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Outback Steakhouse’s Orwellian Surveillance Program Will Analyze How Your Server Treats You

Plus, Amazon keeps shipping expired food, and more news to start your day

Outback Bloomin’ onion fries
Jaya Saxena is a Correspondent at, and the series editor of Best American Food Writing. She explores wide ranging topics like labor, identity, and food culture.

No rules, just c o n s t a n t s u r v e i l l a n c e

If you walk into a fast-casual restaurant, chances are you’re being watched. There are cameras everywhere to make sure customers aren’t stealing and servers are following health protocols. But according to Wired, Outback Steakhouse is stepping it up a notch with a program called Presto Vision. They’re testing it at a location in Portland, Oregon, where the program will sync with existing cameras and use machine learning to “analyze footage of restaurant staff at work and interacting with guests,” and send statistics to managers.

While the technology is sold under the auspices of creating a more “efficient” business through tech, it will probably make workers’ lives a living hell. Studies show managers frequently use surveillance technology to track workers’ movements, leading to a paranoid atmosphere that makes every infraction, even unintentional ones, a potential cause for firing. It also allows managers to rely entirely on technology, rather than build relationships with their employees.

Wired’s Louise Matsakis reported:

Presto Vision’s software doesn’t identify individual diners and doesn’t currently employ technology like facial recognition. “We do not collect any personal information and the video is deleted within three days of collection,” Jeff Jones, the president and CEO of Evergreen Restaurant Group, said in an email.

Though who knows if they’re tracking how fast you ate that Bloomin’ Onion.

And in other news...

  • Millennials aren’t interested in visiting the luxury wineries of Napa because, as a “post-bust” generation, they’re not spending $50 on a bottle of wine. [SF Chronicle]
  • Amazon is shipping out expired food through third-party vendors, who are finding it easy to get through the company’s review process. [CNBC]
  • A man is suing Universal Studios because he was denied a soda refill. The machine told him he couldn’t fill up twice within ten minutes. [Orlando Sentinel]
  • Recall alert: More than 6,000 pounds of meat from Walmart has possible salmonella contamination. [CNN]
  • Beyond Meat is looking at fava beans to expand their plant protein roster. [Bloomberg]
  • Ever wonder where the Scorpion Bowl came from? It’s a long story. [The Daily Beast]
  • How The Lighthouse made its disgusting slop. [GQ]
  • Fast-casual restaurants are embracing drive-thrus, which is weird since a lot of cities are banning them. [QSR]
  • You can finally learn how to slice a pomegranate without making a huge mess. [Twitter]
  • Bacon prices are rising worldwide because of African swine fever spreading across China, wiping out millions of pigs. [Bloomberg]
  • Over 16 million apples are rotting in the UK because of a shortage of workers thanks to Brexit. [The Times]
  • No one:

Noma: You wanted a dish served in a severed duck head, right?