The restaurant industry is one that has been slower to adopt automation and technology compared to other industries. However, with the rise in minimum wage and the cost of labor, restaurants are beginning to explore how automation can help them cut costs. While there are still many hurdles to overcome, automation in restaurants is beginning to have a significant impact on the industry.
Automation In The Restaurant Industry
The restaurant industry is one that has undergone major changes over the past several decades. Initially, restaurants were solely run by the waiters/waitresses, who had to deal with everything including cooking and cleaning. The advent of technology and automation changed everything.
In 2021, 91% of restaurateurs plan to invest in kitchen automation.
Many industries are switching to automation in one way or another, but the restaurant industry has been slow to adopt it. The reason for this is that restaurants see a large portion of their sales come from repeat customers, with approximately 15-25% of revenue coming from takeout and delivery orders.
Some restaurants are making up to 50% of their sales through takeout and delivery orders. With that said, it is important for them to have a human element when interacting with customers either in person or on the phone/online.
Therefore, automation options such as robots at the table level and automatic ordering kiosks haven’t made much progress in restaurants yet. Smaller restaurants are switching to ordering kiosks and delivery robots, but larger ones are still resistant.
Ways Automation In Restaurants Will Change The Way We Eat
In recent years, there has been a trend towards automating repetitive tasks in restaurant operations, from automated delivery to inventory management. This has led to a decrease in the need for human employees, as well as increased efficiency and accuracy in these tasks.
According to one recent survey, 50% of restaurant operators in the United States intend to deploy some type of automation technology within the next two to three years.
The fast food industry is increasingly turning to automation technology to help improve the dining experience for customers. By automating front-of-house tasks, restaurants are able to serve more customers faster and with greater efficiency. This shift is helping to drive down costs and improve the overall dining experience for customers.
Automation in the restaurant industry will have several changes on how we order food, how we interact with the waitstaff, and the overall dining experience. Here are some of the possible impacts:
1. Increase In Repeat Orders And Catering Orders
With the rise in minimum wage, servers are being paid less per shift. As a result, servers are having to sell more of their drinks to make up for the difference. The same is true for food items that are not being included in the bill.
With automation, you can easily order a drink, then automatically add it to the bill without having to enter any additional information or types of food items. As a result of this, we may see an increase in repeat orders with different appetizers or drinks ordered at a table once through automation at first and then with time as it becomes more common, we may see catering orders as well.
2. Robots At The Table Level May Cut Back On Human Interaction
As of now, there is still a human element to the restaurant as waiters have to walk over to your table or go back into the kitchen multiple times. If a restaurant is utilizing robots that can perform several tasks in one place, they will be able to cut down on the waitstaff and even make more money from the space within their restaurants.
While this idea may sound good for those looking for jobs within the restaurant industry, it means that we will need fewer people for service, which will in turn affect their tip income. Many people rely on tips as part of their income, especially when working for small restaurants where it is not expected you’ll get a large salary.
3. Automatic Ordering Kiosks Will Only Be Able To Order Certain Types Of Food
While automatic ordering kiosks are making an impact in the delivery industry, they will not be able to make an impact in the restaurant industry until they can get a better understanding of how people order food. Restaurants have learned over time what foods go well with what others, therefore having many different types of recipes for each type of cuisine.
The best example of this is sushi being ordered with a wide variety of sauces and toppings to change up the flavor. Likewise, pizzas are best ordered with different types of sauces and toppings. With a few more years of research, automated ordering kiosks will be able to understand how people order food and will then be able to make suggestions for customized orders.
4. Humans Go Back To Their Roots
As the technology becomes available on the market and is cheaper for restaurants to use, many restaurants may increase the number of humans that are present at the table level. However, with automation helping them reduce their labor costs and increase their profits, they may not be as concerned with providing an ideal dining experience including conversation at a table level. It is possible that we could see an increase in communication between humans and robots at a table level in the future.
