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Technology to drive big changes in restaurant industry in next decade

Driverless cars to impact the drive-thru, takeout experience

Automation will be a key part of what the future holds for restaurants in 2030. Everything from payroll to inventory management will be automated, according to Restaurants 2030: Actionable insights into future. That increases the need for restaurant managers to be tech savvy. That will also fuel the tech support business behind the software running the technology. And this technology will drive tech-based training in the form of online and smartphone learning.

Another finding in the report, produced in partnership with an expert panel using the Delphi Approach, is that more restaurant jobs will be career-oriented in order to retain workers. Restaurants will tap universities and career fairs to recruit workers and managers. As they become more sophisticated, restaurant jobs could become more career-tracked.

Due to increased demand for convenience, more meals will be prepared in centralized kitchens. Online delivery companies aren’t going anywhere, and virtual kitchens are positioned well. According to Restaurants 2030, data mining will allow dishes and offerings to be focused on the needs of a particular market. These preferences, tastes and favorites of consumers in a small geography could lead to big opportunities for operators of virtual kitchens with access to this specialized data. They could end up operating a brick-and-mortar location that has its pulse on local tastes.

As if current restaurant operators don’t already have enough challenges in the years ahead, virtual restaurants will “alter the definition of what a restaurant is.” The good news, however, is virtual restaurants will have a lower cost model, due to less rent paid and fewer staff needed. In addition, virtual restaurants could alter the franchise model. These are all projected byproducts of an on-demand generation and the entrepreneur who seeks to satisfy a culture of convenience.

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Uber Eats Bolognese?

Delivery companies could muscle in on restaurant space by creating private-label foods, contracting restaurants to continue building their brands. Restaurants 2030 posits that the success of food retailers and private-label brands could encourage third-party deliverers to begin doing the same thing with restaurant-prepared food. Uber Eats Bolognese anyone? The consolidation of restaurant delivery companies could add more capital and heighten influence behind these efforts.

Restaurants 2030 challenges operators to think about advancing technology and the impact of third-party delivery companies on the foodservice landscape. A report recommendation: Restaurant operators need to keep their menu items unique and special to deter “brand disintermediation.” Also, operators should consider how their brand is communicated in the delivery experience. For example, is a restaurant delivery customer receiving a plain brown box from Uber Eats, or are they receiving distinctive packaging that brings to mind the restaurant brand?

Driverless cars

Cruise Automation is developing vehicles with integrated audio and visual sensory systems. Photo by Cruise Automation.
Cruise Automation is developing vehicles with integrated audio and visual sensory systems. Photo by Cruise Automation.

Automated vehicles may change the landscape for restaurant delivery and our lifestyles in general. With hands-free mobility, consumers may have more time to enjoy meals while on the go, building up an already growing off-premises business. Driverless cars will become a reality at the intersection of advancing AI and consumers’ insatiable appetite for convenience.

Autonomous delivery is becoming a quickly-advancing part of this movement. Third-party delivery companies will benefit from developing technology, decreasing labor costs and creating more precision in delivery execution. This year, DoorDash partnered with GM’s Cruise to begin testing autonomous delivery in the San Francisco market. Expect other companies to invest increasingly in this type of technology. Autonomous delivery will be ready before autonomous passenger vehicles, asserts Restaurants 2030.

The report also suggests that hand-held food will no longer be the norm of food consumed in vehicles: driverless cars will inspire diversity in food choices. Additionally, due to longer trips that can be taken with autonomous vehicles, technology to reheat foods will become more available in cars. It’s a whole new frontier, including designing and retrofitting drive-thrus to accommodate such vehicles.

Automation and robotics in the kitchen

In the future, the more repetitive elements of food preparation will belong to robots. Robotics are expected to fully automate much of the back-of-house preparation inside restaurants. Chefs still have a place in the kitchen, but they’ll be used to provide expert guidance and guide culinary technique. In addition, these robots will benefit from machine learning and can be taught new tasks and preparation methods.

“AI services provided by Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and others” will play a bigger role in this advancement . For restaurant operators, quality and consistency will be benefits, notes the Restaurants 2030 report. Also, as staffing costs decrease, capital expenditures will increase to pay for the equipment and technology. This will in turn impact compensation patterns of workers.

As AI becomes a more integral part of our lives, it will also be more popularized. With the spotlight on AI, it’s possible to see that technology can be formatted to create recipes and replace chefs, in some instances. With machine-readable data and different inputs of culinary information, machines could create recipes that are embraced for their innovative taste and increased health benefits. As AI in the kitchen becomes more prominent, the forecasters behind the report anticipate backlash. In the end, we could return to a human-driven kitchen and shun the involvement of AI in restaurant food preparation.

Photo credit: Cruise Automation (featured, inline)

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