The hair in the soup? In the future, it's more likely to be screws and bytes. Technology is increasingly determining food production. And software and hardware are becoming increasingly important for the guest experience in gastronomy. Ordering by app, preparation by printer. These are the current and future technology trends.
Technology Trends: Hardware
Vending machines have been around in the kitchen for a long time. And they can also prepare some things much more reliably and quickly than humans. When statutory minimum wages are increased, as is now the case in the USA, machines become - economically speaking - more attractive. In the USA, orders for robots in the catering industry are currently skyrocketing. Mostly, it's about mass instead of class. With the Flippy robots from Miso-Robotics, food can be prepared twice as quickly and considerably more can be fried and deep-fried: Burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, etc.
From the Ford to the burger. From Toyota to sushi. Automation does not stop at gastronomy. The robots from Autec need just 5 to 12 seconds for sushi rolls and are thus many times faster than a trained chef. And Italian cuisine? Pizza vending machines in public places - not without an outcry, not without success. For just a few euros, the Mr.Go machine rolls out the dough, toppings it and bakes the pizza. No comparison to the past, where ready-made fast food was simply heated in the vending machine.
From the piping bag to 3D-Printer
Gourmet menus can already be partially prepared with 3D printers. Food Ink's 3D Printing Restaurant first caused a sensation with cutlery, furniture and creations from top chefs coming out of the printer. Today, restaurants in Europe are already serving steaks from the printer. That's right: not burger patties, but steaks, and different cuts at that! Aleph Farm uses lab-grown meat, while Redfine Meat, another start-up from Israel, uses plant-based steaks.
And finally, robots & co. are already being used in service and delivery. On shorter distances in densely populated areas, delivery from a restaurant or cafe to the customer by drone is unrivaled in speed and price.
However, drones also have serious disadvantages. For one thing, they can only be used in good weather. Secondly, in the case of high-rise buildings or building complexes, delivery to the right door or residential unit is not yet possible. Especially in big cities, this is a big disadvantage compared to the pizza delivery boy.
And yes: the waiter with pen and paper, s/he will disappear.
Technology Trends: Software
The biggest change is the software's ability to learn. Until a few years ago, apps in restaurants resembled small machines. Each app had a function, always the same, always exactly as specified, on its own, without knowing the end product. Digital Fordism.
Machine Learning, artificial intelligence and natural language processing now turn apps into highly specialized team players. The data generated during operation - e.g. automatically generated during online reservation, manually entered or voice recordings on the phone - are exchanged with other apps, firstly to automate workflows, secondly to improve their own function.
The apps learn from the data that is constantly generated in the restaurant, e.g. in the reservation or POS system. Like a coach, the apps can then point out special features or react immediately, e.g., automatically request supplies when demand for certain products is high, as in the case of the Hypersoft POS solution, trigger marketing measures when low occupancy is expected or request future staff when occupancy is high, inform the affected guests when the terrace is closed, re-seat them or cancel reservations, as in the case of aleno. Conversely, the guests also see the occupancy rate in the restaurant when making reservations via Google
The apps learn from the data that constantly occur in the restaurant, e.g. in the reservation or cash register system. Like a coach, the apps can then point out special features or react immediately, e.g. automatically request supplies when demand for certain products is high, as in the case of the Hypersoft POS solution, trigger marketing measures when low occupancy is expected or request future staff when occupancy is high, inform the affected guests when the terrace is closed, re-seat them or cancel reservations, as in the case of aleno. Conversely, guests can also see the occupancy rate in the restaurant when making reservations via Google.
In addition, the software is getting better and better at recognising and classifying guests and then automatically pointing them out to the service staff or taking action itself, e.g. giving priority to regular guests when assigning tables, offering discounts or a special menu that is not open to everyone. And this service is not dependent on who is currently working in the service and who has seen the guests before or not. The new technologies thus facilitate and improve interaction within the team and with the guests.
