Making Fast Food Even Faster

According to a news report from nytimes.com,”FAST food is a slow sell for new technologies. It took four years, for instance, for HyperActive Technologies, which makes a system that uses artificial intelligence to predict customer order flow, to have a restaurant chain buy the product. And it took three years for Exit 41, a developer of call-center software, to make its first significant corporate sale. HyperActive Technologies started selling its system, HyperActive Bob, in 2003 and had a few sales here and there. But not until January this year did it land a corporate customer, when Zaxby’s Franchising, a chain of 400 restaurants based in Athens, Ga., approved the system for use in all its franchises. And, this month, Swiss Chalet, a 190-restaurant unit of Cara Operations in Scarborough, Ontario, bought a new version of Exit 41’s software.”

“Call-center technology is well established in most industries, and the restaurant business in general would seem a huge opportunity. There are an estimated 195,000 fast-food and 80,000 casual-dining restaurants in the United States, according to the National Restaurant Association. Most have adopted new technology only to a degree — computerized cash registers, for instance, or high-speed networking technology,” said the story. “Interest is growing in restaurant technology companies. Venture capitalists have invested almost $650 million in 27 such businesses, according to the National Venture Capital Association, with the $143 million in 10 companies in 2006 marking the biggest year since 2001.”

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