I’m Loving AI

The first thing that comes to mind when discussing restaurants and AI is a bunch of mechanical chefs slaving away in the back of the house. It’s a nightmare scenario for the regular chefs and restaurant workers as they are the ones whose jobs are being replaced by robots. However, the truth of that depiction is far different from what would be expected under normal conditions. That’s because neither robots nor AI have progressed enough to function autonomously in kitchens at this time.

There are a few cases of robots cooking in the kitchen in some restaurants around the world, but they have a very limited role and are often supervised by real chefs. So, you can’t really say that is a major change started by AI in the restaurant industry. Make no mistake, AI can make a massive difference in the restaurant business since there are many ways it can make an impact.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning can not only streamline restaurant operations, but they can also improve the overall experience for the guests. Currently, AI and machine learning may be regarded as buzzwords in the restaurant industry, but in the coming years this technology will make a massive difference. Let’s get inside the pot to see what’s cooking.

AI in the Garde Manger

Technology has already transformed several industries and the restaurant industry isn’t an exception, as artificial intelligence and machine learning are going to turn it on its head. There are virtually limitless possibilities regarding what can be achieved when you inculcate AI into restaurant technology. To prove that to you, here are a couple of benefits of using AI and machine learning in a restaurant:

Cut Down on Costs

There are many rote and simple tasks that can be automated with the help of AI technology, such as entering orders into POS or taking reservations. That will result in helping restaurant owners spend less money on staffing their restaurants and reducing overall costs.

Reducing Human Errors

There are plenty of things that can go wrong in a restaurant when you account for human errors. For instance, the server can easily mishear the order from a guest in a crowded dining room, and that means an unhappy guest when they get the wrong order. There’s virtually no room for errors when guests are ordering through artificial intelligence.

Customizing Orders

Artificial intelligence and machine learning provide a more holistic restaurant ordering experience to guests. The guests are able to customize orders and make as many changes as possible without worrying about time, which improves their overall experience.

Improving Guest Service

When you embrace the ability of AI to perform all the rote and simple tasks in your restaurant, you are essentially freeing up your employees to do their jobs more efficiently. They can focus on doing what artificial intelligence and machine learning simply can’t offer right now: providing the best possible experience to the guests.

Robots may take over in the kitchen, but they don’t have the human touch that is required to make guests feel special at a restaurant, and that’s something that separates the best from the rest.

ML and AI Changing the Restaurant Industry

In the past couple of years, ever since we got out of lockdown after COVID-19, there have been wholesale changes made to the restaurant industry, and technology has played a major role in that. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are the areas where technology has transformed the restaurant industry, which may look like something out of a science fiction movie.

Take for example, Flippy, a robot that flips burgers at the franchise of CaliBurger in Pasadena. If that doesn’t impress you, then take a look at Domino’s delivery drone, which is dropping off pizza orders all over New Zealand. These quick-service and big restaurant chains are in a prestigious position since they have the necessary capital required to invest in AI technologies, which don’t come cheap.

However, that means that these examples are an exception and not the rule for every restaurant in the industry. Even though technological advancements have made artificial intelligence and machine learning more accessible than ever before, many restaurants still can’t afford robots that can cook, prepare food, or deliver orders to their guests.

To prove how big of an impact artificial intelligence is having on the restaurant industry, we will now look at technologies that are being influenced by AI and machine learning in restaurants.

Phone Answering Through AI

No restaurant wants to miss phone calls from its customers as that can have a disastrous impact on sales. Popmennu conducted a recent survey that revealed a whopping 84% of customers will move on to another restaurant if they can’t get through on the phone. That has got many restaurants scrambling for technology that helps them in answering phone calls.

Nowadays, artificial intelligence phone answering technology is a game changer since it can take messages, add guests to waiting lists, make reservations, and even answer common questions from guests. It’s similar to AI chatbots as it can handle simple queries and ensures you never miss out on potential customers.

Voice Ordering

It may not look like a big number but around 30% of people use voice search, and nearly 45% prefer voice search compared to searching for restaurants on Google. That’s mainly down to the popularity of voice assistants like Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home, as they have made it easier to accomplish complex tasks with ease.

People have been searching for restaurants with the help of virtual assistants for some time now, but voice ordering is a fairly new technology that is making a big splash. It allows guests to easily order at a restaurant from their smart devices.

Personalizing Customer Experiences

Enter any restaurant today and you will find an ordering kiosk, but some restaurants are taking things one step further. For example, KFC has been running experiments on kiosks that have facial recognition technology, which recognizes repeat customers and tailors their overall experience based on their preferences or past orders.

While it’s true that facial recognition technology may be out of reach for most restaurants, you can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to personalize your guest’s dining experiences in several ways.

Integrated Inventory and Purchasing

Artificial intelligence can completely transform a restaurant and its operations, and one area where it will have a particularly effective impact is in integrating the inventory and purchase systems with the POS (point of sale) systems. The software enabled by AI can easily track any historical purchasing data and inventory, look for trends, and even recommend in real-time what supplies and how many ingredients you should buy.

This not only ensures that the restaurant has enough inventory on hand, but it can also play a role in cutting down on food wastage. That’s because it can tailor the purchasing to meet the inventory needs without buying anything in excess and ensuring your restaurant uses all its supplies before any expires.

Predictive Analytics

McDonald’s was using predictive AI and machine learning technologies in 2021 to forecast all orders that were being made by customers in its drive-thrus. They managed to analyze historical data on what customers ordered most frequently and at what time. That allowed McDonald’s to predict the dishes that would be most popular at any time in the day and also anticipate rush orders.

The use of AI and machine learning allowed them to anticipate orders, which meant they could cut down on wait times by nearly 30 seconds! That is a major chunk of time when you consider the fact that most ordering experiences in drive-thrus only last for a couple of minutes. Restaurants can use this predictive technology in various ways for managing inventory, menu pricing, staffing, and more.

Conclusion

Artificial intelligence and machine learning in the restaurant industry is here to stay, and even though there may be some intimidation or hesitance behind the complete adoption of advanced technologies, there’s no denying the impact they can make. The bottom line is that the future of the restaurant industry is one that will be governed by artificial intelligence and machine learning in one form or another.

Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and that can only mean more benefits to all the independent restaurants that are smart enough to embrace this emerging trend.