What’s Next? The Future of Restaurant Technology

The world in general is becoming more and more defined by technology.

New advances arise seemingly every day to automate, streamline, and augment all aspects of our daily lives. For those of us who are old enough to remember such things, our world seems to be increasingly emulating the technical wonders of The Jetsons.

Those who don’t keep up with new tech are doomed to fall farther and farther behind as their competitors sail past them on the conveyor belt sidewalks of the future.

Many things that might have been considered restaurant tech of the future just a short time ago have now become part of the basic necessities. Things like a well-made website and a mobile app are more or less expectations when prospective customers are looking for a place to eat.

We’re not talking about these.

We’re talking about what’s next. The things that will be necessities next year, or the year after that.

It can be hard to keep up with all this emerging technology, and harder still to know how it can apply to your industry and make life more convenient for your customers, easier for you, and more profitable in the long run. But fear not; we’ve got the intel.

So, let’s strap on our jetpacks and soar together through the restaurant of the future.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

Yes, really.

You know AI as the grouchy computer overlord that sent Arnold Schwarzeneger from the future to wreak havoc on humanity, right? Or the evil computer that turned Captain Kirk’s Enterprise into a starship of death (or something like that). Or Data’s evil twin android brother who… well, you get the idea.

But AI and machine learning have become an increasingly significant part of our lives in recent years, and they’re poised to continue that path well into the future (without the part where they take over the world).

One way in which AI has become useful in the restaurant industry is through chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs designed to simulate conversation with human users. These artificially intelligent techno-creatures can act as virtual assistants to users of your app or website. They can answer questions, take orders, arrange delivery – they can even learn from past interactions to recommend new dishes based on preferences or otherwise personalize the dining experience.

Digital touchpoints

This ability of AI to learn and adapt to user preferences also makes it a useful component of digital touchpoints inside your restaurant or at the drive thru.

Increasing numbers of restaurants are now installing digital kiosks, either in their lobbies or right at the table, allowing customers to order for themselves without having to wait for human waitstaff to arrive. In the wake of COVID-19, it’s likely that more of these kiosks will include voice-powered functions.

And these touchpoints need not be provided by you. Through the magic of mobile apps, customers can turn their own phones into in-store touchpoints, as POS systems inch their way toward sentience.

Solutions like OneDine’s put your customers’ destinies in their own hands, allowing them to use their mobile device to check in, browse the menu, order, and pay, all at the table and on their own schedule. Guests can also receive customized recommendations by inputting their dietary preferences, favorite cuisines, dishes, spice levels, and more.

Add a kitchen display system (KDS) to keep things moving efficiently in the kitchen, and the overall efficiency of your operation, from check-in to payment, can be increased tremendously.

Automation and robots and drones, oh my!

Now we’re getting into real Jetsons territory.

Yes, the restaurant tech of the future has much more up its sleeve than you might think. Advances in robotic and drone technologies will make for increasingly automated modes of service delivery to help keep your customers from waiting too long for their meals.

Amazon has already experimented with the use of drones to deliver their products as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s not a stretch to envision restaurants embracing that same technology for home food delivery.

But why stop there? In what other ways might automation work to bring your dining room into the future? Certainly, robotic wait staff and drones might just as easily be employed for meal delivery inside the dining room. But, using AI and other technology, it will also become possible to personalize the entire dining experience according to each diner’s needs, preferences, even their mood.

Imagine sitting down at your favorite table. Your mobile device buzzes, and your AI concierge asks you how you’re feeling today? Will you be dining alone or with others? Is there a special occasion?

You answer verbally, just as you would a human waiter, and with the information you provide, the AI is able to personalize your dining experience down to the smallest detail. Everything from suggested menu items to the level of lighting to the color palette of the table and surroundings can be controlled to make each customer’s dining experience truly unique and perfectly suited to their needs.

Technology moves fast. Fortunately, so does the human imagination. As we step bravely into the future, that imagination is the only limit on what new technologies can do for us.