Smarten up with these foodservice tech-solutions Monday 30 January 2023
More insight into your guests’ choices, less staff because of the table QR codes, and error-free booking systems: technology and foodservice go together like fish and chips. And even though some solutions are easier to put into practice than others, technology is sure to play a key role in the future. In this article, we’ll share what’s already out there now, what’s new, and what’s predicted to grow in the years ahead!
Lots of companies began by testing autonomous delivery options at college campuses. These little robots have now graduated and are taking to the streets. There’s frontrunner Nuro, which has teamed up with Chipotle, Domino’s, and Refraction AI, which works together with Chick-fil-A. Or take Starship, which has a fleet of robots that deliver both groceries and ready-to-eat food. Sure, they do occasionally run into obstacles and they have a very limited range, but with continued testing and changing regulations, the future is bright for these tiny feeders-on-wheels. They’re safe, smart, and able to optimise their routes, which further reduces delivery time to satisfy your guests with the freshest food.
Do you know that guy that puts ketchup on literally EVERYTHING? Well, he’s done being judged for it. Menu digitisation makes it simpler to throw in some options, without guests being anxious about coming across as strange or picky. Moreover, you can include extra information about your dishes, adding to your guests’ experience without needing an enormous menu. The result? Happy guests, more variety, and… options for custom orders that let you raise your prices!
Robotic table assistants
They’re great entertainment for your guests and help your staff bus tables: the robotic waiter. This form of robotisation is not in the experimental phase anymore, as the pandemic and labour shortages have boosted its development. While some bots just look like trays on wheels, others, like BellaBot, also have screens with facial expressions. Some robots can even greet guests and take orders and payments. As many of these robots still require assistance, they won’t replace humans soon. Nevertheless, robotic waiters are great co-workers that love lending a (mechanical) hand!
Food prepping bots
Smart robots in restaurants can also do some of the prep work. There’s Burger Bot, for instance, or smoothie bot Blendid, that’s currently in use at two Walmart locations. High-tech restaurant Zume even has five pizza bots! Admittedly, going from an automated oven to a fully robotic food prepping machine is quite a big step, but automation in the kitchen is surely on the rise!
Foodservice in the metaverse
McDonald’s has already filed patents for virtual food services, you can buy memberships to NFT restaurants, and Starbucks is launching an NFT collection later this year. We can’t yet say how the metaverse will impact the foodservice industry, but it’s clear that it offers a whole new realm of opportunities. Cross-overs between the digital and the real world might even be more interesting. What about creating virtual food to order in real life? Or dining out in a fancy restaurant, from the comfort of your own home? Whether you’re just exploring options, or creating a totally different type of brand interaction, the ever-evolving digital space definitely offers new ways to stay connected with your guests.
Did you know?
In order to check the quality of pizzas, Domino’s partnered up with Dragontail systems to create a pizza checker. It checks for burnt pieces and ingredient distribution, alerting the manager when either of those metrics isn’t up to par!
How AI makes business choices easier
Forecasting how many staff you need, automating processes, or insight into what’s doing well on your menu: you can certainly reap the benefits of data science. Did you know more than three-quarters of companies believe that Artificial Intelligence has helped them survive the pandemic?* That’s mainly because AI helps them make decisions: whether it’s about where to set up your next location or what to put on your menu. And AI is about to go to the next level, with algorithms suggesting items guests are likely looking for, language processing to learn new lessons from reviews, and gathering information from consumers’ social media to identify trends and popular habits. All this information makes making the right choice a whole lot easier, while allowing you plan ahead to meet future demands!
*source: Global Emerging Technology Trends Survey 2020, GlobalData
Online ordering is getting more personal… and competitive
AI also plays an important role online ordering, which is getting more personal, especially on the bigger platforms. Taste preferences are monitored and offerings are personalised to offer a great consumer experience. But, with the ever-growing databases available to them, some companies are looking beyond optimising their current offerings and have started harnessing data to identify gaps in the market. They then set up virtual brands to fill that gap, creating an entirely new level of competition.
Computer vision to reduce food waste
One of the most important innovations when it comes to sustainability is using AI to reduce food waste. Start-ups like Winnow and Orbisk have developed waste monitors that can detect and measure the type and amount of food thrown away. Those data can then be used to optimise purchasing strategies to both reduce costs and help the environment. IKEA is pioneering the technology, cutting food waste by 50% in the 23 stores that have the system installed. Go AI!
Even though some of these solutions might be slightly over budget, at least you’re now in the loop about some new and exciting innovations, so you can decide what to keep track of for the future of your business. Because working smarter is often better than working harder!