My business partner Danny and I happened to sit next to each other at a friends birthday in a restaurant 11 years ago, and were really struggling to catch a waiters attention for another drink, or to get the bill. We wanted to buy more and give the establishment our money but they werent letting us. Danny already had in mind ways of integrating technology seamlessly into the dining experience, and we brainstormed it at the time and from that point on worked on it together. We thought, Wouldnt it be great to reach down, touch the table, and another drink would arrive, and be able to request the bill when youre ready to leave. We were very aware from the start, however, that the food is king in any restaurant, and that it was key to get this right.
We wanted to give guests control, and so from this initial concept Danny and I created the E-Table technology ourselves, having founded the company in late 2005. We opened inamo (www.inamo-restaurant.com) in 2008 to prove our concept, and our own second restaurant inamo St James in December 2010, which relocated to Covent Garden in January 2016. We are scheduled to open inamo Camden in November 2016.
At inamo, Soho each guest uses a touch sensitive panel to interact with our system, which is projected from above onto their table surface. Order when you want, get your bill when you want, and call a waiter at the touch of a button, but the human element is very much still present. Guests can see a tasteful image of the dish/drink item theyre considering projected onto the plate in front of them, with a price and description to the right. They can then decide to add it to their order, and whenever theyre ready can send that directly off to the kitchen/bar to be prepared.
At inamo Covent Garden weve introduced a tablet based version of our ordering system (which will soon synchronise with the ability to order on-table too) and a productised version of our projection based table system that can be retro-fitted into existing spaces more easily and affordably and features increased animation. This will be the case for inamo Camden too.
When we began work on our technology for inamo Soho in 2005 smart phones and tablets had not yet been developed. The tech we use there we created bespoke in-house. Unfortunately, this is very challenging to update and its much simpler to add new features to the on-table projections now (we already have chef-cam, your choice of patterns and images as a virtual-tablecloth, animations of our inamo characters the inamob, games (including pong and memory), and will soon have the ability to personalise the images on your tables in advance, see what music is playing (with its artwork).We intend to create a much more flexible interactive ordering and entertainment system that we can regularly update and develop with new features in a way that is not possible with our original system.
The restaurants have performed very well, and received favourable reviews such as:
1. from the interactive menu to delicious sushi, this is Asian fun at your fingertips Jay Rayner The Observer
2. for a magical moment, it feels like a futuristic dining utopia The Independent
Plus, we were awarded TimeOut London Restaurant of the year in 2010 as voted by readers of TimeOut.
inamo Soho has now been open for eight years, which for a London restaurant reflects its success and the positive guest reaction to our concept. Weve had over ¾ of a million diners through our restaurants, which shows that guests enjoy the restaurants and regularly return.