Autonomous technology is redefining the restaurant business as we speak. More importantly, it is modifying customer experience and interaction. According to the National Restaurant Association’s 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry, a significant number of restaurant-goers would like to see more technology integration in restaurants to improve customer service and, in turn, making orders and payments more manageable. With that goal, developing technologies that rank essential among customers surveyed comprise service-enhancing objects such as tablets at the table, automated self-service kiosks, and wearable technology for restaurant servers.
According to research conducted three years ago by Hospitality Technology’s 2019 Restaurant Technology Study, 30% of establishments are combining kiosks for the first time. For instance, McDonald’s has been increasingly active in adding self-ordering kiosks to boost their QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) homage—more than half of the “almost” 14,000 U.S. locations have been converted into the QSR’s as part of their “Experience of the Future” notion that covers self-ordering kiosks and digital menus.
Self-service technology may even reduce instances of customer friction, from waiting in queues to placing an order. For example, Brewhall in Vancouver has granted its customers the option to avoid the line with self-service technology. This will, in turn, result in a server-less scene. Consumers can either wait in line to order or opt to use their smartphones to scan a QR code or even go to the website for orders. For an added tech-savvy touch, customers can pay using either Google Pay, Apple Pay or by scanning a credit card and later pick up their orders when they are ready.
The Labor Force
Restaurant owners of all sizes are looking to integrate autonomous technology to expand workforce capabilities and substitute or complement the staff. Technological advancements are mainly targeted to deal with repetitive tasks that can be automated through kiosks and robots, freeing up the staff’s valuable time to focus on customer experience. Moreover, as the minimum wage is continually rising, eatery proprietors are even more eager to interchange their tech team. However, before adding any form of self-sufficient machinery, restaurants must take into account two main things:
A Redefined Dine-in Experience
Have you ever been to a restaurant where you had to wait for “virtually” hours to get your order taken? Well, with the ever-so-growing tech industry, that has become a thing of the past!
The dine-in option is being reconstructed with technology located right at the table. Applebee’s introduced self-ordering solutions at the table in 2014. For years following that, the fast-casual chain has used the PrestoPrime EMV tabletop device, allowing customers to self-order and pay at the table with EMV and mobile payment technologies. This will also add a never-before-seen level of personalized entertainment at each table. From games and movies to music, customers have the freedom to accommodate their own needs to their likings.
Loss of Human Interaction
While robotics and technology are the best way to go when significant advancement is needed, one of the most crucial drawbacks is the loss of human touch. This, of course, plays in with the significant drop in employment rates. The models for hospitality formed before the Internet, cell phones, or self-checkout kiosks were as crucial as they are now, incorporating personal communications among hospitality staff and customers. A fundamental hurdle that is being faced nowadays is deciding when it is prudent to practice techniques and when it is fit to adhere to direct customer interaction.
The Internet has transformed many of the industry measures over the past several years. Today, the business is facing a viable possibility to substitute face-to-face communications with computerized interactions. Customer experience is often viewed as the primary point to dine out, and with that being lost, will restaurants lose their appeal?
A group of MIT students designed Spyce, a robotic kitchen. Most food preparations are done automatically, consuming no more than 3 minutes. The robotic kitchen collects information about customers’ orders wirelessly from the database of the self-service menu kiosks. It then gathers the required quantity of the refrigerators’ frozen ingredients, placing them into a hot spinning wok. The robotic kitchen cooks and stirs the ingredients for a fixed time to finally pour the hot meal into the ready bowl. Human staff jumps in to add fresh ingredients, seasoning or dressing, and serve it to the customers.
The main aim of the robotic kitchen creation was very modest. The creators wanted to make delicious and healthy food accessible for all as many people resort to junk food nowadays because of various reasons, from low income to time consumption. Spyce can produce quality food servings for only $7.50. Spyce is a customer-friendly establishment, maintaining a pleasant touch of hospitality style of small local diners. Moreover, the owners display their environmental responsibility by utilizing compostable tableware. It is little details such as these and their quality food that has put Spyce in the Spotlight.