Foodservice by Design

Team members from Profitality-Labor Guru discuss how industrial engineering can be applied to the foodservice industry.


2021: A Foodservice Odyssey

When it comes to technological advancements, the foodservice industry has often lagged behind many major service industries, but the industry seems set to embark on a technological odyssey. 

Carlos Espinosa BlogCarlos EspinosaI recently read that Deloitte Robotics saved its employees 41,000 hours of manual work. Airlines, banks, hospitals, and other industries more easily evolved to accept the idea of replacing the human interaction with some sort of automation. General perception of automation is akin to robots on an assembly line, but the reality is ideas such as self-service kiosks, ATMs and apps that allow patients to pre-register for medical appointments serve as excellent examples of automation in action.

The restaurant industry continues to deal with a variety of operational challenges, including staffing issues, higher wages, and the safety requirements related to the pandemic. Given this checklist of challenges and too many more to mention here, the industry seems set to embark on a technological odyssey. From the reemergence of QR codes for a plethora of usages to the push to web and app ordering to delivery robots, restaurant operators continue to push the limits of what technology can do to help address some of the problems they face. And this is only the beginning.

One new form of technology drawing plenty of interest as of late, particularly in the quick-service restaurant category, is order-taking automation.

Operators have many choices when it comes to automating order taking. As suggested above, a quick and easy method is for concepts to continue to push their customer base to their own web or application ordering, but there will always be a section of customers that arrive on-premises to place orders. The good news: Technologies exist that can assist in this endeavor. Even better, these technologies have been around for some time.

Think of the last time you tried calling your bank. Remember the automated message that greeted you and tried to direct you based on your request? Well, a few years ago, one could only press buttons to direct themselves, but speech recognition technology has leapt years and bounds and has become more mainstream. The application of speech recognition can include call-in center simplification, phone order taking inside restaurants and even having the POS system identify order configuration. The last option will allow the staffer who usually takes the orders at the restaurant to work on other tasks. This example has the potential to simplify the work content of team members, allowing them to do more, therefore increasing their productivity, in addition to ensuring the guest is not waiting for the team member. When combined with order confirmation boards, this can also lead to increased order accuracy and guest satisfaction.

Here’s another example of order-taking automation at work. Think of the last time you asked Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, to find the nearest restaurant. Now think about asking it to send your order to the restaurant as well! This represents an example of conversational artificial intelligence, another technology that has been around for years that is finally making its way to the restaurant industry. Earlier this year, McDonald’s tested this concept in Chicago, referencing success in the technology itself.

As the restaurant industry continues to try to navigate itself through this odyssey, keep in mind there should not be a “one-size-fits-all” approach to any technology in any industry. Robotics and automation are becoming much more mainstream in the restaurant industry and are here to stay. As with any technology, it will continue to evolve, but next time you call the bank, get on a flight or check in to a hotel, always keep a keen an eye out for how to best apply these technologies. The technological application that best suits your business may depend on your imagination. The common trait amongst all options is they have the potential, and actualized results, to make ordering more efficient and thereby reduce reliance on labor. In the labor scarcity we find ourselves in, now may be the time to accept the mainstream of technology in foodservice.