Outback Steakhouse Locations in Oregon Are Being Used to Test New Employee Surveillance Technology

Big Brother is watching you eat that Bloomin' Onion.

Update, 10/22: In a statement, a spokesperson for Outback Steakhouse's parent company, Bloomin' Brands, tells WW via email that it has halted the testing of Presto Vision at the chain's Portland location: "We know our franchisee had the best of intentions when testing technology to help provide exceptional service. But, we all agree that hospitality is best achieved by serving our customers' needs in the moment. For this reason, the test in Portland, OR has been cancelled and they are no longer using the program."

Outback Steakhouse locations in Oregon are being used to test a new computer surveillance tool designed to analyze interactions between customers and service staff.

According to an article in Wired, the "computer vision program," called Presto Vision, is a product of Presto, a restaurant tech company based in Redwood City, Calif. It uses pre-existing security cameras to track metrics such as the length of time it takes for food to arrive and how quickly waitstaff tend to tables, then sends data to restaurant managers. The information can then be used "to identify problems and infer whether servers, hostesses, and kitchen staff are adequately doing their jobs," according to the article.

Presto Vision does not identify individual diners, nor does it employ facial recognition software, the company says.

Wired reported the technology is currently being employed exclusively in the lobby of the Outback Steakhouse location at 11146 SW Barnes Rd. in Beaverton, analyzing "factors like how crowded the lobby is and how many customers decide to leave rather than wait for a table."

But when reached by WW, a manager at the Beaverton location said Presto Vision is being implemented in all five Outback Steakhouses in Oregon except Tualatin. The Outback in Medford confirmed it is using the program, while the Keiser and Springfield locations declined to comment.

This is not the first example of a restaurant testing wide-scale surveillance technology. Domino's uses "DOM Pizza Checker" at some locations in Australia and New Zealand, which utilizes an AI-equipped camera to monitor workers as they assemble pizzas.

Representatives from Evergreen Restaurant Group, the Washington-based company that manages the Outback Steakhouse franchise in Beaverton and elsewhere, were unavailable for comment. But Jeff Jones, Evergreen's president and CEO, told Wired that it will not collect any personal information from customers, and video is deleted within three days.

Read the full article here.