5. Robots Will Take The First, Second And Sometimes Third Plate
Currently, many people order food at the same time so that when the food is ready all people can start getting their food at the same time. With automation and a robotic chef, it will be possible for them to know when to wait for each person’s order based on past orders.
If a certain guest has been through the restaurant before and ordered certain foods in advance, then they may automatically have their hands on those items as soon as they walk through the door. This means that you may not even see any waitstaff in your area. The robots will handle all of this for you.
Benefits Of Automating Your Restaurant
When it comes down to automation in the restaurant industry, there are many benefits to using this technology. Here are some of the major advantages that automation offers:
1. Increased Profit Margins
As robots become more advanced and cost less to buy, restaurants have more resources for such a project. The savings from running fewer employees on staff will also be passed on to them.
As a result, they will have increased profits. In turn, this should lead to an increase in business as well as opening their restaurants up to more customers by allowing them to place orders online or even by automating their tableside waitstaff and eliminating those associated costs.
2. More Time To Keep Up With Technology
It is often said that behind every great business is a great leader. In terms of restaurant automation, it would be possible to not have to worry about technology as robots will do most of the heavy lifting.
The robot will be able to handle the everyday tasks without having to worry about whether their oven or air conditioner are broken or not. With less time spent working on staff salaries, more time can be spent on keeping the business in good shape.
3. Increased Production And Growth Capacity
As a result of hiring less employees, it may allow them to add more workers or instead run fewer jobs at once. This can help them increase their production capacity, which could lead to more expansions or an increase in the overall size of their restaurant. It may also allow for cheaper labor costs.
4. More Efficiency And Effectiveness In Maintaining Equipment
With fewer employees to worry about, restaurants will have less overhead costs on staff salaries so that maintenance of their physical infrastructure will be much less onerous. This includes the cost of manpower and small repairs such as replacing light bulbs or fixing small problems.
5. A Safer Workplace Environment With Fewer Accidents
As robots are taking over a majority of the work at a restaurant, there should be less opportunities for accidents to occur throughout the day. However, as robots are able to perform a significantly higher number of tasks, they can also handle learning new tasks and will never get bored. With this in mind, it is possible that accidents could be avoided at certain points during the day when robots are handling the most labor intensive jobs.
6. Emotional Benefits For Managers
With fewer people to manage and fewer employees on staff, the managers should find their jobs easier and less stressful. This is because with less people to take care of in the front office and more time to focus on their business, it will allow them more time for other aspects of running a business without needing as much attention.
7. Less Arguments Between Employees And Managers
With fewer employees on staff, there will be less of an issue with cliques or employees leaving. This will lead to less stress for the manager and fewer issues with work ethic. The restaurant owner may also enjoy more freedom in their business as they are not tied down to the daily tasks that normally get in the way of running a business.
8. An Easier Time With Hiring Decisions
With your front office no longer a part of your restaurant, you’ll have a lot more time to focus on other aspects of your business such as marketing. This can be a great benefit to new restaurant owners who aren’t familiar with how startups work and could use some help getting their brand off the ground.
Things To Know About Automation In The Restaurant Industry
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the quit rate among hospitality workers reached 6.6% per month last year, more than double the national average.
As restaurant automation becomes more prevalent, the restaurant industry is grappling with how to deal with increased food waste. Fast casual restaurants are particularly vulnerable to this issue, as they often rely on pre-made food that is more likely to go bad if not used immediately.
Automation can help reduce food waste by ensuring that food is cooked and served fresh, but it can also create new issues, such as when customers order more food than they can eat.
1. High Upfront Costs Can Lead To High Rewards In The Future
While it is true that you will probably have a lot of upfront costs for your automation project, you may be able to save a great amount of money over time because your restaurant will have fewer employees on staff. This could lead to increased profitability and extra resources that could go towards marketing and promoting your restaurant.
If you notice that sales are low and your profit margins are lean, then it may be time to consider investing in automation to expand other areas of your business. With less manual labor needed, you can focus on promotion and marketing while enjoying more free time at home or with family.
