2020 was an epoch-making year for the restaurant industry. A shocking 10,000 pubs, clubs, and restaurants shut shops permanently. Job losses in the industry skyrocketed by an incredible 163% compared to the previous year!
Food outlets of every size were forced to reinvent their business. All R&D into menu innovation, flavour experimentation, and focus on dining experiences took a backseat, as restaurants clamoured to optimize their operations for take-outs and deliveries.
Come 2021, as the pandemic tremors begin fading, the restaurant industry is gearing up for a comeback, and technology will drive their growth. Here are some technology predictions for the restaurant industry in 2021.
1. Heightened Cleanliness, Powered by Automation
Social distancing and incessant hand sanitization have instilled a deep sense of fear of public surfaces among the general populace. Cleanliness will be a priority for diners as they take tentative steps into the outside world after a long year locked inside.
The already overworked staff of restaurants cannot be burdened with speedy, thorough, and endlessly repeating sanitization of tables, seats, countertops, and other surfaces. Disinfectant robots will emerge as a natural solution for restaurants.
2. Digital Ordering Will Grow Bigger
Food delivery outlets like Domino survived the pandemic pains relatively easily, thanks to their infrastructure that’s already optimized for deliveries. For other restaurants, the message is clear – “If you want to survive a crisis, start finding ways to give your customers what they want, when they want, and where they want!”
Restaurants must employ everything from web apps to mobile apps to phone-based ordering to make ordering and deliveries seamless. Once again, food delivery robots will save the day. They’ll make swift deliveries and offer a delightful delivery experience to customers, all at a fraction of the cost it requires to hire humans.
3. Service Quality Consistency
The new year will likely see a low dine-out volume. Naturally, dining experiences and diner satisfaction will gain primacy for the restauranteurs.
Imagine this: you are tearing through your favourite burger and the waitress comes to your table with the question, “Do you like your meal?” The fast chewing, the hard swallow, and a half-legible response that follow even as you struggle with the contents in your mouth, are a common memory for every one of us.
Robot waiters eliminate such occurrences entirely. For once, diners won’t be as hard-pressed by courtesy to respond to robots the way they do humans. So, they’ll be at ease and interact with robot waiters in a more organic and natural way. As a result, the diners enjoy a more satisfying dining experience. As an added benefit, benefits save a great deal of money on staffing costs too. It’s a win-win for everyone, which is the need of the hour for the post-pandemic world. Tim Warrington From www.servicerobots.com has said the take up of the £499 a month robot waiter has seen unprecedented demand from post Covid restaurants ready to be different when they open.
4. Self-checkouts are the Future
The restaurant industry will likely experience a self-checkout revolution in 2021 for several reasons. For one, they improve upsells significantly, as was evidenced in the case of McDonald’s, which reported a 30% increase in order value after implementing self-checkouts. Secondly, they reduce customer lines, speed up ordering process, and improve the accuracy of order fulfilment, all of which improve custom satisfaction rates substantially.
Robochefs aren’t a new development by any measure. They’ve been around at least since 2010. But, the restaurant industry has not been very welcoming of them. Although robochefs will not make a huge splash this year either, they will witness a wider adoption, especially by chain restaurants, who tend to be more focused on food consistency.
As the artificial intelligence technologies improve, AI-powered robochefs will become a more common sight in the coming months, at least in major cities.