As technology in the foodservice industry continues to evolve, discussions that surround robotics and automation have become an emerging hot topic in recent years. A couple decades from now, many things that humans do today will be fully automated – helping to increase efficiency on more complex tasks such as food preparation and delivery.

While it appears the reducing of the human role is inevitable, let’s not overlook the perspective that the role of the human interface will change and more opportunities will be created. For example, more engaging positions will allow workers to use different skills to enhance guest experience, or interact with and oversee the workflow performed by robots. As Fortune stated in a 2016 article, automation is reshaping the work of people, not fully replacing them.

Let’s take a closer look into this concept and how it’s starting to change our industry today.

There are two major factors for the importance of automation:

  1. Rising minimum wage regulations with an expected increase in coming years and shrinking labor force
  2. Desire to keep consumer prices low – 40% of the population are still not enjoying restaurants as much as they’d like, per NRA

Here’s what we are seeing emerge today:

Online and Self-Serve Ordering

Mobile and App-driven order placement, including in-store kiosks, have helped to reduce waiting time and enhance the customer ordering experience. More and more restaurants are utilizing these virtual capabilities to respond to inquiries and process customized orders from customers in a quicker and proficient way.

Halla, a personalized restaurant and dining search engine, is making food delivery more convenient by offering a place to find all delivery applications through one system. It also matches you with recommendations based on pre-selected taste profiles and specifications.

Delivery

With the popularity of drones growing, they are now being looked at as another means for food delivery. Even autonomous vehicles, like the knee-high robots by Starship Technologies, have been popping up and revolutionizing local delivery. It brings takeout food to customers while keeping delivery costs down.

Food Preparation

Robotics plays a big role in increasing productivity especially in food preparation. Examples include burger-flipping or grilling, automated sushi rolls and custom salads on demand. The robot uses software integrated with sensors and cameras so it can see the food it’s preparing and can monitor features like temperature control.

Graphical User Interfaces

Innovative kitchen equipment are being created with screen interfaces where users can select degrees or cooking functionalities that are more accurate than utilizing dials or knobs. This will help food to cook in proper temperatures and taste better to consumers.

Cloud Connectivity, data from users and various sensors, robots will be smarter and can communicate with other robots to adjust their programs to be more efficient.