Gift Cards Don’t Have to be Boring, Use AR to Virtually Gift an Actual Item

Food is serious business. Now, on The Main Course, host Barbara Castiglia will invite insiders on the front lines of food to share their expertise, strategies, and forecasts for navigating the ever-changing restaurant industry.

 

Technology is a crucial component of restaurant recovery. Augmented reality (AR) has many applications to drive value, especially in personalizing and modernizing the gift card experience. To chat about this topic, The Main Course host Barbara Castiglia welcomed Jack Serfass, CEO, Uptown Network, and Patrick Johnson, CEO, Rock Paper Reality. The two companies are partners in this new venture. Uptown Network is a menu digitization app, while Rock Paper Reality is an AR agency.

“Gift cards are old, so we were thinking of how to reimagine it, and AR was capable of doing that” -Jack Serfass

Johnson explained AR and its applicability to restaurants. “Essentially, it’s a fusion of the digital and physical world. It’s an overlay of virtual information on the physical environment. You can make 3-D models of meals and the restaurant.”

Serfass, whose background includes launching software companies and owning a restaurant, said the company launched its digital menu platform pre-pandemic, which supported restaurants. Still, the company wanted to do more to help clients generate revenue in the gift card space. “Gift cards are old, so we were thinking of how to reimagine it, and AR was capable of doing that.”

Instead of sending that dull plastic card, consumers can virtually gift an actual item, personalizing the experience. The two companies began working together to revitalize this revenue stream.

“We built out the AR portion and integrated it into the Uptown app. It’s a direct increase to the bottom line. There are also intangible benefits like virality and using the images on social medial or websites,” Johnson said.

Jack noted that the gift becomes an experience and drives micro-gifting of small items like a coffee, cocktail, or dessert. Restaurants also avoid the high 20% transaction fee they face with third parties. Those micro-gifts often lead to more purchases that don’t involve any processing fees.

Pat shared some additional thoughts on AR in restaurants. “It’s a new medium for communication, and AR has many more applications. It brings value to the customer and business.”

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