Will your restaurant franchisees be replaced by an AI-robot serving me burgers & beer?

AI and the Future of the Food Service Industry

In recent times, the potential and implications of Artificial Intelligence (AI) have generated intense discussions. There’s a wide spectrum of opinions, from those who dream of a tech-enhanced future to those who would rather stick with tradition, preferring their meals served by fellow humans. The important question remains: How is AI reshaping the food service industry and what should we expect?

AI Today: Integrating Into Daily Life The eerie narratives of machines overpowering humans, as portrayed in media, stands in stark contrast to the AI of today. The reality is that AI has seamlessly blended into our day-to-day, enhancing experiences in shopping, dining, and entertainment.

Understanding AI: At its core, AI is about designing programs that can react to distinct environments or stimuli, often mirroring human-like reactions. Today’s video games showcase AI’s capability to imitate life. Unlike humans, who use vast life experiences to make decisions, AI operates within its pre-programmed boundaries. Hence, fears of a rogue AI dominating the world are unfounded.

Machine Learning: AI’s Key Subset Machine learning, a pivotal facet of AI, allows programs to improve over time by processing data. For instance, streaming services offer suggestions based on users’ previous activity. Here, AI evolves as it gathers more data about the user. In essence, machine learning is an AI tool, refining the broader capabilities of AI systems.

AI in Restaurants: Current Applications

Robots: Robots, often the face of the AI debate, have gained traction in the restaurant sector. For example, the Caliburger restaurant chain unveiled Flippy, a robot that can make hundreds of burgers daily. Moreover, Domino’s experimented with autonomous pizza delivery robots in Europe.

Ordering Kiosks: AI-powered kiosks allow guests to place orders, which then directly go to the kitchen. These kiosks, with machine learning capabilities, can suggest upsells based on global customer behavior, enhancing the guest experience.

Chatbots: These AI systems interact with customers online, handling reservations, orders, or queries. As voice technology advances, expect chatbots that can respond verbally, like Alexa or Siri.

Virtual Assistants: Tools like Alexa or Google Home, projected to be used by over 2 million people by 2023, can help users find restaurants, check wait times, or even place reservations or orders.

Mobile Apps and Operations Management: Restaurant apps harness AI to send tailored promotions. Moreover, AI-powered software assists in inventory management, financial tracking, and scheduling. By analyzing sales data, they provide actionable forecasts for restaurateurs.

AI: Beyond the Glamour

AI offers tangible benefits to restaurants:

  • Efficiency: Automating processes like orders and reservations.
  • Accuracy: Reducing chances of miscommunication in orders.
  • Customer Empowerment: AI allows diners to customize their experience.
  • Improved Guest Experience: AI can take over routine tasks, enabling staff to focus on enhancing the guest experience.
  • Marketing: AI can suggest products and promotions, helping restaurants engage customers even outside their premises.

Looking Forward

While AI is making significant strides, the complete automation of the food service industry, particularly a fully automated robotic staff, remains on the horizon.

Human Interaction: The Irreplaceable Element

Despite AI’s leaps, the essence of the food service industry lies in human connection. Restaurants must prioritize staff training, ensuring adherence to brand standards, and prioritizing customer experience. At its heart, the food service industry is about human interaction, which requires timely and accurate information and smart digital tools that help staff “get real work done”.

While companies like Chainformation might not be delving deep into AI, they understand the value of equipping humans with tools to streamline daily tasks and maintain brand consistency. Digital checklists, Task management and Operations Manuals in the cloud are solutions that work really well and there are huge benefits to be reaped for any restaurant franchise network.

Explore more insights on franchise management from Chainformation.

About the Author: Anders Hall co-founded Chainformation, a company that, since 2001, provides digital solutions to franchises and chains, focusing on operational support, communication, concept compliance and quality management.