The Rise of Restaurant Automation

Culture

The Rise of Restaurant Automation

May 16, 2019

Thanks to price deflation for many wholesale and farm-level goods, food is getting cheaper. While we’re seeing grocery stores pass these savings along to customers, we’re not seeing the same trend in restaurants. Due to the rising costs of construction, real estate, and labor, restaurant prices continue to rise as restaurants pass these growing costs on to the consumer, which risks losing customers to cheaper alternatives. As the restaurant industry strategizes to keep abreast of growing overhead, we will continue to see increasing investment in technology and automation —  allowing for better products, control of rising costs, reducing price hikes for the consumer, and shifting consumer behaviors from cooking at home to dining out.

Blockchains Make Better Tasting Blueberries

The founders of Sweetgreen boldly claim that they’re not building restaurants, they’re building a food platform. Swiping top employees from big brands like Apple, Nike, and Starbucks, the fast-casual salad chain is leveraging technology to efficiently deliver the best possible product. Moving beyond technology like quick ordering apps (already, 50% of orders come through their mobile app), Sweetgreen’s focus is on streamlining their supply chain to optimize their products and reduce costs. Sweetgreen uses blockchain technology to track ingredient data — soil and air conditions, when it was picked, and when it arrived at a Sweetgreen store. The technology even allows the chain to track the most minute details about ingredients, like salt and sugar content, to optimize ripeness to serve the best tasting food in the most streamlined process possible.

Robots Make Low-Priced Meals

Coming a long way from its prototype in an MIT frat basement, fast-casual restaurant Spyce serves up bowl-based meals largely created through robotics. Customers order on tablets and a series of mechanics drop ingredients into a precisely controlled rotating wok before delivering the meal into a neatly packaged bowl. Through automated preparation, Spyce is able to accomplish its goal of creating fresh, healthy, and affordable meals starting at only $7.50.

Technology Makes Way for Hospitality

With technology lifting the burden of menial tasks and lowering menu prices, employees are free to focus on creativity and customer service. Automation will allow restaurants to serve less expensive, consistently good food while employees provide hospitality touchpoints that create dining experiences to keep customers coming back. While they’re not there yet, Sweetgreen foresees restaurant automation being a big component of their stores. Employees won’t become obsolete though, the chain recognizes that there are some things robotics just can’t do, like perfectly fanning out slices of avocado. In the case of Spyce, employees’ duties include welcoming guests, assisting with ordering technology, and adding creative flourishes and garnishes to food. Kale Rogers, COO of Spyce says, “We see the automation as a tool to allow us to serve incredible quality to more people. A necessary component is the human touch — the presentation, the personalization, the handing it to you with a smile.

 

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By Natalie DiPaolo