The restaurant industry has traditionally been slow to adopt technology and innovative digital solutions. But in 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic instability that spilled into 2022 - and now the anticipated recession in 2023 - changed that and forced food and beverage outlets to look beyond the traditional. Many restaurants have turned to tech in the last couple of years, even if reluctantly, to adapt to a new reality. One which includes more contactless technology, and is realigned with new customer expectations and wants.
Technology and innovation are what have helped, even saved, restaurants as they transform how they operate to not just survive, but thrive, in this new connected and contactless era. From online ordering, self-checkouts and touchless payments to delivery and pick-up, the F&B industry can no longer afford to ignore the trends that are helping businesses reinvent themselves to remain relevant and competitive.
With a likely recession looming in 2023, an already struggling restauration sector will be forced into yet more spending cuts as consumers alike will be tightening their budgets. Tech can often been the solution for finding new ways to trim the fat from any business type. What's more, quality and experience will be key as customers will be less forgiving for any bad experiences.
It’s predicted that growth in the restaurant industry will be entirely driven by off-premise consumption, using technology is not just about improving operations and service delivery, but also reimagining restaurants.
So, what innovative restaurant technology trends and solutions should you keep an eye on in 2023 to stay up-to-date and even gain a competitive edge?
1. Online ordering systems and delivery apps
Given the vulnerability of restaurants to regulatory restrictions and strict sanitary regulations, online food ordering, and 'no touch' home delivery services continue to be an integral part of the restaurant industry. And there are no signs of this trend waning as customers get accustomed to ordering food online and having it delivered right where they are. In fact, according to Statista, the global online food delivery market is estimated to be $130.2 billion and is expected to grow to $223.7 billion by 2027.
Third-Party food delivery solutions such as DoorDash, UberEats, and GrubHub will keep on being essential tools for restaurants that cannot offer in-house food ordering and delivery services. However, as more diners continue to prefer ordering directly from restaurants, we'll see more restaurants follow the lead of larger fast-food chains and invest in developing their own integrated apps and online platforms. Despite the long distance, digital tools enable restaurants to establish close connections with their customers.
2. Contactless payment
Contactless payment has become increasingly popular in the restaurant industry. This technology isn't just about placing an order online; it also allows diners to pay for food with a smartwatch, smartphone, or smart card via an app or touchless device.
While contactless payment had been gradually gaining momentum in the global restaurant industry, the pandemic made it the new normal. According to 2020 Juniper research, approximately 53% of global transactions running through POS will be contactless in the next five years. Juniper also projected that the global value of contactless payments will increase by 300% ($2 trillion to $6 trillion) by 2024.
With no cash hand, human contact isn't required, meaning contactless payment is not only quick and convenient but also hygienic and safer. If restaurants don't want to be left behind, it's high time they invest in a mobile and digital payment solution.
3. Online table reservation system
While booking a table via a phone was considered convenient, the emergence of online table reservation technology is rendering it a thing of the past. Providers such as Eat App, Wisely, and OpenTable enable customers to see available slots and make table reservations on the go. By leveraging technology-enabled table reservation systems, restaurants can manage waitlists, seating, dining preferences, and customer loyalty as well as collect crucial client data which they can use to gain market insights or for contact tracking.
OpenTable takes the concept of online reservation a notch further. Through its Experiences program, OpenTable makes it possible for restaurants to show customers the best food and dining experiences they offer when a customer books 'a unique dining experience. Whether it's a 'side dish' of line dancing lessons, tasting menus, or wine pairings, customers can easily book their next dining experience and indulge in whatever meal they crave.
4. Digital kitchen ‘boards’
As online orders continue to increase, restaurants must adopt new ways to streamline their operations. Kitchen display systems(KDS) are digital menu boards for kitchen staff that help restaurants streamline back-of-house operations. With it, your staff won't need a grab pen or notebook or continuously move back and forth between the front-of-house and the kitchen to take customer orders and confirm whether those orders are ready.
A kitchen display system is directly linked to the restaurant's point-of-sale (POS) system and starts to work immediately when an order is placed. The screen displays orders automatically based on priority and flags any special dietary requests. It also tracks meal delivery times and monitors inventory to signal when an item is out of stock. Digital kitchen displays promise a sustainable kitchen operation by ensuring better communication, clearer workflows, and accuracy.
5. Automated inventory management software
Automated inventory management software helps restaurants track food and beverage stock, anticipate quantities, and schedule reorders more efficiently and faster. More importantly, implementing this software in your work process can minimize food wastage, which reportedly costs the hospitality industry $100 billion annually. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), companies such as Kitro are not only helping restaurants reduce food waste but also ensuring their efficient and sustainable running. Also, partnerships with programs like Too Good to Go can save restaurants from wasting their excess food–they can avail it to users as a meal deal. Let's face it: initiatives that save time and money, all while ensuring environmental sustainability, are a no-brainer, especially since sustainability is at the forefront of the global agenda.
6. QR codes
QR codes are slowly replacing restaurant menus. Already popular in mobile-first societies like China, this restaurant technology is gradually going global, with more and more restaurants around the world adopting it. In fact, QR downloads have soared by more than 750% in the last couple of years.
In the prevailing contactless era, auto-scanning barcodes allow customers to access online menus, order, and pay for their orders by performing a simple scan. This technology, which does not require that an app be downloaded plays a key role in helping restaurants with contact tracing –is currently mandatory in various parts of the world. Providing various benefits to restaurants at low costs, QR code technology will continue to be important in 2023 and beyond.
7. Food Delivery tech
One of the eye-catching technology trends in the restaurant industry is the implementation of autonomous vehicles in food delivery. This technology can not only streamline the delivery process but can also cut delivery costs. Domino has already tested self-driving cars in Las Vegas and Miami, meaning while not mainstream yet, the use of driverless vehicles for food delivery will happen in the near future. Similarly, Amazon and Google are already testing drone delivery.
Accelerating digitalization in the F&B industry
The above restaurant technology trends are helping accelerate digitization in the F&B industry and will help restaurants grow in 2023 and beyond. They offer unique solutions for restaurants to differentiate themselves and gain an edge and for owners and managers to run their businesses more efficiently. As a result, they have more time to focus on delighting their guests with mouth-watering food and new unique dining experiences, be they in-house or off-promise. A win-win solution, don't you think?