September 7, 2015

5 Future Technological Trends of the Restaurant Industry

The new millennium has brought on rapid technological advancements that fulfil more purposes than just amusing our inner children with gadgets that used to only exist in science fiction movies. 

A look at the importance of technology in the foodservice sector.

restaurant-technology-industryYes, believe it or not, technology is being developed so quickly with the purpose of increasing the efficiency of global industries.  One such industry that benefits highly from technological progression is the restaurant industry.

With the UK foodservice industry booming, there is a higher demand for service speed.  Because the human factor has its limitations on this front, restaurants around the world are looking towards technology for an added boost of efficiency.  Many have already made the jump to technological assistance in the form of apps and automation, and some are keeping their eyes planted firmly on other forms of technology appearing on the horizon.

So, whether they are currently in full swing or are just interesting propositions at this point, here is a look at 5 technologies that are likely to become trends in the foreseeable future:

1. Apps
Granted, ordering apps are already quite common.  With apps like JUST EAT, consumers are able to order from any of a multitude of restaurants, which the app places at their fingertips.  This app allows consumers to target their searches based on the food they want, the restaurants closest to them, and the restaurants with the best reviews.  This allows restaurants to better manage food output, and keep their service and waiting areas less crowded.  This app also gives diners a better chance of total satisfaction.

But, aside from apps catering to front of house operations, many restaurants are choosing to manage their back of house operations with certain apps.  Breadcrumb, for example, is a Point of Sale that is designed for mobile compatibility.  This essentially gives restaurant managers the ability to monitor aspects such as open tables, placed orders, and floor plans, all from a tablet or smartphone.

This app is so versatile that it will work in any situation, whether new or established.  New restaurants will have the advantage of being able to launch their operations with next-level efficiency, and older establishments will be able to upgrade their operations.

2. Automated Vendors
Vending machines are no new addition to the industry, but the latest equipment to come out of the automated vending market represents a large step forward.  While traditional vending machines limited consumers to the products which they contained, the newest technology in this field gives consumers the power to create products.

The Coca-Cola Freestyle machine, for example, gives consumers the ability to add flavours to base products in the Coca-Cola range using touchscreen technology.  This gives consumers control over the product they receive.  Moreover, it encourages return visits as a result of the number of possibilities regarding flavours.

Because of their efficiency, touchscreen vending machines make the customer experience quick and enjoyable.  Consumers can choose the exact products they desire, and can often connect to these machines via downloadable apps.  But touchscreen vending machines are also effective marketing tools.  Aside from the remote customer engagement which they promote, their screens can also be used to display digital media during the periods in which they are not being used.  This is an excellent advertising opportunity, and the fact that media can often be uploaded remotely only serves to make marketing easier.

Automated vendors are great for public locations, but fast food establishments also benefit.  The automation frees up staff members, and allows customers to take control of their experience.

3. Kitchen Management Systems
As mentioned earlier, there is a great deal of technology aimed at front of house service, but back of house is just as important.  For this reason, many restaurants are seeking the assistance of kitchen management systems.  There are a number of systems from which to choose, but they all control similar aspects of kitchen management, which fundamentally link food preparation to table turnaround times.

However, in addition to managing kitchens in real time, these systems can be used to collect data for later analysis.  This can prove very helpful in the maintenance of menus.  If there are certain dishes that seem to be inhibiting turnaround times due to longer preparation, kitchen management systems can pinpoint these and provide data on time loss.  These systems can also help boost profits by identifying unnecessary wastage.

4. Digital Menus
Many restaurants allow their customers to browse their menus on their websites, but some are turning to in-house digital menus.  This essentially demands a tablet for each customer, on which the menu will be displayed.  In addition to the menu, customers will have access to information regarding each meal and beverage, house specials, recommendations, and customer comments.  Customers will also be able to call for the waiter, or place their own orders via the tablet.

These menus certainly increase turnaround time, but have several other important benefits as well.  For example, UK law now requires the labelling of food allergens not just on packaged foods, but also on foods that can be bought already prepared.  This requires restaurants to list the allergens contained in all of their meals.  With a digital menu, this information can easily be attached to each dish, and accessed by clicking a link, which stands to make menus less cluttered.

5. Hygiene Monitoring
In a constant effort to prioritise health and safety, and make kitchens more hygienic environments, some restaurants are turning to digital hygiene monitoring.  Companies such as Position Systems offer hygiene monitoring through the collection of data regarding washing regularity.  This system measures the hand-washing practices of a team, which can be categorised into different sites, and delivers the data via a secure local network, or online access.

Other systems offer data on individual employees, depending on the establishment’s preferences.  But, in either case, these systems let restaurants and eateries know when further measures regarding hygienic practices are to be taken.

While many of the above technologies are already in circulation, they are not yet in wide-scale use.  However, with the restaurant industry continuing to grow annually, there is more demand for technological assistance.  This is why it is fair to estimate that many of the above technologies will become staples in the foodservice industry in the near future.

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