Back home in Taipei. My trip to Beijing certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. Judging by the size of my stomach, a tad too much perhaps!
Before heading off to the airport, I finished the trip with an unplanned stop-off at a joint called 頭壹號 (TouYiHao) for what my Shanghai colleague Suri had told me would be a traditional Beijing breakfast of youtiao (油條/doughnut stick) and doujiang (豆漿/soy milk).
While the dishes on offer were definitely of the finest Beijing vintage, even more impressive was how the digital and physical processes involved in preparing, serving, and delivering the food were integrated into a single seamless flow that minimized waiting times even during the peak morning rush hour.
Naturally, a smart phone app is at the center of this, enabling customers to order beforehand to pick up their food on the way to work or have it delivered to their office. For those who want to eat in the restaurant, service is quick and convenient aided by colorful menu boards and point of sale systems for rapid mobile payments. To top it off, the restaurant has a clean and attractive décor featuring scenes from Ye Olde Beijing.
Breakfast for two was only 20RMB (just under $3 – or around the price of a cup of coffee), so I’m not describing a high-end restaurant here. I left marveling at how clever process automation and a strong aesthetic design can transform a mundane meal into a magical experience.