Technology has invaded the hospitality industry—one of the last hold-out markets to embrace tech. Technology for restaurants, bars, food vendors, and catering businesses comes in the form of delivery software, online ordering, and self-serve stations. The most recent movement within this market suggests that technology’s implementation may transform businesses and create more a sustainable hospitality economy.
Over the years, restaurants have been some of the last businesses to adopt the widespread use of technology in day-to-day business—think about the classic, cash-only, Mom-and-Pop pizza joint. However, the pandemic climate necessitates the use of technology, and that means hospitality businesses too.
In large part, third party companies brought in the use of tech like mobile software delivery applications (i.e. GrubHub and Doordash). Now, there are companies popping up nationwide that plan to provide solutions for re-use within hospitality. For these companies, the goal is to use technology to eliminate single-use plastics, and create a circular economy for restaurants and consumers.
Technology Facilitating Reusable Takeout Ware
From plastic takeout containers to plastic-ware, cups, and more—the newest technology companies plan to tackle sustainability issues for hospitality businesses. There has been an influx of companies born while trying to solve re-use within the takeout food market.
Just in New York City, “one billion plastic takeout containers are thrown away every year,” according to data from Oceanic Global. What’s more, after the pandemic year(s) it is obvious that the takeout and delivery market has not only exploded but is here to stay.
So, companies have sprung up nationwide to work in this field. In NYC, Deliver Zero recruits restaurants to join their reusable container program. The company’s mobile app brings together sustainable-focused restaurants and customers to order food in reusable containers and easily return the to-go ware.
Up in Toronto, Canada a company called Inwit is doing the same thing for their local community of restaurants and consumers. The technology is no different than that of another food delivery application like Uber Eats. However, the benefits are many—from saving money on disposable items for restaurants, to being seamless for consumers, and ultimately developing sustainable behavior in the hospitality industry.
Over in Boulder, CO a company called Repeater is expanding zero-waste takeout dining with their application. The Reapeater tech tracks who gets the reusable to-go boxes, as well as where and when they are delivered. The company can see the to-go ware through sanitization, and back into the cycle again to complete their network’s circular economy.
Sustainability Powered by IoT and New Data
All these companies have their similarities and differences. However, the tech is based on a phrase known as Internet of Things (IoT). The basic idea of IoT states that any device or object can be tracked, and that data extracted. This data helps inform people and people are then able to create more innovative solutions with said data.
In this field, there are countless applications for this sort of technology—whether it be to-go ware for restaurants, coffee shops, or for food vendors. Just in the coffee niche, companies like Vessel, Cup Zero, Muuse, and r.Cup cater to coffee lovers and their local cafés. On the other hand, businesses like Go Box in Portland OR are using their platform to add a reusable facet to grocery stores in their network. And when it comes time to sanitize these products, there are even companies like Dishcraft that act as a third-party cleaning service.
Sustainability in the hospitality industry isn’t a new idea. However, the use of third-party tech companies to facilitate re-use is brand-new. For now, the idea is segmented into many different niches, in many different locations, for many different applications. But in the future, it’s safe to say that the same technology could be used for any product container (i.e., toothpaste bottles, shampoo, and more). For now, it seems that creative people who are interested in hospitality and sustainability will drive change in this market. Many of these operations are small or confined to just one city, but in the future it’ll be interesting to see how these small companies transform an international industry.
By Ryan Gallagher