Although restaurants hesitated pre-pandemic, now they’re diving in full force to the hospitality tech trend that’s destined to stay as part of their operations dynamic: automation. After the not-so-gentle push from COVID-19 and health restrictions, you may have had to come up to speed fast on technology. But the good news is that all those implementations and automations you’ve added in recent months are definitely part and parcel to the future of dining. A recent Lightspeed study found that 50 percent of hospitality operators plan to utilize automation technology in the next two to three years, and 43 percent of study respondents agreed that new tech adoption over the last two years has been critical for their business survival. Even before COVID, dips into digital were slowly rising, but the pandemic threw automation and tech into overdrive. With the same Lightspeed report, 90 percent of industry operators, owners, and managers said technology adoption was critical for their pandemic survival, and 47 percent of full-service and 37 percent of quick-service operators felt new technology was key for their businesses. Forward-thinking restaurant owners saw technology providing ways to become more efficient, simplify processes, lower labor costs and human errors, and raise profits. Plus, the National Restaurant Association recently found that four in five operators are understaffed including 81 percent of full-service operators and 75 percent of limited-service operators meaning automation and hospitality technology can help with some heavy lifting. With Research and Markets predicting the global food automation market is poised to reach $14 billion by 2025, restaurateurs and foodservice operators are turning to tech, automation, and robotics to handle challenges and help improve their business. Because automation can shift the flow of online ordering to loyalty programs, accounting to
inventory management, and analytics to customer relations, here are a few reasons why this isn’t so much a trend, but the continuously evolving future for restaurants who want to increase efficiencies and check values while decreasing costs. Labor Woes are Still A Problem Labor costs are always one of the highest expenses of running a restaurant or foodservice business, but with the wild ride of the pandemic, it’s even more rocky. Hiring and firing have been rampant, and it’s become nonnegotiable for restaurants to use automation and technology to spackle the gaps forming in their operations. Restaurants have had to quickly optimize health and safety, review how they were running their overhead and labor, and try to minimize contact all while maintaining training and labor costs they could afford during tough times. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting the quit rate among hospitality workers has reached seven percent, double the US national average, it’s no wonder why automation makes sense for the future. Operating off of shoe-string staff numbers, restaurant owners, especially ones with multiple locations, can leverage automation and technology so they don’t get caught short or overwhelmed in their business. Ongoing labor shortages, struggles to find long-term, quality employees, and trying to cut costs, restaurant owners can use their tech tools to enhance the guest experience rather than harm it. With the addition of automation, robotics, and AI technology, they can remove human errors, increase check sizes, boost productivity, and have a more sustainable scalable model than growth with hiring additional staff. Restaurants are thinking of everything from touchless tech to robotic bartenders to solve their labor issues and speed up service. Technology, unlike traditional labor, also offers restaurateurs the option to make back their investment relatively quickly.
Automation, technology, and robots aren’t 100 percent replacing labor, but their implementation leads to removing repetitive, time-consuming, and scalable tasks from staff who are better off serving customers and humanizing parts of the guest experience in ways that robots and tech can’t. With both front-of-the-house and back-of-the-house benefits, automation in restaurants helps to streamline workflows, cut down wait time on orders, and incentivize customers to have a much more engaging and fulfilling experience. Reducing costs while upping output helps your bottom line, removes high turnover, lowers staff stress from mundane tasks, and helps keep your operation well within budget. Restaurant Robots are Proving to be Wise Investments Dodging the bullets of 2020 and 2021, restaurant owners have gotten much more creative about how they design memorable guest experiences (including cool robots) while helping overburdened staff. In fact, a study by Polaris Market Research forecasted that the service robotics industry would grow to $54 billion by 2026 meaning now’s the time for you to hop into restaurant robots and the future generations of tech. Robots are already helping front-of-house and back-of-house staff from cleaning and making drinks to helping with orders and providing touch-free experiences. But they also remove the redundant, cut down the cumbersome, and allow restaurant owners to create more scalable, fun business models with consistent experiences at every location. Plus, robots and automations allow more opportunities to evolve with ever-changing customer desires. Automated systems and robots can also connect to each other to give you detailed analytics and inventory reports so you can dial in higher profits. Because guests enjoy the wealth of menu options offered, fast service, or one-of-a-kind experience of your restaurant robotics, you can see with a minimal amount of space how you can quickly create higher check sizes. There’s increased potential for less time waiting on orders, correct portion control, reduction in
food waste, and on-the-fly seasonal or inventive menu developments as well. Your restaurant’s ability to add different types of automations, train fast, and save time and money is crucial to not just surviving, but thriving in a post-pandemic, tech-enabled world. For example, a touchscreen on your robotic bartender allows staff to learn how to use the machine fast and make a drink in a handful of seconds from fresh ingredients. Without a ton of mess and fusses or long training schedules, you’re able to leverage hospitality tech within every location, build momentum, and add a useful appliance to your restaurant’s repertoire. Imagine that automation and robots are the investment now in your restaurant’s successful future because soon it won’t just be a trend, but the standard in the industry. With their potential for profits and lower costs, robotics and tech automations can enhance your operation, create exceptional service, and drive repeat visits through your high-end dining experience. Touchless Tech is Practical and Tactical Even before the break of the pandemic, the push toward touchless tech like mobile ordering, online ordering, branded apps, kiosks, and tableside options were rising up the ranks. Data from The NPD Group shows that restaurant digital orders grew 124 percent from March 2020 to March 2021, and that restaurant apps and websites were the most common digital ordering channels making up 62 percent of all digital orders. Automating orders with QR codes and digital menus plus touchless payments like Apple Pay and Google Pay are only picking up steam with their convenient ability to offer upsells, provide customizations, deliver orders faster, and handle an abundance of orders in a short period of time. They’re also helping restaurant owners easily see metrics for top sellers and best margin items, save on labor, manage inventory and food waste, and minimize busy work. The fact that automation, AI (Artificial Intelligence), and tech can help the self-checkout process and give customers what they need as quickly as possible should be high up on the restaurant
owner priority list. Delivering a top-notch guest experience, especially through the tech they crave, is not only pushing into the future of where dining is going, but headed down a better path to increased revenue. With 91 percent of restaurateurs surveyed recently via Statista interested in automating more aspects of their business, consider what percentage of your competitors are already ahead of the curve when it comes to hospitality tech, robotics, and automation. Don’t get left behind because of the fear it’s complicated or expensive. With a single extra appliance, restaurants have been able to create craft beverage menus, custom pizzas, and flip burgers with ease. Plus, when you’re able to pump up possibilities for your staff to over deliver on the guest experience, rather than worry about frustrating, boring, or repetitive tasks, you can invest in automation and tech, stay ahead of trends and competitors, and quickly move from outdated operation to tech-forward, five-star dining.