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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

PeAR cashes in on pandemic to move restaurants to an AR menu

PeAR is hoping to solve, by letting dine-in customers get the restaurant menu in a 3D and Augmented Reality form.

Written by Shruti Dhapola | New Delhi |
Updated: December 15, 2021 2:36:14 pm
PeAR app discount, PeAR app for MenuPeAR wants to convert dine-in menus into an AR and 3D format.

Dharmin Vora started as a food blogger, but soon figured that one aspect of the dine-in restaurant experience needed some sprucing up. And that was the menu, which had not really evolved over the years, especially for dine-ins. That’s the problem that his two-year-old startup PeAR—which he co-founded with his brother Parth Vora and his batchmate Pritesh Mehta—- is hoping to solve, by letting dine-in customers get the restaurant menu in a 3D and Augmented Reality form.

“You read a paper-based menu and you imagine something and then you order. But food is something that is very visual and this strategy does not always work. Sometimes customers are disappointed about the quantity, the way the dish looks,” Vora told

With PeAR, customers can check out nearby restaurants that are implementing this new form of menu and order from the app inside the restaurant. At the restaurant, they can scan a QR code to see the menu in a 3D AR format. The app also lets users see the rating of each dish, rather than ratings for restaurants. But the key differentiator that PeAR is focusing on is that the menu can be accessed as a 3D model.

Users can zoom in and zoom out to know exactly what they are getting when they place an order, instead of ending up with disappointments over looks or even the quantity.

To be clear PeAR’s focus is on the dine-in experience, which has started to boom once again now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted in most cities and with more people starting to step out.

The way Vohra sees it, while food delivery has seen a lot of customisations, the same has not happened with dine-in and they are confident of trying to fill this gap. The Mumbai-based company has managed to get some 500 restaurants onboard, with a majority of them in the Maharashtra capital. They expanded to Delhi this October and have added around 50-60 restaurants to the platform.

The AR engine and 3D software are proprietary and took them close to one and a half years to build. PeAR has also used some open-source tools and Google AR for achieving better results.
“The key differentiator is the 3d model, which is less than one MB. We have reduced them and kept the same quality, right, almost on a similar level of HD image quality,” Vohra explained thus making it easier to load these menus on most phones.

And while the lockdowns put a damper on their plans, once dine-in was allowed, Vohra said restaurants started reaching out to them. “First month (October 2020), we did barely 500 orders with 1000 installs, and then saw tremendous growth just by word of mouth,” he claims, adding that after the second lockdowns were lifted in Mumbai, they got nearly 200-250 calls from existing restaurants on the new menu possibility.

PeAR, Augmented Reality, AR, AR Menu, PeAR app Dharmin Vora, PeAR’s co-founder.

By March 2021, just before the second wave hit, they had risen to 5000 orders per month and had 200 restaurants on board. In October this year, the app has seen 10,000 plus orders and they have crossed a modest 30,000 app installs.

In Vohra’s view, Covid has actually proved to be a blessing because it has forced restaurants to go digital and accelerated technology adoption. The app currently has about 300 restaurants on the waitlist as it tries to scale up.

And what does it take for a restaurant to come on board? While PeAR charges a commission of about 5 to 10 per cent for orders on the app, the restaurant populates the app with small videos of dishes. PeAR converts the videos into a 3D model.

But converting menus into 3D is time-consuming and training the data set takes time and server bandwidth. This also explains why not all restaurants that have signed up with the app are yet to implement 3D menus, given many are small-time, family-owned restaurants.

But isn’t there a challenge from bigger players implementing the same idea? Vohra again is more confident here, hoping that perhaps they can offer their tech solution to the big guys in the future. “We see them rather as allies than competitors. They have constantly only tried to solve for delivery. But we have also seen user adoption, which shows that there is a product-market fit,” he added.

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