Modern technologies change the world as we know it. New restaurant technology changes the game for operators and consumers alike. IoT and bluetooth sensors, virtual reality training, advanced robotics, and artificial intelligence improve restaurant operations and experiences in a variety of ways.
For example, gone are the days where you have to wait for the server to bring your check. That’s still an option, but many restaurants now offer a smart payment system. A tablet on each table allows for quick and painless payments when you’re ready to go.
Other restaurants — especially in fast food — adopted mobile payments. Customers can order food and pay through an app or online service.
What emerging and innovative technologies are changing the restaurant industry? Here are four examples.
1. IoT and Bluetooth Sensors
A proper Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) checklist is instrumental to run a successful and compliant restaurant. It sets forth several compliance protocols to ensure a restaurant receives little to no strikes during a review. Temperature seems like a minor detail, yet it has a profound impact on how food is preserved, prepared, and handled.
This is where Bluetooth-enabled and IoT sensors can help. Many restaurants implement such technology to handle all aspects of temperature management, like the preparation and cooking of foods. With the assistance of handheld probes or smart devices, managers and staff can measure the temperature of foods within seconds. The data is then stored digitally in a HACCP log database. This eliminates the need to manually jot down temps — which can quickly be forgotten during busy periods.
The systems can also be configured to sound an alarm or send alerts when temperature requirements are not met. If, for instance, a refrigerator experiences a sudden loss in temperature, the manager is notified immediately.
2. Virtual Reality Training
In the F&B business, no amount of training is comparable to actually working in a restaurant. Trial by fire is the best method for new hires and budding employees, but it also comes with significant risks. Virtual reality onboarding and training experiences can help.
Trainees and new hires can don a headset and shuffle through various virtual experiences meant to train them in immersive environments. VR opens up many opportunities, too, like 360-degree property tours, live review sessions without disturbing other personnel or the restaurant floor, and hands-on activities that mirror the real world. With VR, everything is done digitally, so trainees don’t touch or interact with actual food orders or other items. There’s less pressure involved, and the restaurant doesn’t suffer if they make a mistake.
The technology already exists, and one of the more prominent purveyors is Honeygrow.
3. Advanced Robotics
Miso Robotics — a California-based robotics company — developed an AI kitchen assistant called Flippy. Flippy is named such because it can flip and grill burgers. It also helps with food prep, plating, and frying. Equipped with a bundle of sensors and cameras, it can “see” the food it is working with. It also monitors various aspects like temperature or cook levels.
CaliBurger is one of the first fast-food chains to announce a partnership with Miso Robotics. Flippy will be installed in their restaurants and eventually be rolled out to all locations worldwide.
This highlights the growing need to automate tasks and processes in the restaurant industry. Doing so will improve efficiency and nurture employee retention. Of course, it helps eliminate growing costs in the wage sector, too.
4. Artificial Intelligence
While the food industry isn’t exactly a hotbed for AI solutions, there is an uptick in adoption for things like self-service kiosks, chatbot and conversational interfaces, customer recommendation platforms, and even self-updated digital menu boards.
Many of these solutions are meant to enrich the customer experience and provide a more enjoyable, convenient solution for engaging with restaurants. Chatbots, for example, allow customers to talk with an AI assistant via instant message solutions to order food, ask questions, or check personal account info.
Starbucks introduced voice ordering support through their mobile app in 2017. Domino’s rolled out a Facebook Messenger-based chatbot that same year. Even the famous sandwich chain Subway rolled out a chatbot to assist its customers for more than 26,000 of their domestic locations.
AI and machine learning platforms are designed to ingest loads of data. They then use it, going forward, to enhance and improve interactions. The system might learn what you like to order, for instance, or what places you visit most to deliver more accurate recommendations.
Technology Is Changing the Dining Experience
The purpose of many of these technologies is to enrich and improve our dining experience in a variety of ways. Tablets and self-serve kiosks make it easier and faster to order and pay for food. AI and chatbot tools provide always-on assistance, including help with remote ordering and personalized recommendations. On top of this, advanced robotics solutions are being deployed to handle food prep and cooking. This ensures food is delivered faster and is sometimes even higher in quality.
The behind-the-scenes technology like IoT and Bluetooth temperature sensors ensure food is shipped, packaged, and stored at the optimal temperature. This means it arrives on a plate and in front of a customer fresher and more delicious than ever. Not to mention, it ensures compliance with regulatory policies, which is always a benefit.
It’s exciting to think about where we will be in just a few years. Technology is taking hold and certainly seems to be changing the food industry for the better.
Author Bio: Nathan Sykes is a technology blogger and writer. He is also the editor of Finding an Outlet.