Restaurateur Danny Meyer thinks smartphones have forced restaurants to step up their game.
Us Weekly caught up with the St. Louis native, who has revolutionized the food industry with eateries such as Shake Shack and Union Square Cafe, at the Intersect by Lexus Grand Opening Preview on Tuesday, August 14, in New York City, and he credited new technology and apps with encouraging restaurants and chefs to take more risks with food.
“I think restaurants have to do more than ever to keep peoples’ attention, just like TV shows have to do more than ever, just like sporting events and concerts,” Meyer, 60, told Us. “We’re so glued to our telephones that I think chefs are experimenting with more flavors and more visually appealing dishes than ever, so that if you’re going to be on your phone, we’re going to make you take a picture of it and tell all of your friends how good it is.”
While some in Meyer’s position might be irked by the presence of phones at the table, the CEO of the Union Square Hospitality Group sees it as an improvement over the earlier days of modern technology. “It’s a lot better than the first generation of cell phone users, before there were smartphones – they spent the entire time talking to their friends who were not at the restaurant with them,” he explained. “Now at least what is happening is, people are writing to all of their friends who are not there. They’re not making as big of a nuisance for all of their guests.”
Furthermore, Meyer believes the reliance on smartphones and interest in photo-sharing apps such as Instagram has actually gotten people more intrigued by food. “What I’m most excited about is: there’s never been a time in the history of the world where more people seem to be more interested in food, and where it came from and how it’s prepared, who prepared it,” he noted. “I think that’s just a great thing and that’s lead to so much innovation.”
And even though delivery apps such as Grubhub and Postmates make it easier for consumers to get food delivered to them wherever and whenever they want, Meyer hopes going to restaurants will remain a treasured pastime. “I think people definitely have a conflict right now, in this moment, between experience and convenience, and the more convenient something is, the less experiential it probably is,” he explained. “But I think our industry is trying to figure out a way to do it all.”
With reporting by Hilary Sheinbaum
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