2. Robots Need To Be Cleaned And Maintained Every Day
While you’ll save a lot of money in the long run by cutting back on staff, you’ll still need to invest some time on making sure that your automation is kept clean. If a restaurant runs into problems, clogs up or gets damaged, it could affect the success of their business. With less people to manage, robots can handle the work more efficiently but you may still have to make time for maintenance throughout the day.
3. Robots Can’t Get Sick Or Take Bathroom Breaks
This means that as long as your restaurant uses automation in the front office, you will never have to worry about paying sick days off or making up vacation time with unpaid time off. With fewer staff, it should be a lot easier to get your non-automated jobs done. You may still need to train someone how to use the machine and how much time it takes to clean the equipment but once that is out of the way, you can focus on other aspects of your business such as customer service or advertising.
4. Robots Don’t Take Vacations And Can Go 24/7
You will never have to worry about paying vacation days off or scheduling time off for your employees. With automated employees, you’ll never have an issue with scheduling shifts again and they will work around the clock without getting exhausted or needing time off.
Risks Of Automating Your Restaurant
Furthermore, full-service restaurants have 6.2 fewer kitchen personnel than they did in 2019.
The rising operational costs are a major concern for the food industry. The labor costs have increased significantly over the past few years, and the self service pos system has not been able to keep up with the demand. Many restaurants are forced to close their doors due to the high costs.
1. Robots Will Not Be Able To Understand Your Brand
While it is true that robots are much more efficient in performing the tasks that they are assigned, they will not “get it” when it comes to your brand or what makes your restaurant unique.
You may have successfully built a loyal customer base with your unique culture and style of food but if you automate these duties and switch to a more generic brand, then you risk losing current customers and turning off future prospects.
2. Your Robot Could Break Down
When robots are designed for manual tasks, they can only perform those tasks until something breaks or becomes too worn out from constant use. Robots are also unable to make repairs on themselves or fix damage that might occur. This means that you will need to invest a lot of time in maintaining and replacing expensive parts to keep your automation running smoothly.
3. Your Restaurant Can Run Into Issues With EOS
The introduction of EOS could strain the relationship between the restaurant and its employees or customers if automated tasks become more necessary to keeping up with. This could serve as a reason for friction between employees and management, leading to a loss in productivity or customer base. Many restaurants will still operate fine with an EOS but it is important to keep track of the numbers and monitor their performance closely.
4. Using Robots In The Kitchen Can Lower Quality Of Food
Without human touch, robots can’t be held accountable for mistakes. While it may be hard to trust an automated system with your restaurant’s food preparation, you will save a lot of money and time with the introduction of automation. This is something that you’ll need to consider carefully before making a decision on whether you want to automate your kitchen.
For many restaurants, using automation in the kitchen is out of the question but there are still plenty that see its benefits over their current manual practices. If you want to automate your kitchen, it is important to do so with the proper precautions in place.
5. Robots Will Not Learn Your Customer’s Preferences
While automation can save you a lot of time in training and management, robots can’t be held accountable for knowing what each customer likes. Even if your customers are loyal to your brand, they will still need to order at the counter and wait for their food rather than having an employee come over and take their order.
This can lead to missed orders or items being forgotten when it comes time for delivery. Keep in mind that when you switch from having employees service customers at their tables, they won’t learn each customer’s name or favorite drinks anymore either.
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There are still many issues that restaurant owners need to think about when it comes to automating their business. While there are a few restaurants out there that have made the switch and praised its benefits, robots can only do so much. While automation can be an incredible asset to your restaurant and save you a great amount of time and money, it isn’t going to replace human employees anytime soon.
Even though restaurants may be switching over to automated systems for efficiency and cost savings, robots are not capable of replacing human workers yet. You will still need certain people on staff in order to maintain the equipment, update software and programming, train others how to use the equipment properly or even handle food hygiene checkups at times.