Restaurant Development & Design

SEP-OCT 2018

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4 6 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • S E P T E M B E R / O C T O B E R 2 0 1 8 TECHNOLOGY AND CONVENIENCE: THE RESTAURANT OF THE FUTURE Penny, Take This Tray to Table 4 A robot runner in the front of the house? She's already there. Penny is a robot that delivers food from the kitchen to the table. Thanks to RFID, she knows the floor plan. She will stop to avoid hitting people moving about. When she brings an order, the guest lifts the tray from her "hands," and she returns to the kitchen for another order. Plans are underway to have Penny carry a bussing tub. She could reduce the need for waitstaff to spend time on delivery orders and disposing of dirty plates. Waitstaff would be free to focus on customer interaction — questions about the menu, for instance. Many table-service operations arm staff with tablets when collecting orders from customers. This eliminates the need for the staff member to run back to the kitchen with a paper order or to a nearby POS terminal to enter the order. Instead, the kitchen receives the order as the customer places it. In quick-service and fast-casual restaurants, convenience has been the driver of customer-facing technology like self-ordering kiosks. This technology reduces the need for cashiers, and many operators place these employees in more impactful roles in the restaurant. At the same time, mobile ordering keeps growing in popularity, possibly eclipsing kiosks in years to come. While kiosk ordering is known to increase check averages, it can also slow service because customers don't know how to use them or can't make up their minds. Facial recognition, the next wave in kiosk ordering, will address some of these delays. Sensors in the system will recognize the patron and say, "Hello, Sam. Would you like the same thing you ordered last time, or would you like something different?" When the transac- tion ends, the patron can "face pay" via a credit card linked to the person's account. Convenience for the customer can also increase profitability. Martinez points to BJ's Restaurant and Brew- house. The chain has a system that allows guests to place their orders before arriving at the restaurant. Once guests arrive on-site and staff seats them, the system releases the order to the kitchen. This not only saves time for the guests, but it also increases table turns, adding to the top line. Delivery continues to become popular but brings with it two issues: uncertainty about where the order is and the condition of the order when it ar- rives. Having to call the restaurant to see when the order will be delivered reduces the convenience aspect of off-premise dining. Plus, the reality is that food eaten off premise is not always the same quality as that eaten in-house. These two negatives will be ad- dressed in the future as off-premise dining grows. Technology is already available that will track the progress of an order and report it to the customer. "There is a big area of opportunity around packaging for off-premise," Mar- tinez points out. While third-party companies such as UberEats and GrubHub continue to drive the expansion of delivery, the delivery vehicles continue to evolve, too. For example, one pizza concept has ovens in the back of its delivery vehicles that cook the pies as they travel to the cus- tomers' locations. Riehle envisions more mobile units with prep kitchens on board that can complete the production of any product on the way. This prevents food from being delivered soggy or cold. Virtual Kitchens Seizing a Trend Indeed, off-premise dining is becoming the new dining out for the foodservice industry. By 2023, off-premise dining will account for almost half of restaurant sales, according to projections from a study co-authored by CHD Expert and Monkey Media. In fact, off-premise sales will increase to $209 billion this year, per the study. The trend is demand-driven. "From the customer perspective, there is noth- ing more convenient than having the At CaliBurger, a robot flips burgers but staff assemble and serve. Image courtesy of CaliBurger

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