Restaurants are reallocating some tasks to robots to deal with staff shortages

Restaurants are reallocating some tasks to robots to deal with staff shortages

(Photo credit: Buffalo Wings & Rings)

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As restaurants adapt to changing business conditions, some operators are using robots and other automation techniques to reallocate certain tasks and increase efficiency.

Many restaurants are still operating with fewer employees than they did before the pandemic, but rising costs have forced some operators to put staffing on hold, according to the Restaurant working conditions questionnaire Released in August by the National Restaurant Association. Sixty-five percent of the 4,200 restaurant operators surveyed said that their restaurant does not have enough staff to support the demand of existing customers, yet 40% of restaurants have had to reduce staffing levels in recent months due to rising costs, while 29% have been put off. Recruitment and recruitment plans.

To help fill some of the gaps created by staff shortages and respond to rising costs, nearly 1 in 4 operators (25%) said they have incorporated more technology into their restaurants.

Assigning the right tasks to technology

Automation technology has grown steadily in the restaurant industry for several years, and many restaurants are already using it in some form. More than 3 out of 4 restaurants (76%) currently use three or more automated tools, according to another Captera survey Out of 174 restaurant business leaders. When asked what roles are difficult to replace with automation, respondents’ top choices were chef, manager, and server – all jobs that require the human touch that is indispensable in the restaurant industry.

Keeping the strengths and weaknesses of automation technology in mind is essential when choosing technical tools to integrate into a restaurant. A robot cannot replicate a chef’s creativity, a manager’s people skills, or the hospitality of a server, but there are plenty of other roles that fit automation technology well.

“Some of the most important technologies and productivity enhancers are not physically visible to the consumer,” said Hudson Riel, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the National Restaurant Association.

Digital ordering is a prime example of how diners are embracing restaurant technology. “If the pandemic has done one thing in terms of how consumers interact with restaurants, when they are not on location, it has made them more comfortable and aware of digital ordering,” Riel said, noting that digital orders represented about 5% of total restaurant orders before the pandemic. Now that number is close to 20% of all orders.

When dining inside a restaurant, consumers are more likely to accept automation that takes place behind the scenes or helps — rather than replace — human staff.

“If you survey consumers and ask them if they want to be served by a robot in a restaurant… in most cases, they will say no. But if you ask them… [about] “A robot that takes the dishes from the dining room to the kitchen, you know, that’s a completely different situation in terms of how they perceive technology,” Riel said.

Robots come out of the lab and into the restaurant kitchen

An increasing number of restaurants are using robots in the kitchen to take some of the repetitive tasks off the staff’s plates. The appeal of this type of automation is twofold: it makes back-end jobs more attractive by eliminating unwanted tasks like running a fryer, and it frees up more staff time for customer service.

After conducting initial tests in laboratory environments, these robots are beginning to appear in actual restaurant kitchens, where operators can see how they encounter real-world scenarios.

Marco Pizza discovered that using machines rather than human staff to cut and roll dough reduced this task to “a few hours per day compared to 7 or 8 hours previously,” co-CEO Tony Leppardi said. Reuters.

Buffalo Wings & Rings, which recently completed the first phase of beta testing of Miso Robotics’ Flippy 2 unit in a Crestview Hills, Kentucky unit, found that a fryer robot could “do the work of one or two full-time employees over the course of a year,” Bob said. Bafondo, Chief Operating Officer.

The series first started working with Miso Robotics two years ago, with the main goal of reducing household tasks. The July installation of Flippy 2 at a Kentucky restaurant made the Wing Chain the first to work with a Miso product, and Bafundo said in-store testing is key because lab tests can never “predict all the things you’d fully experience in a live restaurant situation.”

Crestview Hills completed initial testing in August, and another round of testing is set to begin this month after implementing some changes, including feedback from store staff.

The staff underwent three half-day training sessions before Flippi joined the crew, and the reception was positive. We were worried at first about that [employees] He’ll feel like he’s done nothing but take jobs from them. …but …this team feels like it’s on the cutting edge,” Bafondue said. “They feel like they’re peeking under the tent, if you will, at the future of the restaurant industry.”

What’s next for restaurant automation?

Looking into the future of restaurant technology, we’ll likely see more solutions aimed at giving employees more time to focus on customer service.

“As operators are well aware, the restaurant industry is still a hospitality industry,” said Riel of the National Restaurant Association. “So the challenge is to strike the right balance between maintaining that service and the hospitality experience along with a more integrated system with technology that can really enhance the productivity and efficiency of both the front and back of the house.”

Voice AI is one of the fastest-growing categories of automation technology for the hospitality industry, which a group of tech companies are fine-tuning with the goal of automating taking orders from the drive-through or over the phone.

Presto, which provides the AI ​​audio technology used for driving through its Checkers and Rally’s sibling chains, It brought in $120 million through its initial public offering last monthand Converse Now, a sound technology startup that works with brands including Domino’s Pizza and Fuzzoli’s, has raised $60 million this year.

Although the technology shows promise for taking over tasks from human employees so that they can work with clients, it is still in its early days. “[D]rive-thru is complex. ConverseNow Co-Founder and CEO Vinay Shukla said that even the best AI platforms may still need human help. Take Crunch.

The continued growth of automation technology in the restaurant industry will come with a learning curve as operators discover how to balance technology and the human touch, but, as Riel said, “The truth in general for the restaurant industry, technology is certainly an integral part of the usual process and will continue to become more in the coming years.”

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