How to Automate Your Restaurant (Without Sacrificing the Humanity)

You have to be living in a bubble (or working too many hours) to have not seen the many recent headlines pointing to the  “Robot Restaurant Revolution” and sounding alarms like  “Robots Take Over Major Casual Dining Chains”. Of course, robots have been used in manufacturing, healthcare, and even military operations for decades, but somehow it feels ominous to think that these wonders of technology could someday replace us all, especially in an industry that relies so heavily on human interaction to create experiences that guests will want to come back again and again for.

One thing is for sure: Artificial intelligence is here to stay and is projected to grow to $390.9 Billion by 2025 globally, while the food robotics market is estimated to grow to $3.35 Billion by 2025 globally.

In light of the obvious benefits to automation and its clear mark on the restaurant industry, highlighted by recent labor shortages and rising costs of labor and goods, how is it that restaurant owners can take advantage of new world technology and still deliver on the guest experience when companies like Miso Robotics are pledging world domination?

Here are a few things to consider as we head into the future.

Investigate Where Automation Can Help Your Operation

This is the perfect time to take a good look at operational systems and assess where improvements can be made in key areas using advanced technology:

  • Guest Engagement: Can technology be used to improve the use of personalized offers, loyalty, and engagement overall through your website, apps, and other platforms?
  • Timing: Are you getting the best use out of technology that can use learning-based algorithms to improve wait times, ticket times, and seating capacity?
  • Analytics: Do you have access to insights like cost increase alerts, top selling items by time of day, or labor vs sales volume?
  • Communications: Are kitchen operations connected with guest-facing technology to ensure a smooth and efficient experience end-to-end?

If some of these areas can use improvement though automation, it may be time to seek out solutions that can be implemented now.

Choose the Technology That is Right for You and Your Concept

There is not always a one-size-fits-all solution, so operators may want to consider which solution is best suited for the problem they want to solve. For example, if you are trying to shorten the time it takes for food to arrive to a table, then handheld point-of-sale (POS) tablets may be the way to go. Use of this technology can dramatically shorten the time it takes to get an order to the kitchen, while avoiding costly mistakes that can be made by missing something that was written down incorrectly. Tablets also eliminate bottlenecks at the POS stations and pace orders more efficiently for the kitchen overall, leading to a smoother experience for both the kitchen and the guest.

Perhaps the challenge is to ensure chefs and managers spend less time in the weeds with back-office tasks and more time with guest interaction and training. By utilizing more cloud-based systems, mobile technology, and automated displays, we can improve efficiency, create better outcomes, and ease the workload of administrative tasks, leading to a better team member and guest experience.

Train Teams to Utilize and Manage the Technology for the Best Results

With new technology comes a new way of managing systems, which requires an investment in training. Any time we install a new system or operation that goes against a long history of doing things a certain way, there will be some bumps in the road and some resistance to change.

Servers that are used to writing orders and entering them into a terminal may be resistant to using new hand-held devices. They may argue that it is impersonal to be typing away rather than engaging with their guests. However, once they get used to the new technology, almost all tend to report that their life was made much easier due to less steps and shorter ticket times, ultimately allowing them to really go the extra mile to upsell the experience.

The Bottom Line

While the “robot revolution” may be well on its way to change many aspects of the restaurant industry and establish restaurant automation as the new reality, we can certainly find the balance between leveraging automation to improve our operations without eliminating the human touch.

In fact, it may be that restaurant automation, when implemented strategically and intentionally, can actually take our human interaction with those we serve to the next level.