When you think of restaurant AI, you might imagine a kitchen run by sophisticated robots. While automated chefs may be possible in the future, current restaurant technology solutions are focused on driving efficiency and improving the customer experience. Restaurants are using AI technology to streamline every aspect of operations, including ordering, delivery, back-of-house workflows and supply-chain management.
The best part? AI is readily available — in fact, you can start implementing it in your restaurant today.
How AI is being used in restaurants today
AI is everywhere in the restaurant industry; in many cases, companies are building machine learning into existing systems to create a more convenient and efficient process. Some of the AI tools in use today include:
- AI-enabled self-serve kiosks. Self-serve kiosks have provided a convenient ordering experience for years. With the addition of AI, they can deliver extra personalization — by recommending a menu item based on the person’s past orders, for example, or recognizing customer loyalty rewards. Restaurants, including Panera Bread, also allow customers to use kiosks to redeem subscription programs. Some kiosks can even scan a customer’s tray, identify the items and charge accordingly.
- AI-powered inventory management systems. This type of AI system analyzes your restaurant data to help you forecast inventory needs, order efficiently and ensure you always have the right ingredients on hand. Point-of-sales systems use this technology to improve the way you manage your business.
- Voice search. Some restaurants are integrating voice-powered virtual assistants such as Siri or Alexa into the ordering process. That way, customers can simply tell the system what they’d like to order — even if they’re driving home or doing household chores. As this technology evolves, voice AI might also be able to schedule restaurants or answer questions about the menu.
- Food delivery apps. Apps such as Grubhub use AI to deliver a seamless experience for guests and restaurants. The system can analyze data to offer compelling promotions and make personalized recommendations based on order history or customer preferences.
- Scheduling systems. AI-driven scheduling software tracks and correlates sales data, employee hours and individual performance. Then, it can recommend staffing levels, suggest schedules and identify opportunities for training and improvement.
Artificial intelligence is also helping food-service businesses improve the customer experience. One of the most futuristic applications is the self-driving robot — restaurants are using these small devices to run food from the kitchen or deliver food off-site. The robots add an element of fun for customers and reduce labor requirements. On a more practical level, restaurants can use AI to suggest wine pairings, ensure accurate customer orders and detect and prevent payment fraud.
Pros and cons of AI in restaurants
As with any new tool, AI technology has both pros and cons for restaurant owners and restaurant operators. If you’re thinking about implementing AI-driven systems, it’s important to understand the realities of the process.
Advantages of AI in restaurants:
- Reduce food waste by tracking stock and improving order accuracy
- Improve ordering and inventory management
- Create a more pleasant, convenient and personalized guest experience
- Improve customer satisfaction
- Save time for customers and restaurant employees
- Cut costs for labor and food waste
Disadvantages of AI in restaurants:
- Expensive to purchase and implement
- Extra training requirements
- Stored customer data creates privacy and security concerns
- Confusing operation for older guests
- Costly, time-consuming maintenance
How AI could impact the future of the restaurant industry
There’s no doubt about it: Restaurant AI is here to stay. If you run a food-service business, it’s important to track emerging and ongoing trends — that way, you can make smarter investment decisions and keep up with the technology as it changes the restaurant industry.
Based on the latest AI trends in restaurants, it’s safe to expect tech companies to direct their attention to solving common industry problems. One pressing issue? Labor shortages. AI technology has the potential to reduce the number of employees restaurants need to operate at full capacity.
- Fully automated drive-throughs: Using voice-recognition technology, drive-through systems can interact with customers like a voice assistant. Restaurants wouldn’t need to hire a person to work the intercom, and they could take a large number of orders simultaneously.
- Automated food prep: For businesses that use premade ingredients and limited menu selections, AI could streamline some or all of the food-prep processes in the restaurant operations. Chipotle has tested a robot that makes tortilla chips, and pizza vending machines are already using this technology to prepare, bake, package and dispense pizzas.
- Automated food delivery. Self-driving delivery robots use AI to plan a route, navigate sidewalks, and verify the customer’s identity. As weatherproofing, security, and traffic sensors improve, these robots can handle short-range restaurant deliveries.
It’s likely that artificial intelligence will be used to deliver a more personalized customer experience. Writing tools such as ChatGPT could be trained to write menu descriptions and respond to customer service emails, social media comments and reviews. Automated marketing programs might track guest behavior, manage customer segmentation, identify triggers and automatically send discount codes or promotional emails exactly when a person is in the mood to buy.
Customer data collection made easy
Every AI solution depends on a steady flow of data — the more information you can input, the better results the AI algorithm can deliver. Whether you’re planning to implement artificial intelligence in a few months or a few years, now is a great time to start collecting data on your business and your customers. Grubhub can help you get a head start. When you join, the system automatically starts gathering information about customers, orders and revenue. You always have access to customer data, and the system’s built-in data analytics can help you track sales, monitor orders and keep an eye on customer demand. To start using the customer insights dashboard, sign up for Grubhub today.