Foodservice by Design

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


Applications of AI, Robots, Foodservice Equipment, Technology & More

Artificial intelligence and automation remain two of the more intriguing topics in today’s foodservice industry. For example, there’s no denying the potential impact of voice recognition AI systems can have in the drive-thru and other automated devices. Many continue to wonder when the robots will arrive in foodservice, when the fact is they are already among us.

So the burning question remains: if the benefits of such technologies are so clearly pronounced, when will they become more widely used? The larger chains are currently vetting these technologies because they have the wherewithal to do so. Using history as our guide, though, application by the industry at large will likely gain steam in the next couple of years and will only grow from there. I remember when pumping gas, or kiosks at airports did not exist, and in the current environment, they are widespread. Automation is coming!

At two major industry exhibitions earlier this year, The NAFEM Show and the National Restaurant Association Show, it was plain to see the equipment manufacturers embracing the power of AI. They have developed many creative ways to use AI to enhance the performance and value of their equipment. Of course, automation was also on display, some through robots and in the form of the many great ideas showcased in the NRA’s Kitchen Innovations Pavilion.

One chain really taking automation and robotics to the next level is Sweetgreen through its Infinity Kitchen. While many robotics applications in use today focus on running food orders to tables, Sweetgreen continues to test the use of robots in actually preparing food.

Indeed, the industry has only scratched the surface when it comes to applying AI in all aspects of the industry. In our work as industrial engineers we see AI applied to drive efficiency in the operations, the customer experience and even impact to the supply chain side of our business. It would seem the drive-thru will be one of the early beneficiaries when it comes to the use of AI.

One area quickly gaining speed is the use of tableside technology. The reason the adoption of such technologies continues to accelerate is simple: it benefits everyone involved by leading to a better customer experience, and faster peak-hour table turns. Still, when implementing such solutions, one must not forget all the other operating parameters that are part of the experience.

No doubt that the application of successful technology is of interest to all, there is a philosophical and behavioral way that different brands, suppliers and designers suggest and use new innovations in the foodservice industry.