Technology is affecting every aspect of the food service industry. Right from the cash register to kitchen operations, technology is changing the way restaurants operate. The main motive of leveraging technology in this industry is to increase revenue, streamline operations, enhance customer experience and reduce costs. The advent of new technology creates adoption challenges for the industry and hence it is imperative that business stay on top of these trends to capitalize on them.
Below are the top 10 technology trends in the restaurant industry:
Robotic kitchens are they new “in” thing. Robotic kitchens cook food with precision from scratch. At Spyce Food Co. in Boston, found by a group of MIT students, robotic woks automatically prepare food with the fresh ingredients and gush the prepared dish into a ready-to-serve bowl. Mechanical Chef, a start-up based in Bengaluru, has designed a robotic kitchen that can cook various Indian dishes without any human involvement. The entry of robots in the kitchen creates several new avenues in terms of food service time and menu width since tonnes of tried and tested recipes can be fed in creating a virtually infinite list of menu items provided the correct ingredients are supplied.
Burger being made by a robot
As the restaurant industry has tight margins, any innovation that helps in reducing costs while also enhancing customer and employee experience is always welcome. VR in restaurant industry improves strategic planning, streamlines employee training and enhances customer experience. Honeygrow, a fast-casual food chain, makes a new hire put on a VR headset and experience a tour of their farms and receive an introduction from the founder and CEO, Justin Rosenberg helping inscribe the ethos and values of the company in the minds of recruits.
Robotic kitchen assistant is meant to enhance the commercial kitchen operations. It helps the restaurant workers in cooking and preparing food quickly and efficiently. California-based Miso Robotics developed their flagship AI kitchen assistant – Flippy. Flippy can grill, flip, prep, fry, and plate hamburgers. It also helps restaurants to improve food quality and safety without much restructuring.
Fast food is becoming faster now thanks to unmanned food ATMs for cupcakes, pizza, etc. Sprinkles Cupcakes in California introduced 24/7 cupcake-dispensing ATM which is constantly restocked with fresh cupcakes. A French company called Paline unveiled a 24-hour pizza ATM which delivers a piping hot, 12-inch pizza, at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2016. Many food chains are coming up with such ATMs to serve their customers 24/7.
Assembly line was first introduced by Ford for the automobile industry. The conveyor belt, since then, has come a long way and has found its use in the restaurant industry too. Yo Sushi, a restaurant in Japan, displays 42 types of sushi along with Japanese condiments on a conveyor belt. Autobahn, a restaurant in Pune, uses a conveyor belt to bring your food to your table, with no human intervention.
Manufacturers and enterprises across various industries are actively leveraging the benefits of 3D printing technology. Food industry is not behind too. More and more chefs are using 3D technology to make meticulous designs that they can’t create on their own. Liquid or powdered food material is used as the printing medium. Dinara Kasko is an architect turned pastry chef who uses computer modeling to turn ordinary food into a piece of art. She 3D prints the molds for her cakes. Several other companies have come out with chocolate 3D printers to create shapes and structures that were impossible to create using traditional methods.
Complex shapes can be made by amateurs
Restaurant owners are turning to AI to address and overcome the challenges such as high costs, high turnover rate, food quality and customer experience. AI can be used to automate processes to eliminate human error, provide consistent customer experience, and do repetitive tasks with equal efficiency. Thailand’s biggest convenience store chain, 7 Eleven, uses facial recognition to identify loyalty member, monitor in-store traffic, and product levels, and suggest products to customers and keep a tab on employees. At Petpooja, we are leveraging computer vision technology combined with pre-existing hardware to provide demographic insights to restaurants at without making any physical changes. We can ascertain the gender, age and group size of people walking into the restaurant and also be able to tell whether the customer is a newcomer or an old-timer, all without a single human intervention.
Customers want convenience while ordering which means they want minimum staff interaction. Self-serve kiosks improve operations and impacts customers’ purchasing habits. No long queues and drive-thru waits allow customers to order and pay seamlessly. The biggest example of this is McDonald’s. With the self-serving kiosks at McDonalds, customers can directly place and pick up an order within minutes. At Petpooja, we have gone a step further and personalized the menu for each customer. Leveraging customer past eating data and the insights generated from them, we show them a completely curated menu for a customer when he first uses the kiosk. With each item selection, we show items that go well with the selected item – fried rice with manchurian, coke with a pizza etc. This decreases customer order time, increases customer satisfaction and most importantly, increases the average order value making the kiosk pay for itself!
Talk to any restaurateur and you will know that their biggest problem is managing staff. Staff members leave, need to be trained and take off days. Robots don’t. A robotic server can save time and energy of your staff and rather than running around the restaurant carrying dishes, humans can do what they are best at – human interaction. At Petpooja, we are in the process of building a robotic server that can not only carry dishes to and from the kitchen but it can also carry bills, take the customers’ order and their feedback once their food is complete. We believe the restaurant of the future will have humans, but not in their current role. In the near future, we see that the staff will curate the experience for the customer – pre-emptive service and deep interactions, rather than spending time on processes that can be automated.
Customers no longer want to have the carbonated soft drinks from soda fountain. Rather, they expect something more. Also, the consumption of such drinks has decreased due to health concerns. To counteract this, companies are taking action to bring more excitement to the soda fountain. Coca-Cola, for example, unveiled Coca-Cola Freestyle. It is a next-gen fountain dispenser which lets you mix and match your favourite drinks with a touchscreen display and offers 200 options of beverages. Grape Fanta, anyone?
The constantly evolving technology landscape combined with changing customer tastes makes for a rather challenging time for restaurants. Petpooja, with its comprehensive core modules, integrations with service providers and most importantly – a propensity to stay on top of current technology and consumer trends is your best companion when dealing with this unpredictable environment in the restaurant industry. Don’t become a victim of technology, be a leader with Petpooja!