10 Experts Predict What Restaurant Technology Will Make The Greatest Impact On The Industry

This article is part of Raydiant’s Future of The Restaurant Industry series, which aims to highlight which restaurant technology will have the greatest impact on the industry in the next few years. We aim to help business owners foresee and adjust to coming technological changes.

What technology do you believe will have the biggest impact on the restaurant industry in the next 3-5 years?

Marcin Muras, CEO at UpMenu

"As time marches on, we’ll see tech taking over a lot more of the hospitality industry simply because restaurants are constantly competing on price which leads to a requirement for technology which will save them money. Because of this, I see restaurants harnessing tech in a few different ways including:"

Robot servers – Some restaurants always use these and we can expect to see more of them.  Robot servers don’t need to be paid, don’t need breaks, and don’t take holidays or sick days.

App Evolution – In the future, apps will become a lot more sophisticated in that customers will be able to communicate with the kitchen and all restaurant staff through an app – saving the restaurant time and money.

Candace MacDonald, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Carbonate

"Technology has been growing and changing rapidly, and restaurants have been slow to catch up. That is finally changing as companies like Venga, Toast, and 7 Rooms introduce technology to help restaurants collect and use customer data, connecting their reservation platform to their POS system. This will allow restaurants to use sophisticated marketing strategies that have been commonplace in retail for ages. At the same time, restaurant websites will evolve as well, no longer a fairly static site providing basic information, but instead a site that really represents the restaurant brand and that changes dynamically with the restaurant and adopts some techniques from e-commerce sites."

Technology will also be used to improve the delivery experience. Up until now, the delivery component has just been a matter of schlepping food from one place to another, with little thought about that experience or how to maintain the quality of the food; now with delivery taking up such a large percentage of restaurant sales, we’ll see technical solutions to improve that experience, with examples like CRAVE in Boise, ID. 

At the same time, robotics and fresh vending machines will be employed more and more to provide fresh and affordable meal options in more places. Hospitals, schools, transportation centers, and even entertainment or sports venues may adopt some of this technology to easily provide fresh and potentially even customizable meal options in places where it’s lacking. 

Chris Boyles, VP of Food Safety for Steritech

"Camera technology mated with AI has enormous potential for helping restaurants, though there are obvious Orwellian risks. Some potential applications include:"

Track and recommend ideal deployment of employees in back of house work stations. Analyze traffic patterns and design an ideal workflow. Monitor handwashing practices: did an employee wash hands upon entering the back of house, after working at the raw meat station, after handling the cash drawer, etc.? Did the employee spend the appropriate amount of time at the handwash sink? Are customers greeted and served quickly enough? 

Data from sensors (including cameras) and every other source in a Smart Restaurant will be combined and mined for insights. There are immediate benefits to the individual restaurant, but there may be bigger long-term benefits for large chains. Trends across big data sets may provide unexpected insights. 

  • Are there correlations between observed behavior patterns and the results from detailed regulatory or third-party assessments? With customer satisfaction measurements? 

  • Do protocol errors increase on specific days or shifts? 

  • Do they track with time or with revenue?

  • Can the trends be impacted by updating or reviewing existing training? 

  • Is new training more effective?   

Brad Brooks, Sales & Marketing Director with Speedline Solutions Inc.

"Our team surveyed pizza places throughout the US, and only 82% of them reported that they have their own online ordering site. Restaurants offering delivery will need to offer online ordering to stay competitive in the next couple of years. In the past, it was a “nice to have” for customers, but now it is expected."

In order for a restaurant to develop a comprehensive marketing plan, especially online, they need to have their own website and their own online ordering site. This is the “hub” of all their marketing efforts. Having their own online ordering site, separate from third parties like UberEats or sites like Square, give them control over their business model.

Kelly Richardson, Founder of Venone

"I think we will continue to see an integration of software and apps that allow restaurants to take reservations, online orders, and handle in-house ordering all on one app. I also look forward to seeing continued enhancement of software for “to go” orders. Additionally, as many restaurants are now marketing to their local neighborhood instead of tourist traffic and travelers, we are going to see some independence from platforms like TripAdvisor and Yelp; instead, efforts will be to use social media more and websites like Nextdoor that are hyper-local. We may see less of the technology component in advertising and marketing and a movement to use direct mail."

Meaghan Brophy, Retail Analyst at FitSmallBusiness

QR Codes: "I don’t know if anyone saw this coming, but QR codes are cool again. Digitized menus and scan-to-pay are here to stay. It’s a low-cost and easy-maintenance option for businesses that provide businesses with a lot more flexibility than paper menus or even self-service kiosks. Plus, it’s convenient for customers. Before COVID, kiosk-style ordering was taking off. Now, that self-service feature will be met through QR codes and scan-to-order and scan-to-pay."

Online Ordering: Of course, everyone is ordering online more than before. However, the shift and disruption will be around third-party ordering apps. Many of these apps take huge percentages, up to 30%, from each order. Restaurants already operate on razor-thin margins. In the current economic and pandemic climate where restaurants are relying on reduced capacity and more online ordering than ever, they simply cannot afford to take that big of a cut. We will see more customers and businesses boycott popular delivery apps in favor of in-house solutions that are more financially sustainable. This will become more prevalent as restaurant technology, particularly options for small businesses, become more affordable.

Order-ahead: Starbucks had this model down lightyears before the rest of the industry. However, we’ll see more and more restaurants and cafes (plus their customers) using online ordering for pickup. This is a natural evolution, as more restaurants are adding online ordering tools, and more people are becoming accustomed to ordering online.

Rodion Yeroshek, Co-Founder & CEO of Poster

"Restaurateurs are already using artificial intelligence to optimize their businesses, but AI use will continue to increase, as the technology becomes cheaper and more affordable. The benefits of AI in the restaurant industry are not limited to robots and voice assistants. AI can also help restaurant owners analyze data to improve the customer experience, get smart prompts to reduce waste and manage their inventory more efficiently, forecast labor demand and control theft."

Ingrid Hoffmann, Author, Chef and Host of Top Chef Estrellas and Simply Delicioso

"Technology that improves streamlining efficiency and productivity both in restaurant and foodservice via modernization and industrial engineering technique."

Other sectors have already been applying these technologies and the food service is playing catch up with unit economic models that are the most margin-sensitive.

David Litchman, Founder of BellyMelly

"Anything that allows for automation and reduced needs for human interaction."

Not only will it be for safety reasons, but with labor costs, rising operators will be forced to automate.

Josh Lang, Founder of Pink Cloud Media

"Handheld payment processing is the wave of the future. MGM Resorts International started rolling this service in each of their casinos in late 2019."