The Newest Ways Restaurants Are Embracing Automation

A recent Capterra Survey found that restaurant automation is on the rise. It comes as no surprise. Covid spurred innovation and restaurant technology. And since returning to normal, restaurants have faced wave after wave of challenges. Inventory challenges, increasing prices, and labor shortages create a historically negative restaurant space. “People were looking for solutions to become more sufficient and turned to automation,” said Barbara Castiglia of Modern Restaurant Management.

According to the study, up to 76% of respondents reported using automation in three or more areas. “They’re finding that it works. That it benefits many levels,” said Castiglia. “Three quarters say it’s easy to use to employees, so it’s welcome in that regard, and it’s helping them better do their jobs.”

Prioritizing Human Touch Points

The return on the technology is encouraging more automation adoption. “Half say it’s increased revenue since they’ve started implementing all of the automation tools,” said Castiglia. “It’s a lot of room for growth and advancement in the automation area for restaurants.”

The roles that are ‘safest’ from a takeover from automation are the ones that offer a human touch. Restaurants prioritize food preparation, serving, quality control, and hospitality roles like chefs, cooks, and managers. The functions at risk of being replaced by automation include front-of-house hostesses, drive-thru operators, and baristas. On the quick service side, 61% of leaders believe dishwashers can be automated with existing tech (Capterra).

Of course, automation works best when it highlights the care and hospitality restaurants offer. Chefs are currently the safest restaurant role (Franchising.com). “It accents what the restaurant can do,” said Castiglia, who is taking care of its patrons at the end of the day.

Automation Gone Awry

When it works, the advantages are clear. But the technology is relatively new. Automation hiccups are happening left and right. Recently, a food delivery robot ignored crime scene tape in California, and a payment glitch left football fans with empty accounts. In these situations, the automation was not in line with the hospitality of the restaurant industry.

Let us start in Sunny California, where a food delivery robot reportedly ignored crime scene tape (Police 1). A passerby filmed the robot looking for alternative ways around the crime scene tape. According to one report, someone lifted the tape so the robot could pass. Another report said the robot was waved through, which is why it passed the tape. The company of the robot released a statement saying that the programming prevents the robot from passing barriers like crime scene police tape.

Card payments are one of the oldest forms of restaurant automation. It’s still prone to issues. Fans were baffled after the home opener Green Bay Packers game when their cards were charged multiple times for one purchase. One fan was charged twelve times for two sodas (Fox 11).

Automation definitely has room for improvement in the restaurant industry. As the trend becomes the norm, we can count on a few hiccups along the way, but ultimately, it will benefit restaurants, workers, and patrons.

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