The virus pandemic is profoundly altering America's restaurant industry, ushering in, what we believe, could be an era of automation and artificial intelligence in storefronts.
The entire restaurant industry was crushed under the weight of lockdowns, and many eateries were deemed nonessential, forcing some to shutter operations forever. The lucky ones to survive are dealing with ultra-low foot traffic as consumers stay home and eat or use smartphone apps to order curbside pickup. Consumers are still not comfortable with dining inside commercial spaces with human food preppers or other consumers around them.
The restaurant industry is at significant crossroads: Surviving eateries are figuring out creative ways to instill confidence among consumers that restaurants and or bars are safe from the virus. One way to do so is through the adoption of robots and AI.
"The concept of a bar is completely changing now, and the concept of nightclubs and public events," Alan Adojaan, chief executive officer of Tallinn, an Estonia-based robotics company, told Bloomberg.
Adojaan said while humans are needed to maintain the backend part of the bar, the actual bartender can be automated. He said his prototype robot bartender is gaining significant traction from airports, casinos, and hotels.
Readers may recall, over the years, we noted from Vegas to Dubai to major cities in Asia, automation was slowly being added to restaurants and bars, and many other service type businesses.
Replacing humans on the restaurant or bar floor will increasingly become popular in the early 2020s as a way to bring back customers.
Not too long ago, fast-food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) debuted its "restaurant of the future," one where automation dominates the storefront, and little to no interaction is seen between customers and employees.
The trend to automate restaurants and bars was inevitable, as we've highlighted from a few years back:
- "Flippy" The Burger-Flipping Robot Taken Offline After First Day
- America's First Robot Bar Opens In Vegas: "Perfect Pours Every Time"
However, there's a problem, the tradeoff of automating restaurants and bars will be absolutely devastating to the labor market. Before the virus pandemic, 13.5 million people worked in the industry. Post-pandemic, tens of thousands of eateries have closed permanently with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of job losses. Then factor in additional job loss due to automation, and what this all suggests is that millions of restaurant jobs will be lost forever.