How AI Is Transforming the Restaurant Industry

Over the last few years, the restaurant industry has seen a steady increase in businesses using AI. Many tasks that were once normally done by humans have now become automated, which of course brings in a whole host of benefits to the restaurant businesses. AI technology is being used to enhance customer experience, speed up processes, and help reduce costs. But is it all for the better?

In a recent survey undertaken by Lightspeed, of the 2000 restaurants taking part, 51% said they were planning to make use of AI in their own businesses. The technology is out there ready to make its impact, and most people are onboard. With that in mind, let’s look a little deeper into just a few of those benefits that restaurant owners can expect when adopting AI systems into their daily operation.

Order taking

AI is being increasingly used in fast-food, or minimum table service restaurants, for taking customers’ orders. We’ve all seen it in action at McDonalds, for example, where we tap in and customize our menu items into one of the self-service kiosks. Our orders get delivered immediately to kitchen staff who prepare everything, and then we just go and pick it up from the counter.

The main benefit here is the opportunity for multiple orders to be taken at the same time where customers take control and key in exactly what they want. The system can even make recommendations where menu items aren’t available, and can upsell complimentary menu items. There is no employee error in order taking or processing card or cash payments. Human contact only happens briefly when the order is handed over, so already you have reduced the need and cost of having several counter staff.

Is that a good thing though? Sure it’s streamlined and efficient, but do we as customers want to order and eat food in a restaurant devoid of any human interaction?

Source of useful data

AI systems capture a wealth of useful data that restaurant owners can use to improve the customer experience, streamline their business operations and make better strategic decisions…

  • Track ordering trends
  • Streamline order processing times
  • Performance of individual menu items
  • Upselling opportunities
  • Track staffing levels

Being able to access this kind of information at their fingertips allows businesses to run more efficiently, satisfy customers and reduce operating costs. Incorporating AI into your restaurant is not one stop shopping, you need to consider your brand, your demographics and, most importantly of all, how you and your restaurant want to grow. Are you a totally organic mom and pop organic vegan café? Fully streamlining with AI may not suit your ethos or your core demo. Ditto for a chef-driven Michelin-starred sushi restaurant. But if you have a fast food franchise with aggressive expansion plans then AI is going to be vital to your growth.

Personalized customer experiences

Anything that makes the customer experience more enjoyable and helps convert a ‘passing’ customer to a ‘loyal’ customer is top priority for all restaurant owners. AI systems can create personal profiles of customers and then recognize those customers as they return to a restaurant. This of course allows the restaurant to provide a much more personalized service, because information on the customer and their previous orders and preferences are readily available. Customer loyalty can be further boosted through targeted promotions, coupons, invitations to exclusive events etc. all from information gathered by AI technology.

Transforming the kitchen

AI systems can never replace the creative minds and trained palates of chefs but they can be employed to help chefs in a number of ways. Inventory tracking, scheduling, recipe development, optimizing cooking times and managing food deliveries and ordering; predicting shortages and surpluses of individual items. This can help businesses plan their restaurant menus more efficiently, reduce food waste and cut costs.

Is AI the way forward?

Clearly AI technologies are already changing the restaurant industry in a number of ways. They can enhance customer experiences, streamlinine operations, optimize menus, and reduce costs. But, hold on a minute.
We need to take a step back and consider the industry we are talking about – this is the restaurant business and it encompasses a whole universe of different concepts and formats. It is not all QSR and fast food.

A big part of the restaurant experience is the human element – the chef creating the menu, the attentive service from the floor staff and bartenders, the artists and designers curating the space, the restaurant itself and the community it resides in. There are so many unique and creative ways that F&B enhances our lives; from the coffee we grab on the way into work, to a business lunch, to date night.

AI can do a lot of things, but at the end of the day, it’s just another tool. That’s the beauty of restaurants, at their very best they will always be uniquely human.

CHI is dedicated to keeping up with local and national trends in the Restaurant Industry to help serve our customers better and keep them one step ahead. If you are interested in opening, purchasing, or selling a restaurant CHI Real Estate can help. Get in touch with our team today.