The Growing Relationship Between Restaurants and Technology

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year, we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of technology within the restaurant industry.

These technological advances were already happening on many fronts, but the onset of Covid seemed to escalate the timeframe. COVID-19 has put operations and processes under the microscope, and the result has been a clearer view of how technology can help with safety and efficiency, the two things that are most critical in foodservice today.

It’s not like safety and efficiency didn’t matter before. They’re just much more important today. The same can also be said of the technology used to help implement some of those goals. While restaurants and operators have turned to technological advances to reduce contact and make transactions easier and faster, those tools will certainly be used well into the future.

Essentially, technology is here to stay.

As the National Restaurant Association has stated, “The right technology can help restaurants resume business and provide a safe dining experience that gives customers confidence the establishment is doing everything it can to protect their health.”

As we’ve detailed before, consumer confidence is the most critical metric in today’s foodservice industry. The diners who feel safe and secure are the ones who will return, and operations with the ability to provide touchless ordering and pickup stand a far greater chance of helping customers feel safe and secure. The goal is to create convenience and reduce friction, which is why low-touch foodservice will be around for a long time, even if the aspect of consumer safety becomes less important.

Another Important Area of Foodservice Technology Innovation

Ghost kitchens are another technologically-supported change we’re experiencing in the restaurant industry in 2020. According to Restaurant Business, Technomic, and the National Restaurant Association, 15 percent of operators reported using ghost kitchen resources before the spread of the coronavirus. By May, that number had swelled to more than 50 percent.

“I would say that 60 percent of the restaurant industry pre-COVID-19 was kind of in an elementary school phase,” said Jim Collins, CEO of Kitchen United. “What COVID-19 really did is it forced us all to go to graduate school.”

What does that mean? More and more types of operations are turning to ghost kitchens and all the associated technologies in order to stay in front of customers, reduce friction in the ordering and delivery process, and to ultimately increase profits. As a generality, if the average consumer either can’t or doesn’t want to dine in or even dine outside, the easiest and often the most profitable solution is to eliminate dine-in options.

“What we found,” Collins said, “was that restaurants that have a vibrant digital connection to their consumer, restaurants that don’t just rely on the third-party marketplace for sales — restaurants that actually have their own direct channel” are the ones that do best.

Middleby is a global leader on ghost kitchen technologies. Take a journey into our collection of smart kitchen examples to see the different facets of a successful ghost kitchen operation.

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Topics: Featured Innovation, Foodservice Industry Trends, Labor Savings, Restaurants