A Hull technology company believes it has the product to satisfy a global appetite to make eating out a seamless and contactless experience for customers.
As lockdown lifts and pubs and restaurants welcome back diners for the first time, Menu Tile is going live.
Brought forward by the Digitalquill group of companies, led by managing director Matt Houldsworth, it uses QR codes and NFC, allowing diners to view the menu, order and pay from their smartphone.
Suitable for use when dining in, collecting, or choosing delivery, it doesn’t even require an app.
Under development for two years, with major investment behind it from the Bridge View Park business, Covid-19 presented the opportunity to re-angle – having been initially geared towards helping customers with food intolerances.
“It has been a long time coming for us, but it is an exciting time, and I really think we can do some good,” Mr Houldsworth said.
“Menu Tile is a project we have had underway for two years, and we’ve invested hundreds of thousands of pounds into it. Originally, and still a part of it, was the desire to flag up allergen information in an accessible way. We came up with the concept on the back of that.
“We had planned to launch in March, then Covid hit, and we rapidly realised that the world was going to be a different place when we came out of it.
“We accelerated some features we had in place which had suddenly become much more important, such as fully contactless operation and online payment, and for clients the ability to factor in a buffer between bookings to allow for clean down and sanitising.”
Described as an immersive experience, with restaurants given the chance to give their dishes as much of a story as they wish, it has been trialled with The Brunch Club at Brough and several others, ahead of launch.
Scores of businesses are now rolling it out.
“The phone has been ringing off the hook,” he said, having given it a marketing push this past week. “Most people calling us are not big operators with planning departments, they are owner-operators dealing with marketing, IT and accounts, while also cooking a menu and putting a health and safety plan together.
“We’re offering a managed set-up on being sent a menu.”
A seven strong team, bolstered by contractors, has developed it, with a standalone company set-up.
“We see this as an international project. It has multilingual functionality built in, so we will be pushing this globally. We are starting local, we need to make sure we can walk before we run, but we plan to rapidly expand to the rest of the UK, then start with British holiday destinations.
“We are very excited about hitting the market.”
Digitalquill, is a systems and software specialist with expertise in radio frequency identification.
Mr Houldsworth said it constantly sets out to “challenge, innovate and create”.
“Why do we accept a paper menu on a table when it is out of date practically as soon as it is printed? We wanted to innovate and create something cutting edge and market leading.
“We did start this process off by creating an app, which everybody goes for. The problem with that is we have found a lot of ‘app fatigue’. We have an app for everything. This just interacts with a tile on a table, be it a scan of a QR code or near frequency communication – the menu is then sent to your phone on a web platform.
“The advantage is there is no customer learning curve, no effort. If they can place an order on Amazon or M&S they will be able to use Menu Tile.”
Funded by subscription and free to diners, it also allows menu “changes on-the-fly”, can host special offers and remembers customers’ allergen and dietary preferences, filtering out or flagging up as required.
It is hoped success with the highly visible product could also help build on the growing tech scene in Hull, with university partnerships underway.