What’s Next for Restaurant Tech?

by George Urdea4 Min Read

Throughout history, everything from the dishwasher to the blender has helped make the restaurant industry more efficient and enjoyable for staff and customers alike. But what technological advancements are happening in today’s restaurants?

The food serving tech of now is working to reduce waiting times, create relationships with customers and deliver high end meals to wherever the customer happens to be.

Here are some of the ways the food business is changing.

Kiosks

Of all the types of the restaurants that have undergone changes over recent years, the fast food industry has undeniably gone through the most. Much like the introduction of self-service tills in supermarkets, fast food chains such as McDonalds have introduced a sort of self-service kiosk.

In order to cut down queues and take the stress away from the staff, customers go to the kiosks to order their meal. Once they’ve picked their order they then go to the cashier to receive the food, making the process quicker and much more efficient. The eradication of those long queues can be a godsend at 2am on a Friday night once everybody’s left the bars, a few drinks down and hungry.

McDonalds are the pioneers of this technology. They started rolling out the kiosks in some of their branches in 2015. By 2020, they plan to have kiosks in every one of their 14,000 locations across the US.

Naturally, there’re worldwide anxieties, which have been going on since the dawn of the printing press, that advancements in technologies like this will make workers redundant. However, McDonalds has assured the press that this will not be the case. The kiosks are not so much replacing the cashiers but lightening their workload.

Mobile Ordering

You’ll have to be in the restaurant to use the kiosk — but with burgeoning mobile phone ordering, busy food lovers are able to order their food remotely and then pick it up when it’s ready.

Facebook are just one of the companies that have jumped on this bandwagon. More and more restaurants have created their own apps for mobile ordering. Yet, this means that to order remotely you’d have to download a different app and fill in your details each time you want to order from a different restaurant.

With Facebook’s order feature, on the other hand, you can scroll through a range of restaurants, view their menus and prices and put forward an order. Nearly everyone has a facebook account and all the nearby food outlets are presented clearly on one page, meaning customers no longer have to spend time surfing the web for the right meal.

Food Delivery

Food delivery is nothing new. In fact, the first pizza is said to be delivered as far back as 1889, when Queen Margherita had the first ever pizza delivered to her by Raffaele Esposito, the famous Naples chef.

Back to present day, the food delivery business is moving leaps and bounds thanks to the internet. And it has turned into a huge money maker. Five of the world’s leading food delivery businesses have reached unicorn status, meaning that they are valued at over a billion dollars.

You’ve probably heard of or seen some of the ‘new delivery players’ in the business, such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Previously, if you wanted to order food from a restaurant, you’d have to phone up said restaurant and they’d deliver to you. But not every restaurant has delivery. The new deliverers are not aligned to any specific food outlet or chain. Rather, they provide delivery to a range of different restaurants that do not originally have it. Whereas before delivery was limited to a handful of different cuisines — namely pizza and Chinese — the new delivery companies can offer delivery from a huge range of eateries, and even high end establishments.

Another advantage of these delivery companies is that the customer finds them online and enters their details. This enables these companies to exercise some Customer Relations Management...

Customer Relations Management

Customer Relations Management, or CRM, is a method businesses use to keep in touch with their customers, reward loyalty, offer deals, and keep them coming back.

Mobile ordering on restaurant apps and POS systems give food outlets access to customer details — their emails, addresses, favourite foods. With this, they can find their most loyal customers and reward them suitably.

With the right data, restaurants can even take their CRM to the next level and find new customers. Using your original customer insights, hospitality businesses can define their target audience — those who they think would likely be interested in their cuisine — and market to them more specifically. This needs to be used sparingly though. Nobody wants to eat at a restaurant that spams them.

POS

How would a restaurant go about gaining this customer data, I hear you ask. One way is investing in a POS, or Point of Sale system. Essentially, POS systems are high tech versions of the traditional till. They manage a restaurant’s sales and accounts, track stock and customise customer loyalty schemes.

Integrated with an iPad, POS systems also allow waiters to take customers’ orders tableside. The order is then sent directly to the kitchen. With this, restaurants can avoid the common problem of staff misremembering a table’s order, making it better for the customer and less stressful for the waiter.

Fully Automated Restaurant

The movement that is most disrupting the industry and subverting the traditional food outlet dynamic is the fully automated restaurant. Back in 2016 a chain called Eatsa introduced their version of the future of eating out.

Eatsa’s robot restaurant acts like a giant vending machine. Customers make their orders on an iPad when they walk in the door. They then face a wall of glass cubbies, behind which the kitchen staff assemble the meals. Once the meal is made, the chef places it in the glass cubbie, then the cubbie lights up and displays the customer’s name who receives the meal.

George Urdea

@NoblyPOS | LinkedIn | Website

George Urdea is a co-founder of Nobly POS, a provider of EPOS systems for coffee shops, delis, restaurants and bars. He's completed a masters in Management and Organisational Analytics and has helped build digital teams and products for companies such as BSkyB and McKinsey & Company.

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