Restaurant marketing is getting more interesting and sophisticated by the month it seems. While we do not advocate chasing every restaurant marketing techno-fad, we do see that early adopters of new marketing technologies seem to get several distinct benefits. First, naturally, there is the novelty of “new” and this draws free publicity in the form of media mentions, word of mouth, and viral exposure (such as being highlighted in a blog post like this one, which may then be re-posted and the reach extended even further through more social media exposure on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more). We also notice that early adopters of advancements in restaurant marketing technologies are learning organizations and – while there may not be an immediate financial payoff on every marketing test or pilot campaign – the organizations that test, learn and experiment usually end up with a big long-term advantage.
Augmented Reality (AR) is one of the more recent trends in restaurant marketing and we’re seeing exciting examples of its application popping up all over the world. What is Augmented Reality you ask? Here’s how Wikipedia defines it: (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. Another way to learn about Augmented Reality though is to see it in, well, reality. Here are some ten cool augmented reality restaurant marketing examples that can have a practical application for restaurant marketers:
1. Yelp’s Monocle
Yelp, the website that almost put the Yellow Pages out of business, is ready to finish the job with its new Monocle app. Using your smartphone’s camera, GPS, and compass, Monocle overlays markers of nearby businesses and services on your screen. Just tap on any marker to see more details, such as full reviews of your favorite restaurant or maps to restaurants that you have yet to discover.
2. Fast Food Reality
There is no such thing as a burger desert and your smartphone knows it. The FAST FOOD REALITY app projects restaurant locations and information over real-time images. And there are maps too. So if you can’t find pizza, burgers, donuts, and coffee anywhere in the world, you just aren’t hungry.
3. Interactive 3D Menus
Ordering healthy was next to impossible at most restaurants before ERICSSON developed their interactive 3D Augmented Reality menus. The app allows guests to view images, ingredients, and nutritional information for any menu item. And it does translation, so you don’t need to admit to the waiter you don’t speak French.
4. Time Out New York Bar Guide
Some day we’ll tell our grandkids about hard times when a stranger could wander New York all night with no idea where the bars with drink specials hide. These days, Augmented Reality browser Junaio with TIME OUT NEW YORK has created a summer bar guide. With text, images, audio, video, and promotions, your smartphone can plan your night.
Every modern mind has wished for the knowledge of whose hands were in our food and what consumption will do to our planet. FoodTracer, an Augmented Reality app, traces the origin and production of our groceries. It can direct customers to organic venues and let eco-aware consumers know whether packaging is recyclable.
6. Starbucks’ Holiday Cups
Classic Christmas animation? Charlie Brown, Rudolph, Frosty, last December’s Venti Mocha… Starbucks’ Augmented Reality app brings coffee cups to life with sledding polar bears, ice skaters, Christmas trees and more. Starbucks plans cartoon-cups for more holidays as part of their digital commitment which brought 26 million patrons to purchase with their phones in 2011.
7. Krystal’s Dancing Penguin
You tell some people that penguins break dance and they just won’t believe you. Show ‘em. Augment their reality. Turn your smartphone on the Krystal penguin box and smugly chomp your burger while your penguin buddy busts a move in crowd-abashing 3D. And make no mistake, dancing penguins do draw crowds.
8. Unlock the Box
With games and giveaways, Augmented Reality makes the wrappers so fun customers will buy tacos whether or not they’re hungry. TACO BELL and SONY teamed to create a smartphone game app that gave customers the chance to win the new Playstation Vita and other prizes. 1.7 million customers bought $5 buck boxes to play.
9. Domino’s Ad Interaction
Racing home, hungry, no dinner waiting, pass a bus stop ad, tell it to send a pizza to your home, meet the delivery guy at the front door…. Talk about an impulse buy! Domino’s Pizza in the UK, using the Blippar App, is using Augmented Reality to create interactive outdoor ads in 3D. Customers view the menu, special offers, and order with a quick scan of a phone.
10. Wagamama Placemats
And to think we were once amused by coloring and mazes on our placemats! Wagamama, the UK ramen chain, is using Augmented Reality to allow diners to scan their placemats with smartphones to virtually visit music festivals, watch art being made, explore menu details, vote for favorite dishes, and like Wagamama on Facebook. Now, what to do with all those crayons?