Personalisation: Communication & Marketing
Restaurants offer more than one dish, more than one drink. After all, not every guest wants the same thing. However, communication has been standardised until now. One newsletter for everyone or every newsletter to everyone. So from the guest's point of view: very frequent contact, often no relevant information, a lot of spam. And it is precisely the frequency of contact that is the most frequently cited reason for unsubscribing from the newsletter.
With today's tools such as the aleno's restaurant management system, differentiated guest data can be automatically recorded and guests categorised. Whether before, during or after the visit to the restaurant: guests are thus addressed less frequently on the one hand, and on the other hand only according to their interests and made happy. This means that not only are newsletters and the like read more often, but fewer people unsubscribe from the newsletter. Automated, personalised marketing is therefore efficient and effective.
And in the future, personalisation will even increase thanks to automation. With channel managers like Zonal and API interfaces, more and more apps can be connected and thus guest data - with the guest's consent - can be merged.
In this way, gastronomy businesses supported by apps will be able to respond even better to the needs and wishes of their guests in the future: What they want to eat and drink, when and with what extras. What they want to receive information about and how. When and how they want to order and pay, etc.
Technological progress is thus ushering in a new era of gastronomy. The so-called guest experience in a restaurant is becoming more individual and personal. The promotion of events, cross-selling and up-selling will no longer be a sales pitch, but a real added value for the guest and thus the higher turnover a win-win situation for guest and restaurateur.
The personal guest experience is supported in another way by new technologies. Because until now, service was to a large extent also independent of the guest and, above all, not an experience: menu, "Pay please", cashiering. Today, it is precisely these impersonal standards in service that can be outsourced through software solutions for payments and orders. QR code, pay-at-table, pre-ordering and payment are efficient, reduce waiting time and create space for a truly personal and informative exchange between service and guest in the restaurant.
And this is true once again for hotels, where restaurant and rooms were managed separately, different staff, different tools, time-consuming lists and meetings for reconciliation, and yet the guest was initially a stranger at each new touchpoint. When property management systems like MEWS, protel and Fidelio are integrated with restaurant management systems like aleno, the data from the restaurant and reception are synchronised and live. And only then is it possible to provide a uniformly courteous service at all touchpoints, without constant enquiries. Pampering instead of managing, and the guest feels at home everywhere.
The integration of different tools is THE technology trend that has become indispensable.
On to new shores, on to new users
The guest experience is no longer limited to a visit to the restaurant. A good website, beautiful photos on social media, blogs and reviews. Guests inform themselves online, and restaurants also maintain contact with their guests online. What is new, however, is that restaurants are now moving into new areas and, for example, temporarily opening a restaurant on a video game platform where players use their avatar to pick up vouchers for burritos in the real world. The action of the U.S. fast food chain Chipotle replaces earlier Halloween actions in real restaurants. So more and more of the customer interaction is shifting to the internet and virtual worlds beyond restaurant portals.
Conclusion: Technology Trend
It's a question of taste - in two senses. On the one hand, whether you like technology or not, on the other: the highest culinary skills, the warmest hospitality still emanates from people - but also whims and unfriendliness.
Whether you like it or not, the development of new hardware and software is advancing rapidly and is also being adopted more and more by guests. Technology is the trend. The initial weaknesses are being eliminated more and more. Communication, food quality and delivery - what was immature and cumbersome in the beginning is now often excellently solved and brings real benefits and relief to restaurateurs and guests.
And despite all the prophecies of doom, new technologies often do not replace people, but relieve them of tasks, leaving more time for the art of cooking and the guest. Those who use technology correctly will therefore have less cold sweat and a cool atmosphere, but more and happier guests and staff, and thus more success.
And how do you handle that?
Vote here and see how other restaurateurs deal with new technologies.
In the new aleno-Academy episode, Ivi Balenovic, CEO of aleno AG, shows the advantages of pre-order and pre-payment solutions and provides examples of how restaurateurs can reduce stress.
Register here for the free webinar.
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