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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:00 am

Technology giving restaurants an edge

Kimberly Dupps Truesdell | For The Journal Gazette

I was circling the parking lot at Glenbrook Square looking for a space when I got a text message.

My estimated wait for a table at Red Robin, it read, would be about 15 minutes.

Well, that's interesting, I thought. How did they get my number? And why were they texting me?

Don't fret. It's not a case of Big Brother spying on me (although if spying involves burgers and fries, I'm in!). My husband had checked in with the restaurant just minutes earlier, and he had given them my name and number. Instead of the host handing over a pager, he put our information into the restaurant's system. A text would replace the blinking red lights and buzzing.

The technology at Red Robin is just part of a larger movement to streamline the dining process and automate it.

According to the ICX Association, a group that helps brands apply technology to the customer experience, one of the predictions for 2018 is that restaurants will be the push to develop artificial and automation. Ashley Morris, CEO of Capriotti's Sandwich Shop, tells ICX that she attributes the drive to rising minimum wages and predicts customers will see more self-service kiosks and possibly robots in the front and back of the house.

Just take, for example, Panera Bread and its remodeled location at Jefferson Pointe. While self-service kiosks have been in use for a couple years, the new tables feature technology that once a pager is placed on it, the staff knows which order goes to what table. Patrons no longer have to congregate at the window and instead wait at the table for bread bowls of broccoli cheese soup.

In as much, Restaurant Business reports that among the seven trends that will mold the industry this year is “smarter” kitchens. It cites a Mediterranean chain, Cava, that used customer-flow data gathered from sensors placed throughout the restaurant “to reduce congestion and speed up ordering.”

In return, restaurants might use the technology to mine more data from guests in an effort to customize the dining experience.

Busy Bean

After months of rumors indicating as much, it seems that local businessman Bill Bean and Pete Giokaris, who owned Flanagan's Restaurant & Pub are teaming up.

According to Giokaris, he is working with Bean on several restaurant concepts – including one to take over the building at 6525 Covington Road.

The restaurant that had been open for nearly 30 years closed Sept. 3. Management had posted a note on the door that said that it had been bought and would be reopening.

Bean has been expanding his operations to include more restaurant holdings in the past year. He assumed full ownership of Main Street Bistro and Martini Lounge, 200 E. Main St., and bought the space vacated by Bar 145 on North Clinton Street.

He changed the name of the downtown restaurant to Park Place on Main and with the help of a new staff devoted to his restaurant operations, opened Hamilton Public House at 4910 N. Clinton St.

There also has been significant work to the former Bill's Bistro on Spy Run Avenue.

Stay tuned for more details.

Girl Scout cookies

Girl Scout cookies are just about here. The annual sale in the Girl Scouts of Northern Indiana-Michiana council begins Friday and runs through March 4.

The eight varieties of cookies go for $4 per box. You can buy them from a Girl Scout or find a cookie booth location at GSNIM.org. There is also a “Cookie Finder” mobile app.

New and healthy

Just as many are making New Year's resolutions to eat healthier, Olive Garden has added two items to its Tastes of Mediterranean menu.

The Spiralized Veggie Pasta features a combination of zucchini and squash noodles, tossed with whole-grain linguine, tomatoes and garlic in a scampi herb sauce. And if you are counting, the dish comes in at 560 calories.

The Chicken Giardino includes grilled chicken and a medley of fresh vegetables tossed with pappardelle pasta in a light, lemon chicken herb sauce. Calorie total – 600.

All entrées on Olive Garden's Tastes of the Mediterranean menu are less than 600 calories.

Around town

Ivy's Jerk Joint, 2836 S. Clinton St., will have its grand opening Jan. 20. The restaurant, which started as a roadside barbecue business, will serve Jamaican Jerk chicken, ribs, turkey tips, wings and more.

Glenbrook Square will welcome a new quick-service restaurant to its food court. Curry Garden is waiting for permits to be finalized and should open in the near future.

The Burger King location at Jefferson Pointe has closed.

The Dish features restaurant news and food events and appears Wednesdays. Fax news items to 461-8893, email kdupps@jg.net or call 461-8304.