2017 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in recent history for restaurants as technology takes an ever larger and more important role in food production, business operations, and guest interaction. As the cost of implementing new technology continues to decline, it’s more important than ever for you to keep an eye on what’s new and what can be used to help your restaurant thrive.
Here are five restaurant tech innovations for 2017 to keep an eye out for.
AI & Machine Learning
Fully automated robots aren’t going to be taking over dinner service anytime soon, but, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning research has reached a crucial tipping point which means the tech can now be extended to almost every service, object or application – from smart employee scheduling to inventory management.
Creating intelligent systems that learn, adapt, and maybe even act autonomously rather than simply executing orders is a game-changer for the foodservice industry. Hard to imagine? Think of your utilities. Most restaurants spend 3-5% of their operating costs on energy. If your HVAC system could “learn” to use energy more efficiently you could potentially save tens of thousands of dollars per year in utility costs.
Moving Beyond Meat
It’s no secret that beef production is a huge contributor to global climate change, not to mention an expensive stock item for any foodservice business. These dual pressures have resulted in countless innovations in the quest to replace beef with proteins that are cheaper, greener, and equally as tasty.
In October, Tyson Foods – one of the largest meat companies in the world – announced it has invested in Beyond Meat a company which that makes “meat” from protein sources like soy and peas that even “bleed”. Tech titans like Bill Gates are also entering the market, with a recent post on ‘The Future of Food’ and investment in Hampton Creek Foods’ egg substitute.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
The restaurant industry has been eying internet-connected tools and appliances (think fridges and equipment you can control from a smartphone), for years now with pundits always stating that it is “right around the corner”. 2017 will be the year that the Internet of Things finally leaves what Gartner Research calls the ‘trough of disillusionment’ and becomes practical for restaurateurs. Thanks to a flood of cheap, easy-to-implement solutions entering the market like, smart fridges that help reduce spoilage/waste and self-cleaning fryers. Gartner predicts that by the year 2020, the food and beverage industry will save at least 15 percent with connected kitchen devices!
As of May 2016, 36% of North American consumers have used their mobile device to make a purchase or payment and this is expected to grow to almost 50% by the end of 2017. As more people adopt mobile payments the opportunity for restaurateurs to adopt it into their businesses grows in parallel. Startups such as the recently acquired Cover and Dash are making big inroads in allowing customers to pay for their meals without ever pulling out their credit or debit cards.
An even more amazing development is the unveiling of Amazon Go; a concept grocery store which lets customers walk in, shop, and leave without dealing with payment – all purchases are automatically billed through their mobile phone. It’s only a matter of time before this concept comes to a restaurant near you.
Messaging Takeover For Staff Communication
Everyone has seen messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat explode in popularity over the past couple years. This trend towards communicating with coworkers and colleagues via messaging apps rather than email or social networks has quickly accelerated and become the norm for younger staff. In fact, WhatsApp is now used by a massive one billion people and Facebook Messenger and WeChat not far behind, far outstripping established Social Networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.
As this trend grows into 2017, restaurants should be thinking about how they can take advantage of chat apps to help increase their internal communication, assist with their employee scheduling or even communicate with customers.
The restaurant industry is poised to see an explosion of innovation in technology this year. And, it’s been worth the wait. From integration and automation, increased modernization means that technology will play a major role in the success of future foodservice business.
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