Of all the improvements in restaurant technology, one is poised to revolutionize the industry: Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI serves a variety of roles within the industry already, even though the technology is relatively young. Below are just a few of its roles and how they are improving the way owners, operators, and managers conduct business.
The restaurant industry is notorious for high labor costs, high turnover rates, and low profit margins. AI has made combating these problems much easier for owners and operators. Especially those who take a hands-on approach to running their business and are oftentimes short on time to work on high-level analytical solutions.
"In an industry known for tight profit margins, restaurant owners and operators need to make smart business choices, Raj Suri, CEO of Presto, a front-of-house strategy company in Silicon Valley, told Forbes in a recent interview. “With more restaurateurs turning to technology to manage their teams and operations, the Presto platform helps operators make data-driven decisions.”
Data is power, and it is becoming even more powerful. AI compiles data from all aspects of a business and generates insights and predictions that make owners and operators look clairvoyant. Imagine being able to predict the sales of a certain dish based on foot traffic patterns and the weather. AI can.
AI helps managers order the right amount of inventory by comparing up-to-the minute data from their POS system. This allows managers to make financial decisions based on actual food sales, and not on intuition or their “gut”. It can also help ensure the kitchen staff is sticking to recipes and not producing waste.
After making accurate predictions and ordering the correct amount of inventory, managers need to staff their restaurant appropriately to handle the day’s business. AI can integrate cloud computing software with the flexibility to handle shift swaps and on-call shifts with analysis of granular data such as determining which staff members are up-selling the most customers. This can help managers save labor hours and staff the best team members for the busiest shifts.
Increasing customer traffic at the detriment of the customer’s experience reduces a business’ ability to turn a new customer into a return customer.
However, AI has turned this practice into an art. Self-service kiosks can provide the same service as a staff member for quick-serve concepts, while mining usable data for managers, owners, and operators to use to make better business decisions. According to Kiosk Marketplace, 60 percent of survey respondents said they would visit a quick-service or casual restaurant more often if self-service kiosks were available. When line length is considered, 71 percent would use a self-service kiosk. If there are 10 or more people, that number spiked to 91 percent.
Some self-service kiosks also have the ability to recognize the customers who choose to return. This helps capture real-time ordering habits of customers, and allows businesses to resell customers on meals they enjoyed the first time around. This granular data can go a long way toward improving how a business is managed.
On a day-to-day level, AI has the ability to speed up service and help managers continually improve internal processes.
Presto’s wearable technology notifies servers when their orders are ready and helps them respond quicker when a customer wants to order another drink. It can also alert them to food allergies and track a customer’s loyalty status which can help develop a rapport between the customer and staff members. In a recent study conducted by Cornell University, 81 percent of customers who were served by staff enabled with this technology said they would return to the place of business.
AI has also dramatically improved processes like reservations. Instead of dedicating a staff member to handling the phones all night, customers can log onto a restaurant’s website and reserve a table at a time that works best for both parties. AI will also account for events and other factors that can fall by the wayside in the human mind. This can improve table turn times, allowing a business to serve more customers without sacrificing efficiency.