If you walk into a Capriotti's sandwich shop, look out for the cyborgs.

Employees are using Google Glass to watch training videos and to film the "lunch rush" to learn how to improve service and meet customer needs.

Jason Smylie, the CIO of Capriotti's, applied to test Google Glass a few months ago. He took a picture of his newborn son and sent it in. Surprisingly, he was selected as an early tester. "I said my son would be able to see himself through my eyes," he now recounts.

Once he received the product, Smylie decided the best use would be for employee training. He has also started investigating apps to use for store operations. So far, just Las Vegas locations out of the 95 sandwich shops across the country have experimented with Glass.

Capriotti's first created videos on how to make sandwiches, how to use the various technology in the restaurant, and how to work with customers. Then, they loaded the videos on Glass.

"The first-person perspective is pretty amazing because you only have to think about one person viewing the video when they are trained. Employees can use both hands as they work. We are also looking at ways to use this in an active environment. During lunch rushes we can record what they are doing during the rush," he says.

He equated this to filming a basketball game from the player's perspective. In the sandwich shop, employees can review the video and see if they are paying attention to the right things or making the most of a customer service opportunity. This kind of in-the-moment training is incredibly valuable, he says.

Another opportunity is to record interactions with customers--as long as they provide permission. "Glass gives us the opportunity to provide a look into a customer's soul," he says. They can capture emotions and interactions and then improve service in the shops.

Glass will debut sometime next year. Smylie says he would purchase more devices once they become widely available. He says he knows of other wearable cams, but Glass fits comfortably for his employees. There is also a cost savings that comes with the ability to film the actual process from the employee perspective as opposed to using a film crew.

Before Smylie is ready to roll out Google Glass to every employee, he wants to wait until they are more socially acceptable. He also thinks the apps need to evolve and become more useful. He could see using Glass to track inventory and as a way to improve store quality. If Glass eventually transforms culture in the same way smartphones did, he'll be ready.

Capriotti's started in 1976 in Delaware. In January of 2008, Smylie acquired the franchise. In 2012, revenues were $51 million across all stores. For the past five years, he has focused mostly on expansion and streamlining--which is why Glass has helped so much.

As with any new tech, there are a few interesting challenges.

"In it's existing form Glass can be fragile, so you have to train the trainers in proper use," he says. "It was not designed for the restaurant industry--or to be around mayonnaise!"

Another issue has to do with privacy. He says, if they do film customer interactions with Glass, he would use a release form. (They do film the lunch rush through the eyes of employees, but customers are only seen passing in the background.)

So, is Google Glass ready for small business? Smylie says it is ready for a trial in business--but widespread use will depend on how the apps pan out, the customer acceptance, and the final price. And, on whether Glass helps them make better sandwiches.

Published on: Sep 11, 2013