The virus pandemic did not change the trajectory of where the restaurant industry was headed, but it did force years of change in a short period. Restaurants are embracing artificial intelligence and automation to revolutionize their business models.
A new report via payments company Square titled "Future of Restaurants" discusses an overview of how technology is sweeping through the industry. Square partnered with Wakefield Research to survey 500 restaurant owners and managers across the country.
They found an overwhelming number of owners and managers are pivoting towards automation in the kitchen and embracing the hub-and-spoke model.
About 91% of respondents said they have made or planning to make investments in kitchen automation technology.
So what's the rush to digitize the backend of a restaurant?
Well, as explained by Bruce Bell, Head of Square for Restaurants, he said:
"We're seeing more of a hub-and-spoke model with the kitchen at the center of it all. Restaurants embrace new channels for customers to interact with their business, effectively meeting them wherever they are. Each of these channels represents a revenue stream for the restaurant, and they connect to the same kitchen and are all managed by the same centralized POS system."
Bell is essentially saying restaurants, via investments in kitchen automation technology, will be able or have already been able to pivot to various revenue streams at a moment's notice, such as making meal kits, dining room, groceries, delivery, among others.
"One channel might be the dining room, one channel might be first-party delivery, one channel might be meal kits, and so on," added Bell. "Having the kitchen run as efficiently as possible extends that efficiency into all of those channels."
Square said one respondent, Mediterranean fast-casual chain The Kebab Shop, already invested in kitchen automation technology when the pandemic struck, and quickly allowed it to pivot to curbside pickup and delivery.
"We're really lucky that we keep everything in the same ecosystem," owner Wally Sadat explained. "We were already digital-forward, so when it came to implementing something on the fly, like during COVID, we were in a good position."
Other notable stats from the survey shows how restaurants are rapidly evolving in a post-COVID world:
- 3 in 4 restaurants plan on offering contactless ordering and payment options across all channels.
- 59% of consumers are willing to buy items that are not part of the restaurant's core offerings.
- 42% of restaurants plan to invest in customer loyalty programs
- Restaurants that are using online ordering for delivery and takeout expect 62% of revenue to come through those channels.
- 67% of consumers prefer to use a restaurant's own website or app for food delivery.
- 92% of restaurant owners and managers are open to experimenting with their menu.
- 88% of restaurants would consider completely switching from physical to digital menus.
... and as readers may know when artificial intelligence and automation are embedded into company businesses models - they become job killers - suggesting technological unemployment will soar through this decade.
How will the economy replace the millions of jobs lost if technology displaces them?