Most of the best new restaurant technology success stories started out as turnaround stories, championed by leaders that had the guts and gusto to go big or go home. The technological answers they found to their challenges focused around improving the guest experience rather than enacting change for its own sake.
As a result, they increased market share, restored or reinforced relevance, and built incredible value for their organizations.
On the other hand, new restaurant technology offers operators novel techniques for growing margins. New ways to carry out training, to engineer more efficient unit economic models, labor models, and productivity improvements will benefit from a wide variety of exciting new tools that have hardly been adapted to or adopted by the industry. It presents tremendous opportunity for investors, technologists, and future-looking operators focusing on bold bets to transform adversity into advantage.
While some hold their breath waiting for others to take the first leap, others are out-performing by out-working and out-investing their competition.
Here we present a brief overview of some of the new restaurant technology trends that are transforming the restaurant industry.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to computer systems’ ability to interact with the environment in a way that would normally require human intelligence. Understanding speech, playing games (AlphaGo), autonomous vehicles, language translation are some examples.
In the restaurant industry, artificial intelligence is being employed in very diverse applications, from quality control to upselling, intelligent menu boards, license plate recognition, and loyalty programs.
Though voice-ordering it’s not a new restaurant technology trend, it hasn’t been fully leveraged yet. The costs of dismissing new technologies are often underestimated, and businesses can never make it too easy for people to buy from them. With voice ordering, customers can place an order via Alexa, Google Home, or Siri in just a few seconds and all via voice commands. The use of voice assistants (including those in smartphones) is projected to triple in five years.
Companies and executives are being flooded with data but are starving for insights. While many organizations think they are doing analytics — and they are, to some degree — it is mostly still characterized by emailing Excel spreadsheets back and forth.
From outside-the business insights to shape corporate strategy, to inside-the-business analytics to improve efficiency and efficacy of effort and resource allocation, applying advanced restaurant analytics can be leveraged to improve top and bottom line.
Augmented Reality (AR) consists of laying a computer-generated image over the user’s view or environment, resulting in a composite. Additional senses can be also leveraged, besides eyesight, including auditory, olfactory, or haptic features.
Virtual Reality (VR) also uses an interactive computer-generated image but doesn’t incorporate the user view. Sensory stimuli for sound are often employed as well.
Facial recognition is a technology that allows identifying faces from images or video. It’s usually developed via neural networks (training algorithms). In real-time video it works detecting faces, determining face vectors, and checking those against a list (for example, a customer loyalty database).
The restaurant of the future will likely leverage this technology. A recent survey showed that 46% of restaurant owners expect facial recognition and 3-D will be used in most restaurants by the end of 2025 — for things like portion control, measuring guest sentiment, and checking food quality. Over 53% believe technology will increase restaurant flow; 53% think it will benefit design optimization, 51% see it aiding staff training, and 50% feel it will provide better entertainment for guests.
Geolocation consists of determining the location (geographical coordinates) of a device often to help locate human users. The process usually employs GPS, IP addresses, radiofrequency, or MAC addresses.
Geofencing also uses GPS technology to create a virtual fence that allows software to respond when a device (often cell phones) access or move around a location.
Machine Learning is the application of artificial intelligence that develops programs that allow computers to access data and learn automatically. The objective is to identify patterns in large datasets. Predicting customers preferences, virtual assistants, supply chain opportunities, improving the online ordering experience, and social media insights are some of the applications.
Autonomous or driverless vehicles drive themselves without human intervention, by means of their ability to detect the environment they are in. With the driver representing an estimated 22% of the average food delivery order cost, autonomous vehicles have the potential to reduce costs significantly. Similar cost reductions could be achieved on the supply and purchasing side.
A delivery drone is an aerial vehicle often used to distribute packages and seen as a key solution to “last mile delivery” problems. While the technology is not mainstream commercially (and needs further regulation), it has the potential to be revolutionary for eCommerce.
Automation is the use of technology so that processes can be completed with minimal human intervention. While restaurants haven’t made large gains in productivity since the Point of Sale System, the agricultural and manufacturing sectors improved productivity for decades with automation, setting a precedent for what could happen in the foodservice industry.
Consumers, competitors, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution are greasing already slippery and fast-moving slopes. Consumers now expect retail and restaurant brands to provide them with same kind of experience and convenience that consumer technology companies do: annual (or faster) product introductions, digital improvements, self-order conveniences, and speed of service enhancements. We’re helping our clients modernize marketing approaches, improve analytic capabilities, and integrate new restaurant technology to optimize performance and make their businesses smarter, all in order to better serve guests and outmaneuver the competition.
We help both foodservice technology companies and leadership of emerging and established restaurant chains identify areas of opportunity and discover new approaches to anticipate and take action in the age of a rapid pace of change and disruption. If you’re interested in learning more about how we can help your business drive growth, optimize performance, and maximize value, contact us here.
Aaron Allen & Associates works alongside senior executives of the world’s leading foodservice and hospitality companies to help them solve their most complex challenges and achieve their most ambitious aims, specializing in brand strategy, turnarounds, commercial due diligence and value enhancement for leading hospitality companies and private equity firms.
Our clients span six continents and 100+ countries, collectively posting more than $200b in revenue. Across 2,000+ engagements, we’ve worked in nearly every geography, category, cuisine, segment, operating model, ownership type, and phase of the business life cycle.