AR continues to prove itself as a brand marketing medium. There, it has the unique ability to demonstrate products in their full 3D glory, which has proven effective in categories from furniture to footwear and cosmetics to cars. It’s all about dimensional confidence for shoppers.

Joining that list of AR marketing’s fitting, but underrepresented, verticals is food. This was recently demonstrated by Denny’s AR-enabled menu. For those unfamiliar, it lets diners visualize their Grand Slam breakfast in 3D, offering a more complete sense of a dish before ordering.

In addition to dimensional understanding, the goal is to instill craveability. This is all about evoking mouth-watering moments, which is a North Star for fashion and food-focused AR innovator QReal. Using photogrammetry, it works with Denny’s and others to bring products to life.

“We’ve been dreaming of bringing menus to life in this manner for six years,” QReal general manager Mike Cadoux told AR Insider. “That 3D and AR food increases craveability has been demonstrated in multiple studies, including one by Oxford University in conjunction with QReal.”

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Steaming & Sizzling

Going deeper into QReal’s work with Denny’s, diners can activate AR through QR codes on printed menus. Once scanned, they can swipe through menus and activate their camera to place 3D dishes in their immediate space. Food can be spun, panned, and zoomed for greater detail.

As an additional enticement, special deals are available through the AR menu. The goal is to give diners an economic incentive to try it out. From there, the hope is that they can gain greater comfort levels with AR – for some, it may be their first time – and develop new habits.

That could be an effective enticement for AR, given that seeing your food on a spinning 3D plate is objectively more dimensional and descriptive than any 2D menu. It also works towards the craveability factor noted above, given details like textures, reflections, and sound.

This level of detail is particularly additive for food, similar to the ways that surface detail is important for high-end jewelry, as Snap has demonstrated. The more the soup is steaming and the Fajita is sizzling, the greater the craveability. QReal has built a business on this principle.

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Play With Your Food

Panning back, AR-enabled menus are part of Denny’s broader “It’s Dinner Time” program. Aligned with the chain restaurant’s 70th anniversary, it includes tech integrations such as AR menus and a $25 million upgrade to modernize kitchens with new equipment and ordering logistics.

This notably involves a cloud-based point-of-sale (POS) system that expedites orders and lets Denny’s extract analytics from aggregate patterns. That includes everything from seasonal trends to complimentary menu items and other insights that can drive product strategy.

AR is a key component of that overall effort in that getting users to try it feeds into (excuse the pun) the cloud-based POS. Once users have their phones out for AR, it’s a natural handoff to a mobile order. AR menus also boost tech-forward and environmentally-friendly PR for Denny’s.

To be fair, Denny’s isn’t the first company to use AR as a food visualization tool. Others such as Panera have done similar (also powered by QReal), but more in the context of marketing campaigns. Bringing AR to restaurant menus could unlock an even bigger addressable market.

“It took the intrepid team at Denny’s to pull the trigger and bring it to life and we couldn’t be happier with the result,” said Cadoux.

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