Sunday, January 17, 2016

Crowdsourcing Restaurant Management

Project Status: Never going to happen

As a prior restaurant manager, I propose an idea of crowdsourcing many of the job duties out to the patrons themselves. Imagine a restaurant which was setup in a manner so that instead of developing a brand with its own image and gimmicks, the gimmick would actually be that the patrons get to define the ever dynamic atmosphere of the venue themselves.

Of course we can't fully circumvent all management and have the restaurant goers counting the tills, hiring and firing the staff and all of the those management duties. What I am proposing here is that rather than having an owner or a franchise making all of the standards and operating decisions, we leave as many of those choices up to the public as possible.

The management team at the property would have the responsibility of moderating, interpreting and implementing the crowdsourced decisions for the establishment.

In all cases with this idea the more dynamic and in real-time we can make and implement the decisions the better. While some results from the crowd can be implemented on the fly others must trickle out over a matter of days or weeks. 

Enough theory already right. What exactly am I talking about here?  Well, let me give you some examples. 

Imagine the music in the restaurant being like that of a Pandora Radio station. People in the restaurant have a method, be it an app on their own device or an at the table device provided, to select whether they like or dislike the currently playing song. Furthermore; they have the seeding option to suggest songs or artists which they would want to hear. In my far fetched dream world they would also have the ability to link their own Pandora Radio stations or music from libraries on their own devices as suggestions for the system.

With anyone in the building that chooses to participate suggesting music to the system and training it so that it is aware of what is wanted and unwanted, we can actually begin to cater to the crowd. Not only will the system try to play music that appeals to the majority of the crowd, but as people come and go it can adjust in real-time based on what it has learned from these people over time. This way the next time you come back it is more likely to already be playing music you love.

Not only can we do this with music but also with television stations, beer, liquor, wine selections, food items and so on. If we can begin to integrate systems such as music and television so that users may control them in an on demand way then this idea can truly start to pan out. Ever wanted to be sitting at a bar eating a sandwich named after you while watching your favorite game on the television? No problem, now you have a way of making that happen.

One important thing to note is that this is not a one-to-one relationship in which each time people select a preference or make a decision they will get their way. Aggregation of user input is what drives the system. This concept alone could frustrate people and lose their interest, unless it is handled correctly in which case it will actually create more interest in the establishment and draw more people in.

The main reason people will get frustrated is because they don't know what is going on behind the curtain, why their selection is not being featured or why that one artist is playing even though they have selected dislike when other songs by him/her came on. The best thing to do is to keep them in the loop with the entire process. Show them that the mixed drink they want named after them isn't on the menu because there has not been any interest in it or because some other item needs to be knocked off first to make room. Use this wealth of information to encourage them to get a certain number of people interested in the decision before it can be a reality, or show them the direct cost or inventory problems which are challenging to the completion of what they want.

Keeping the end users in the loop, giving them all the information you can so that they can make decisions of their own, will intrigue them as well as keep them motivated to get other people involved.

Ultimately the managers would have the burden of moderating the decisions made by the crowd and setting goals or triggers to protect the bottom line. For example; say someone wants to request a certain type of beer to keep in stock. The system doesn't just automatically order that beer, but it begins a process which may lead to the introduction of it. How likely it is actually adopted to the menu depends on many factors such as how long this person has been coming to the bar, how many other individuals they can get to also get to join in on the request for it, etc.

I know this in all likelihood will never happen, but I do love to think about the intricate inter-workings of a system like this and how fun it would be to try and make it work.