I hate to be that weirdo who says “robots are going to rule the world,” but if the restaurant industry is any indication of where we’re headed, then I think we’re not far from a fully robot-run future. Nation’s Restaurant News recently reported on experts’ predictions for the industry heading into 2023, and the overwhelming takeaway is that technology will inform every part of the restaurant experience in the coming years.
The persistent shortage in food service workers has led to a renewed emphasis on automation. Here are some of the predictions experts have for the months and years ahead.
New ordering technology
Receiving a customer’s order is the first step, the one that informs their entire experience of a restaurant. While humans might still take some of those orders, there’s a growing list of alternative tech-based solutions.
Mobile ordering is already a huge driver of business for major restaurant chains, and just as those ordering apps remove the human from the experience, so do some new drive-thru innovations. For example, Checkers and Rally’s recently implemented a voice assistant technology in the drive-thru to improve order-taking efficiency and fill labor gaps, per Nation’s Restaurant News.
Self-service kiosks are also increasingly popular, both at fast food and fast casual chains. This technology is aimed at greater order efficiency, but another huge benefit to restaurants is that it creates more opportunity to upsell the customers and increase total ticket sales.
New technology in order preparation
After you request food from the automated voice or use a touchscreen to input your order, then it’s time to wait for someone to make your order. Except, it’s not always a person you’ll be waiting on.
In 2022, we were lucky enough to become buddies with the friendliest fry cook around: Flippy, the robotic arm manufactured by Miso Robotics whose sole purpose is to make fast food. Flippy currently operates the fry station at select White Castle locations, but the plan is to have Flippy serving up sliders and fries in 100 White Castles across the U.S. within the next few years.
After a friendly neighborhood robot prepares your food, it’s time to get your hands on your order, and it might be handed off by non-human assistants. McDonald’s new pickup-focused test location sends orders out via conveyor belt, and food delivery robot pilot programs are popping up on college campuses and in major American cities.
Remember to speak kindly to the robot on the phone, and have patience with the ordering kiosk. These automated assistants might not be able to spit in your food, but they can certainly mess with your experience. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.