Big Brother meets Bloomin' Onion as Outback introduces new surveillance system

Photo: Balefire9 (iStock)

When we talk about Big Brother, we always focus on the bad things, like the government listening in on our phone conversations or Facebook sharing our personal data with advertisers.

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It’s high time we all started focusing on the good things that constant surveillance can do, especially when those cameras are run by artificial intelligence. For example: have you ever walked into an Outback Steakhouse only to find an empty host stand, wasting precious minutes of your life as you wait to be seated? Well thanks to Outback’s new AI video surveillance system, that’s about to become a thing of the past!

Presto is a Silicon Valley-based tech company that provides “next generation front of house technology” to major restaurant chains like Applebeee’s, Red Lobster, Denny’s, and, you guessed it, Outback Steakhouse. The latter is currently piloting a new technology called Presto Vision that is, according to a press release, “the first comprehensive computer vision product for restaurants. Presto Vision leverages pioneering technology that uses discreet cameras placed in the restaurant lobby and other areas. Hosts, staff, guests, and other individuals are automatically tagged in real-time and their motion analyzed. Interaction effects such as host availability, individual wait times, and customer bounce rates are measured and guest experience score forecasted.”

If you’re worried about an AI camera recording and monitoring your every move, Presto assures us all that security and privacy are important aspects of the technology: after analysis, any data that is captured by cameras will be deleted after 30 days. The release further states that no personally identifiable information is tracked on any individual, which interprets customers as “abstracted entities” and is only monitoring actions that are directly relevant to restaurant operations.

Outback employees will not have to watch the footage to correct anything the system considers to be a problem, such as empty water glasses or untidy lobbies. Instead, Presto Vision will send alerts to managers and servers through wearable technology. It will also provide “remote, immediate visual access across multiple locations, and a high-level view of performance metrics and noteworthy events across brands for large restaurant chains,” so even if your Outback manager can’t be bothered to watch you eating your Bloomin’ Onion in real time, someone at corporate can. Small price to pay for making sure you don’t run out of onions, though, right?

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About the author

Allison Robicelli

Allison Robicelli is The Takeout staff writer, a former professional chef, host of The Robicelli Argument Clinic Podcast, the author of three books, and a swan meat influencer.