eateria’s Marketing Manager Spent the Past Weekend #HackDining

July 3, 2014 - 6 minutes read

June 27-29 our Marketing Manager, Kendra McClanahan

, spent the weekend in New York at Food+Tech Connects HackDining hackathon. Below she shares her experience and the future of dining.

Hack-Dining-Logo-_NYC_final-01-01-222x222This past weekend I spent two and a half days in New York City #HackDining

…. what’s HackDining you ask? It’s Food+Tech Connect’s initiative to hack (create) a better future for dining. Food+Tech Connect organized a hackathon, an event where computer programmers and designers come together to solve a problem. This wasn’t your ordinary hackathon though, they set out to bridge the gap between restaurant and foodservice gurus and tech and design people. Multiple large players in the food industry—Applegate, Google, Chipotle, and B&B —each presented a challenge to the participants.

Before I dive into my team’s hack, let me give you some background information on myself and my passion for the food industry: I grew up on a farm in Missouri where my dad worked long hours and spent the remainder of his time tending to the cattle, broken fences, bailing hay and all the other demanding tasks associated with farming. His hard work was always an inspiration for me. About 8 months ago I was working on a project to help farmers sell their products to restaurants, which lead me to eateria and Ola. Ola’s passion for the food & restaurant industry combined with eateria’s tech aspect immediately drew me in.

Our Hack

Chipotle_images

The Chipotle Challenge presentation

The group I joined included a developer and a designer. We decided to tackle the Chipotle challenge—how could we use tech to help quick-serve restaurants (QSRs) measure the environmental sustainability of how their stores are designed, built and operated. We were tasked with not only QSRs’ design, but also their operations. We choose this challenge for several reasons:

  • We wanted something difficult…sustainability covers many areas and can be complex in finding a real solution.
  • We wanted to hack some hardware!
  • Lastly, we wanted to work with some of the partner APIs, who were kind enough to offer use access and we wanted to take advantage.

We started with this question: How can we create a more intelligent hvac by monitoring foot traffic, weather, and the indoor conditions of the restaurant? Admittedly, we knew nothing about HVACs, nor had we hacked hardware or a POS API (Leaf – William was awesome by the way!). But what’s the fun in not challenging yourself, so we dove in head first.

chipotle_pitch

Our team presenting our idea for initial feedback

We ended up with a slightly better understanding of energy and how air conditioners affect the environment, live temperature data streams on the screen, and a real potential hack for changing how QSRs affect the environment – the Chipotle crew was very helpful in their feedback and seeing the potential. Our presentation didn’t quite hit the nail on the head (shout out to Just Right for taking the prize),but we had an absolute blast!  We honestly think there is some potential in our findings. While I don’t know that there isn’t already a solution to this, my challenge to all of you reading this post:

  • Find a way to use BIG data in the restaurant world to hack smarter energy savings opportunities for restaurants. And then let us know what you find, we’d love to see it! 🙂

The Takeaway from HackDining

The food tech industry is AMAZING – As these photos show! I’ve never been to such a well thought-out event, from the food & swag to the participants and APIs. Everyone in the room was passionate about changing the face of dining through technology and calculated, analytical solutions. It was truly an experience to see what the teams thought of – from a smart cafeteria tray to Turbo Tax for restaurant regulations to a self-composting trash can that rewards you.

The number of females at this event also pleasantly surprised me. Not just in attendance, but there were a significant number of female CEOs and Founders of companies and many women on the winning teams! These ladies were such an inspiration, especially after just reading this article. It makes me happy to see females putting themselves out there and showing it’s cool to understand technology and change the world!

I see that the future is bright for the food tech world, and eateria is glad to be doing our part in helping it change for the best! If you’d like to see the winning teams, you can view them here.

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