Technology is an ever-changing tool in the bar and restaurant industry. While new updates and programs can be an aid to help grow business, the technology market is crowded and can be confusing. Apps galore, new software updates, and the increased development of artificial intelligence (AI) has made it hard for those working behind the bar and on the restaurant floor to decipher what is beneficial and what is just buzz.
However, as crowded as the market may be, no one is shying away from using technology—but 2024 will be a year that operators are more discerning about what they invest in and what they choose to use in-house.
Gary Wallach, partner at Renwick Hospitality Group based in New York, N.Y., explained that they are constantly looking for new types of technologies to bolster experiences that bars and restaurants can offer. And, with experience being such a draw these days, it’s important that the industry uses all of the tools it can to create something sippers and diners will remember.
“Ultimately, our goal is to provide unique and unparalleled experiences. Technology is only going to help us achieve these goals faster,” he said, noting that efficient technologies can help the industry to understand customer needs and wants on a micro and macro level.
But, according to experts, it looks like this year will be a mixed bag of choices—restaurateurs will choose to streamline the amount of technology being used while evaluating and adding more advanced tools, too.
AI Isn’t Coming - It’s Here
It turns out that 2024 may be the year of AI. While this has been up-and-coming for a few years, the advances in this technology have made it a tool that cannot be ignored any longer. Wallach noted that the brand is excited about the use of AI to gauge customer trends and overall experience. He points out that AI can help pinpoint consumer demands in almost real-time, which can help immensely with forecasting and watching shifting trends.
“We’re really fascinated by Google’s proprietary AI in terms of analyzing customer experience and ordering preferences. In the future, we’re highly interested in using these models to help with inventory and forecasting,” he said.
Vaughan Dugan, founder of Boca Raton, Florida-based Kapow Noodle Bar, echoed this sentiment, and explained that AI allows restaurants to continue to make more informed decisions in a world where margins are becoming increasingly squeezed. Also, as labor has continued to be an issue in the industry, using AI can help to project when labor needs will be at a high versus a lull.
“This technology isn't just a futuristic concept; it's a practical tool that will enable us to optimize our resources, reduce waste, and better serve our customers,” he said.
According to Datassential, there will be AI at play in more places than just the front and back of the house. Datassential's 2024 Food Trends Report predicts that augmented reality will make its way into the dining and drinking experience via glasses or other tools, allowing people to livestream their experiences in real time.
While there are a plethora of apps out there that can help to handle the needs of a bar and restaurant, there seems to be a bit too many. 2024 will be the year that restaurateurs will begin to figure out which ones are truly necessary and worth the use of staff versus which ones aren’t.
“The consolidation of our app usage has been a relief for my team, reducing the clutter and confusion of juggling multiple platforms,” said Dugan. “In 2024, we'll continue to refine our use of these technologies, ensuring that we leave the tech development to the experts while we capitalize on their innovations to enhance our operations and service,” he added.
Additionally, this year may be the year for more proprietary apps that are designed to maximize the needs of a specific eatery.
It’s not just about the food and beverage, either. The industry will also tap technology to more efficiently run the business from other aspects, too.
“This year at Kapow, we're embracing smart technologies for our lighting and HVAC systems. Simple, yet effective measures like installing automated timers can lead to substantial savings, which is paramount to improving the bottom line,” said Dugan.
He also noted that he will be keeping an eye on “smart” kitchen equipment and will weigh if their capabilities are worth the investment. “This shift towards more intelligent, energy-efficient appliances is a key focus for us, aligning with our ethos of sustainability while enhancing our operational efficiency,” Dugan added.
And, it turns out, he’s not alone. According to Dataessential, about 70% of proprietors will be looking to purchase new kitchen equipment this year. This will weigh heavily on purchase decisions as they will want to ensure they won’t make a purchase that will be obsolete in a few short years. Dataessential noted that in looking to create a futuristic kitchen, investments made in multi-functional equipment will be important.
Are you registered for our Crave and Crave on the Menu newsletters? Sign up today!
Plan to Attend or Participate in the 2024 Bar & Restaurant Expo, March 18-20, 2024
To learn about the latest trends, issues and hot topics, and to experience and taste the best products within the bar, restaurant and hospitality industry, plan to attend Bar & Restaurant Expo 2024 in Las Vegas.
To book your sponsorship or exhibit space at the 2024 Bar & Restaurant Expo, contact:
Veronica Gonnello (for companies A to G) e: [email protected] p: 212-895-8244
Tim Schultz (for companies H to Q) e: [email protected] p: 917-258-8589
Fadi Alsayegh (for companies R to Z) e: [email protected] p: 917-258-5174