Augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) isn’t a mainstream topic that comes up very often within the nightclub and bar industry. However, creative uses of augmented and also virtual reality are starting to pop up at venues of all types and sizes, all across the world.
Could it be right for you and your brand?
This type of technology enables an interactive experience within a real-world environment, incorporating a variety of sensory elements augmented by “computer-generated information”; something that could benefit your staff, your guests, and your operations.
What’s the difference between augmented and virtual reality? Here’s a quick summary: VR is an entirely digital environment whereas AR, on the other hand, mixes the real world with digitally enhanced information or graphics.
Picture for a moment with me the ability for you to “test” your bar layout before you even purchase the equipment. Or the ability to train staff on all your cocktails, in real time and in a three-dimensional “world” all without using any real ingredients—ultimately reducing F&B training costs and waste?
This can be a reality at your venue (excuse the pun), in addition to many other solutions that both augmented and virtual reality can offer.
Now that mobile phones like the newest versions of the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel have the camera quality and processing power to enable both VR and AR, the momentum toward mass adoption is growing, and it may be an opportune time for you and your brand to take advantage of this enormous opportunity.
According to the Restaurant 2025 Report by Oracle Hospitality, 53 percent of restaurant operators say design/flow optimization via VR and AR will be mainstream or in mass adoption by 2025.
What are the top three uses for this form of technology within the industry?
- Bar and kitchen design
- Staff training exercises
- Enhancing guest experience(s)
Bar & Kitchen Design
The power of this technology will allow you, before you start construction on your new venue or begin work on a small remodeling project, to perfect the floor plan, test your bartender stations, review your back-bar setup, and perfect the flow of your kitchen and overall operations.
You could literally walk through and make sure shelving is at the right height, that your bar stations are the most optimal setup, that items are within the right pivot movement, and that there isn’t the potential for congestion-related accidents long before they happen.
Fixing a faulty design means lost revenue, increased construction costs, and a whole lot of stress. This type of technology has the potential to save thousands of wasted dollars with the incorrect purchase, sizing, or placement of equipment within any bar, restaurant, or nightclub space.
When sourcing your next architect, interior designer, and engineering firm for permit drawings, ask if they can provide you with a virtual tour of your space before you sign off on it.
This is where it gets really exciting! One of the most tangible payoffs of AR/VR technology is using it for consistent and thorough staff training. The current process of developing training materials can not only be costly, but also vary in quality.
This technology can create a detailed visual world for your team to safely interact with their soon-to-be everyday job surroundings, positioning them to mentally and physically learn the tasks required.
Your new (and current staff) could put on a virtual reality headset and “enter” your virtual venue. From there, they can walk through the venue with a full 3-D tour led by your management team.
With augmented reality, your staff can interact with on-screen digital objects, which are positioned over a live camera display of the real physical world.
Within this view on their phone could be important touch-points about fire safety as they walk past the fire extinguishers, fire exits, and exhaust hood system. It could have important information about each piece of equipment as they stand in front of it.
It could provide the opportunity to review the menu and test their bartender skills, right there on the spot by “grabbing” virtual bottles and ingredients to make your signature drinks.
This could all be done without necessarily disrupting your operations while reducing the repetitive nature of certain training aspects. It could also provide an audit and scoring process to ensure your new hires are completing each task appropriately and correctly. The creative potential here is endless.
“Experiential marketing” has fundamentally changed the bar, restaurant, and hospitality business. Guests are increasingly interacting with their mobile devices. Therefore, it’s only natural that you’ll want to leverage mobile technology to enhance the experience they have.
With augmented reality you could partner with your vendors to compliment the taste of their product through education on flavor profiles and their appropriate pairings. For example, you could use AR to educate drinkers on the origins, ABV, category, and taste of each beer available on your menu.
The same can be said for your food menu. When a mobile phone is presented over your menu, the menu could come alive. A multimedia menu allows your guests to see ingredients, allergy information, and nutritional information for any menu item in a three-dimensional format.
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Augmented reality can bridge this gap between guest, product, and product content.
The ability to overlay additional information, visual stimulations, and guest interaction on top of specific items gives you and your vendors the chance to combine the digital world with the physical one in a targeted and seamless way—ultimately leading to an increase in sales.
Think about it this way: The Internet, social media, and mobile phones have dramatically changed the way we operate our venues—from marketing to operations to menu development. Virtual reality and augmented reality will change things again, in ways we may not even imagine (yet).
The movement has already started—but how much does it cost?
You can start a virtual reality training experience by purchasing a 360-degree camera from your local tech retailer (with a tripod) for $400-600 USD. If you want to step it up to include augmented reality for training and marketing within your menu, you could be looking at costs of $25,000-30,000 USD.
While the up-front sticker shock may deter you, consider the long-term return on investment, from both a training and marketing point of view.
It’s no secret—we live and work in a technology-driven society. Sometimes, even I have a love-hate relationship with technology. For many of you, it’s likely the same.
With all of the technology surrounding us and continuously advancing in the food and beverage industry, it can be easy to get absorbed by and caught up in the next big thing that will help you either save time, financial resources, or improve customer service levels, just to name a few.
Sometimes, when you get so caught up in technology, you can forget some of the fundamentals that will never be fully replaced by technology, and fundamentals that still play a large role in the success of today’s bars, pubs, lounges, and restaurants.
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The key is the right balance of technology that will assist you in meeting both short-term and long-term goals—something AR and VR can accomplish.
Within the next 5 to 10 years, staff and guests will, however, expect faster access to information. AR will play a key role in providing this. Will you and your brand be ready?