thing to help them drive sales and beat the competition yet the restaurant sector remains notoriously slow at adopting technology.  What’s with that?
Much to the chagrin of legacy chain restaurants, and three steps ahead of them was IBM’s supercomputer teaming with the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).  With a red food serving Austrian chocolate burritos to geek hipsters at SXSW in Austin, TX and the geeks loved the food. IBM was in Austin, TX to introduce and show off it “Cognitive Cooking System”.
“The truck’s purpose is to show the world that a supercomputer can do more that sift data. IBM argues that when the proper algorithms are applied to carefully chosen data sets, Watson can come up with highly creative recipe ideas. This is menu engineering of the most coldly technical sort. Yet the food turns out to be a lot more fun than the process used to create it would lead you to believe.”
IBM is ”tackling food in collaboration with the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE). ICE chefs execute the recipes Watson dreams up and serve them out of the truck at high-profile events. Among those doing the cooking: 2007 James Beard Award Outstanding Pastry Chef Award winner Michael Laiskonis, Real-world feedback from food truck customers gives Watson’s handlers a read on how well recipe development is going. …
 “What appears as a list of ingredients for a novel and flavorful meal is actually the result of a system that intelligently generates millions of ideas out of the quintillions of possibilities, and then predicts which ones are the most surprising and pleasant, applying big data in new ways.”
Here are some examples of menu items developed: Austrian Chocolate Burrito; Caribbean Snapper Fish & Chips; Vietnamese Apple Kebab; Swiss-Thai Asparagus Quiche; Turkish Bruschetta; and Caymanian Plantain Dessert. Each was the result of some serious brainpower, supplied both by Watson and the ICE chefs, and has been road-tested on the truck. One or more could work well as short-term specials especially if your restaurant draws a tech-savvy crowd. 
Clearly success does leave clues. My questions is: Can a Computer Stop Doldrums in the Restaurant Sector? Will any restaurant company be bold enough to try? Will a Tech company leverage this to open a chain of their own?  Why not, they have the cash, knowledge. What might be next? Smart food.
For international corporate presentations, educational forums, or keynotes contact:  Grocerant Guru at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions.  His extensive experience as a multi-unit restaurant operator, consultant, brand / product positioning expert and public speaking will leave success clues for all.

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