The technology needed to allow a person to sit in one room and communicate visually and verbally with a person in another room somewhere else far away has been around for some time now. It’s been imagined in the movies for decades, going back to Star Trek all the way up to Austin Powers. But until recently teleconferencing was largely unavailable to the public.
Marriott Hotels have begun to change that with state-of-the-art teleconferencing suites in select locations across the country. The investment started to make a lot of sense when the recession hit last year and businesses started looking for ways to slash travel budgets.
This isn’t choppy video on a laptop screen backed by lagging audio either. Three large screens display the people on the other side in life size, and the connection speed is fast enough to eliminate any lag between audio and visual. Already businesses looking to save on airfare have booked these suites despite the steep price ($500 an hour).
What’s in it for restaurants? Well, if a hotel can generate stays with teleconferencing, then a restaurant can certainly sell some meals to the same crowd. Morton’s Steak House is on the cutting edge of this trend, with teleconferencing capabilities in dozens of its locations across the U.S.
Of course, like most new technology, the cost to implement teleconferencing is beyond the budget of most restaurants. But over time, those costs will come down, and more and more restaurateurs will be able to take advantage of teleconferencing as another service they can offer customers.
Even so, the market for expensive, quality teleconferencing between high powered business people isn’t exactly a large, untapped resource for most restaurants. On the other hand, people are connecting online now more than ever, and giving them a venue to do so while providing a great meal may be a trend to watch in the future.
Services like Skype already provide an affordable way for people to communicate via video on the internet. The production values aren’t the best, but that hasn’t stopped millions of people from using the service.
The point is that as communicating with other people remotely becomes even more ingrained in our culture than it already is, communal meeting points like restaurants will become a more and more popular venue for remote communications. We’re not quite there yet, but the restaurateur who makes their restaurant technology friendly is going to succeed in the new era of communication.