Datassential Explores How Bar/Restaurant Operators Feel About AI

How does the food & beverage industry feel about artificial intelligence (AI)?

This is the question Datassential’s recent webinar sought to answer. Titled “Food & AI: Theory & Practice,” the presentation was part of its Simply Smarter Webinar series.

Defining AI as “software that mimics cognitive functions,” Datassential shared the results of reports and research to shed light on how consumers and operators are approaching and thinking about AI. Feelings are definitely mixed as operators see the benefits and the concerns.

Operator Concerns About AI

There is definite concern among operators about AI as Datassential found that only 22% of operators feel that the overall benefits and potential of AI outweigh its issues.

Specific concerns include, “AI can lead to a loss of ‘human touches’ in cooking, or make customer service robotic,” which 63% of operators agreed with. Coming in second was concern over jobs as 50% of operators agreed that, “AI could displace human workers, make foodservice jobs obsolete, or drastically change job responsibilities and required skills.

artificial intelligence in bars and restaurants
(Chart Courtesy of Datassential)

Despite these concerns, a larger number of operators (36%) do believe that “because of AI, the food industry in the next five to ten years will be unrecognizable from what it is today. Twenty-four percent disagree with this statement, while the majority (40%) feel neutral about it. This neutral majority demonstrates that many still don’t understand AI, so they are feeling cautious or neutral about it.

Benefits of AI in Food & Beverage

These statistics don’t mean that food & beverage operators are looking to completely disavow AI. On the contrary, 50% said they would incorporate AI into their business if it was affordable and fit their budget. Easy access and usage were also motivators to bring in AI along with the ability to test drive the technology.

artificial intelligence in bars and restaurants
(Chart Courtesy of Datassential)

For those willing to be at the front of the wave, there are many applications that AI can be used for. Some of the top applications operators are interested in include waste management (63%), nutrition and allergen awareness (62%), and food safety & quality control (61%). And as AI expands and improves, it will most likely be baked into things operators already use, like POS systems, employee retention tools, back office software, etc.

AI also stands to make some of the biggest strides in automation, but operators are still skeptical that an artificial intelligence can supersede human ability just yet. For example, a low percentage of operators think that AI will be better than humans at customer service (24%) and creating recipes and preparing food (27%).

There are some areas where AI is ready to shine and where consumers are welcoming of the technology, and a big one is in ordering. According to Datassential, 70% of consumers find it appealing if a restaurant uses an AI-powered chatbot to take drive-thru, mobile, or digital orders. Although larger chain restaurants, who can afford the tech, are already pioneering in this space, there’s no doubt the technology will start to trickle down to smaller establishments.

The Future of AI in Foodservice

Considering how AI has exploded in the last year, the future possibilities for the food & beverage industry are endless.

Datassential shared some predictions during their webinar:

  • Menus won’t be limited to a certain amount of items. Thanks to AI ordering and menu creation, there will be an endless variety of combinations for guests to choose from based on their personal preferences, allergens, etc. It may then even be left to robots to cook those selections.
  • Health and wellness in meals will continue to be popular as AI wearable tech will inform guests about how they are eating, what they should eat, etc. to meet health goals.
  • In the off-premise, subscription-based meal kit services may involve the use of at-home food printers and recipes.

Interested in learning more? You can view the full Datassential webinar here.


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