Pasta party

Epson projectors, Epson PoS printers and plenty of ingenuity

Pasta party

People with special needs have opened a successful pasta bistro in Überlingen on Lake Constance.

It is 11.30 am on an ordinary weekday, and Hochbildstrasse in Überlingen is already buzzing. Hungry people are standing in Nudel Emma. ​​Sometimes the queue reaches out into the street. They're all here for fresh organic pasta with sauces made from scratch at reasonable prices: starting at 3.50 euros for a lunch portion. In the face of the rush, even experienced service employees wouldn't be able to help breaking a sweat.

At Nudel Emma, ​​up to four people with special needs work to cover every shift, sometimes alongside their personal guides. Using an Epson EB-1780W projector, green illuminated frames show the employees what needs to be done next. The projector itself is safely stored in a 'technical box' above the counter. A mirror directs the projection at 90-degree angles to the bowls, which are always at hand, with fresh ingredients ready in the salad counter. Thanks to its brightness of up to 3,000 lumens, the coloured signs are clearly visible even in sunny weather. With its slim exterior dimensions and low weight, it can be accommodated safely in a small space. For the installation at Nudel Emma, ​​it was important that it could be easily stowed in the narrow technical compartment on the ceiling of the cafe. The projection distance is about 1.60 m. Thanks to the broad keystone correction of the projector, the illuminated frames with the ingredients are always displayed accurately and without distortion on the worktop.  

Novel organization and presentation

Patrons of Nudel Emma order from the day's menu, which is displayed behind the counter. A member of the team takes the customer's order and enters it into an iPad cash register system connected to the TM-m30 series Epson PoS printer, which produces an order receipt. The team at Nudel Emma is particularly impressed by the quality of the receipts produced by the TM-m30, as well as its printing speed. The device is also very easy to operate, for example when changing a paper roll.

The data for the projector is processed by a Raspberry Pi computer and transmitted via HDMI cable. Alternatively, it can be controlled via VGA or composite input as well as a WLAN directly from a compatible smartphone. While an EB-1780W is projecting the necessary steps for the employee preparing the order directly onto the salad counter, another Epson projector, a short-throw projector in the EB-535W series, displays short clips on the bistro wall. This shows the customer which part of their order is currently being processed.

Smart tools

Portion scoops in the salad counter bowls connected to the Raspberry Pis via removable Bluetooth modules make sure that employees comply with the recipes exactly. The do this by showing a red warning light if they are put in the wrong place or the order gets muddled up. Nudel Emma has about ten sauces on the menu every day. These are based on the three sauces – tomato, white wine and cream – made from scratch in the back kitchen. The basic sauces are flavoured with herbs and other ingredients to produce options such as Bolognese or Carbonara. The partially pre-cooked organic pasta comes from the Überlinger pasta manufacturer at the back of the building. The delicious pasta is cooked to perfection with the help of specially developed steam mixers and cookers.

Founder Michael Thieke calls his integrative gastro concept system 'free spirit'. He developed it together with SKID CEO Reinhard Wein and presented his idea at the leading trade fair for gastronomy, Internorga, in March 2018. The 'digital prosthesis', as Thieke describes his idea, was awarded one of the five founders' awards in 2018. The 10,000-euro prize money was poured into the further development of the system. 'Nudel Emma' is a pilot cafe and opened in September 2018.

Qualification instead of employment

Nudel Emma is run by SKID gGmbH, a non-profit socio-cultural integration services company. SKID's mission is to enable people with special needs to live independently, as far as possible. "It is important that we give our clients meaningful employment opportunities in which they can also learn social and professional skills," explains SKID's CEO, Reinhard Wein. "The free spirit concept allows them to gain experience in catering. This can prove to be a springboard to employment in the private sector."

The clients are housed and looked after by SKID. They can take work and employment opportunities at the Überlinger pasta manufacturer, at Nudel Emma or at a bistro in the city centre. In addition to this, there is also a firewood processor, a mobile bakery, and a laundry service. "The free spirit concept is suitable for more than simply employees with cognitive impairment," says Thieke, who lives in Bonn and Berlin as a freelancer. "It can also help system restauranteurs who employ staff with little experience or without adequate knowledge of the local language. Epson projectors are an integral part of this project. Because they are reliable, robust, easy to control and powerful."

He goes on to say: "I believe that we can continue to develop the concept significantly in the next few years, for example by connecting to a website, so that guests can pre-order remotely. Or through an interface to a merchandise management system. The possibilities are almost endless. However, I am already happy today that we have found a reliable partner in Epson."