LESSONS FROM KODAK: IT IS TIME TO START LOOKING AT WHERE THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY IS GOING BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE

Technology innovations are rapidly adopted by consumers in the retail industry. Restaurateurs who fail to follow these trends could be headed toward a slow demise. Not every technology, though, is right for every business. It is important to carefully evaluate the cost-benefit of new technologies before jumping on the bandwagon. Let’s look at a few of the latest trends and technologies.

Third party delivery services

These food delivery apps already will pick up and deliver food to customers, but the next step is “private label” or “house-brand” menu items branded under the national giants. Restaurants could soon have specific Uber Eats and Grub Hub menu items. Third party delivery services can, though, cut into your profits due to their fees. Evaluating the numbers is a must before you dive into this technology.

Kiosk ordering

Kiosk ordering can help reduce wait times in line and are attractive to younger and tech-savvy customers. The ease of kiosk ordering also provides an incentive to customers to add on to their order, effectively spending more than they normally would.  Early adoptors will have to balance the pros with upfront costs and the loss of customer service touches.

Intelligent and bionic restaurants

Real-time integration of AI smart technologies promises to speed up the ordering process.  Automation technology in both back of house and front of house operations will speed up the more repetitive duties like entering food orders, paying the bill, and food prep. Culinary AI can respond to supply and demand to develop recipes and “learn” what individual patrons like from previous order histories. 

Curbside pick-up

Giving the option to allow customers to pick up their order without leaving their cars is a customer convenience that also frees up delivery resources and costs. On site staffing issues might arise with the staff travelling between the kitchen and the curb, so dedicated staffing in receiving and delivering orders may be needed.

Ghost kitchens (also known as virtual restaurants or cloud kitchens)

Ghost kitchens provide a way for chefs and restaurants to have lower overhead while offering their menus to potential customers who are normally not in their geographical area.  Quality control, training, and relying on third party delivery services might be a potential roadblock when introducing new menu items.

Third-space restaurants

Evolving restaurants and bars into cultural hubs and social destinations like food courts, street food markets or German Biergartens, rather than traditional restaurant spaces, have the possibility of bringing in customers who may otherwise avoid your restaurant due to group limitations. Groups and families could easily meet and have a variety of options to choose from.

Drone and robotic delivery

As the FAA regulates drone activity and allows for services to use drones as a delivery vehicle, delivery times have the potential to be dramatically reduced compared to car deliveries.  Technological, environmental and physical restraints have still yet to ironed out.

Integration with Netflix, Amazon and other streaming entertainment providers

Imagine an all-in-one dinner and a movie. Order movie and dinner delivery right on your smart phone, TV or AI device with Siri or Alexa acting as your personal concierge.  While this technology has yet to be fully developed, marketing your takeout to appeal to people who prefer to have date or family nights at home could lead to a bigger customer base and additional sales.

Medical Meals

Integration with institutions to provide healthy meals can provide an opportunity for both parties. With the aging population, there is a greater need for food that caters to health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or gluten-free diets. Of course, this requires more staff training and potentially higher food costs for sensitive allergens; food preparation for medical meals may require dedicated spaces in kitchens.

Mobile payment apps

Mobile payment apps not only allow customers to pay without cash or credit cards on hand, they store loyalty and reward cards, gift certificates and coupons like a virtual wallet. As more restaurants and companies adapt mobile payment terminals that accept  Google or Apple Pay, the more customers will adapt to the technology.

Keeping a competitive edge in restaurants can be a daunting task. Ignoring technological trends and advances could be a recipe for disaster. Instituting new and proven technologies has the potential to expand and improve upon your customer base and image.

Author Bio 

From Tracy Jong’s high school jobs in local restaurants, collection of spices from the around the world  and pure foodie lifestyle, she was destined to combine her passions and focus her legal skills on the food and beverage industry.  Tracy has devoted the last decade of her quarter century career focused on businesses such as restaurants, bars, liquor stores, breweries, wineries, cideries and distilleries. Broad business and legal experience allows her to be the ideal strategist and consultant to the industry in the unique issues entrepreneurs encounter from cradle to grave, helping these businesses at every stage of their life cycle. She is actively involved in craft beverage branding at every level. Brand clearances and registrations are part of her everyday work but her experience is best leveraged for breweries, cideries and distilleries with advanced protection such as trade dress and design patent brand strategies. She focuses on cost-effective strategies and problem-solving, bringing the typical large firm experience and expertise in the boutique firm style with personalized service and industry focused approach. Connect with her at:   blog, twitter, facebook, linked in, instagram. Visit her website at www.TracyJongLawFirm.com.

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