The restaurant business has historically been slower to adopt technologies on the cutting-edge of AV in comparison to other verticals served through our industry. While digital signage has emerged as a common presence and sound design continues to improve, a large percentage of restaurants are still relying on consumer-grade tools to manage TV feeds. These often-self-installed systems are also bruised with messy wiring and poor overall system design.
However, like any business today, restaurants have a healthy network infrastructure to accommodate internet, point of sale systems, and increasingly, AV systems. In fact, background music streamed over IP and centrally managed from external locations has virtually replaced satellite delivery and self-DJ’d systems.
With this backbone in place, restaurants are gradually taking a closer look at how transitioning AV switching, distribution and control to the network can bring greater flexibility and more scalable architectures to fruition.
Elevenfifty, a social lounge and restaurant in north San Jose, California, is one such restaurant that is blazing this trail. In addition to specializing in family-style Vietnamese cuisine, Elevenfifty boasts a lively sports bar with four large displays mounted above the liquor shelves. An additional 11 displays are spread through the restaurant, ensuring that all patrons can catch the game of their choosing.
However, like many sports bars and restaurants of its kind, the system was far from flexible and easy to operate. Channel changes coming from the cable set-top boxes were manual, with all signal switching driven through a standard 8×8 matrix switcher.
“We had significant limitations with the old system, including no ability to route independent sources to certain displays,” said Hai Tran, a partner at Elevenfifty. “Everything was zoned off, and we relied on distribution amplifiers to feed a few displays in each location.While it worked OK, we needed a less convoluted setup that would bring us greater freedom in how we moved video around the building. The old system made it very hard for employees to change channels when customers requested a specific show or event. We knew there had to be an easier way.”
“Simply replacing our old boxes with R-Type gets into the 4K game, which adds excitement for our customers with that
ultra-high-resolution video quality.”
– Hai Tran, partner at Elevenfifty
They soon discovered that moving that operation to the network with Atlona AV over IP equipment would pave a more flexible point-to-multipoint system for signal distribution – and add a new twist that took the headaches of manual system management straight to the dumpster.
Just My Type
Tran and his partners worked closely with All State Systems Integration of Wilton, CA through the equipment selection and systems design process. Upon evaluating options on the market, the team quickly gravitated toward Atlona’s OmniStream R-Type solution.
R-Type is a streamlined version of Atlona’s OmniStream AV over IP platform for light commercial applications, providing the same core components (encoders, decoders, audio interfaces) and general value proposition for facilities with limited sources and destinations. Its architecture is also ideal for a typical restaurant architecture with an imbalance in sources and destinations, which removes the need for distribution amplifiers.
In addition to the operational benefits of AV switching and distribution over the network, OmniStream R-Type also enabled a first for Elevenfifty: high-resolution 4K content.
“Sports is one of the more compelling 4K applications today, which was something our legacy switcher could not support,” Tran. “Simply replacing our old boxes with R-Type gets into the 4K game, which adds excitement for our customers with that ultra-high-resolution video quality.”
“OmniStream is also allowing us to bring new experiences into the mix, such as scrolling text. We run our happy specials through the AT-OMNI-521 decoders. Our customers now know exactly when happy hour is happening and what items are on special.”
According to Tran, the implementation process was quick and painless, minimizing downtime for the restaurant to less than one business day.
“It took one day to complete the installation,” said Tran. “We closed down the restaurant one day at 2pm after the lunch rush, at which point they ran the network cables and plugged in the R-Type units. The next morning, they were back on site to finalize the configuration before we opened.”
The OmniStream 512 (AT-OMNI-512) dual-channel networked AV encoders are centralized in a compact rack behind the DJ booth. This equipment feeds all sources to a 48-port, Layer 3 PoE switch, which then moves all 4K and HD signals over the network to OmniStream 521 (AT-OMNI-521) single-channel networked AV decoders at each display. An OmniStream 238 (AT-OMNI-238) IP to Analog audio bridge de-embeds AES67 audio streams into the restaurant’s separate whole-house audio system.
In addition to enabling exceptional 4K resolution, the high performance, reliability and feature set of OmniStream R-Type has added to the overall customer experience. “Simply put, the video quality is amazing,” said Tran. “The switching speed is very quick, so latency is not an issue since moving to the network. And we don’t see any jitter or noise every time we switch a signal, which eliminates any disruption to the live sports experience.
“However, OmniStream is also allowing us to bring new experiences into the mix, such as scrolling text,” he continued. “We run our happy specials through the AT-OMNI-521 decoders. Our customers now know exactly when happy hour is happening and what items are on special.”
That level of signal control is only magnified through an added, and perhaps unexpected twist: The addition of Atlona’s Velocity networked AV control platform to the IP ecosystem.
Previously, the Elevenfifty staff were forced to log into the webpage of the legacy matrix switcher, and tie that webpage to the internet to switch signals and make changes. Since adding Velocity, all R-Type devices and displays are controllable using Velocity VTP-800 8” touch panels.
Velocity breaks ground as a highly scalable and flexible platform that moves AV control to the IP network. Its limitless scope means that it can serve the lightest commercial facilities to the largest enterprise-wise businesses and organizations. Tran notes that on initial setup and configuration, Velocity automatically scanned the OmniStream network and pulled devices into its database. That significantly accelerated the deployment time.
“We’re really just getting started with Velocity, as we expect to add more devices and even tie it into our lighting and HVAC systems,” said Tran. “But, Velocity has completely revolutionized the way we work with audio, video and text. The days of manual AV management are gone, the learning curve for staff was quick, and bringing new devices into the control architecture will be headache-free.”
“It took one day to complete the installation. We closed down the restaurant one day at 2pm after the lunch rush…they ran the network cables and plugged in the R-Type units. The next morning, they were back on site to finalize the configuration before we opened.”
In addition to providing customers with a more engaging live sports experience, Tran adds that the new AV over IP ecosystem will bring new revenue opportunities through system rentals.
“We added an Atlona SW-510W BYOD presentation switcher, which sets up well for corporate events,” said Tran. “Anyone can now come in and launch a presentation through a personal laptop or mobile device by simply plugging into the network. This will play a huge role in attracting customers for corporate and private events.”
With all video, audio and control now centralized to the network, Elevenfifty provides an ideal example of how restaurants can thrive in an IP ecosystem without breaking the budget.