By Naji Haddad, MENA General Manager at Deliverect
It’s fair to say the food-service industry had a turbulent few years and this year was no different. In 2022, operators faced new challenges like increased prices and labor shortages. While consumers returned to in-house dining, the global online food delivery and grocery markets also continued to grow. That’s because today’s consumer has grown used to the convenience of online ordering – and they’re even willing to cut back on other activities to keep enjoying restaurant-quality meals from home.
Why restaurant technology matters
To meet customer expectations and adapt to changing trends, F&B operators must be flexible and agile – nothing new there. But today, restaurants must satisfy consumer demand across multiple channels and touchpoints, giving customers a seamless experience wherever they are and whenever they want it.
That’s where restaurant tech comes in. In today’s golden age of technology, many tech solutions are readily available to improve the restaurant’s resource efficiency, paving the way for that much-needed flexibility and adaptability.
Adopting technology also enables restaurants to run an efficient business across the board because it automates tedious or error-prone processes, streamlines your Back of House (BOH) and Front of House (FOH) operations, and allows business systems to communicate. As a result, technology helps owners achieve their ultimate goal of creating an extraordinary customer experience and making their food-service company as profitable as possible.
Let’s see which technologies will be on the menu next year.
#1 Automation, AI, and robotics
Automation has been around in manufacturing and food processing for some time, but it hasn’t been as important for restaurants.
That’s changing. Operators are looking into automation, robotics, and AI in response to high labor costs, staff shortages, and menu inflation. These technologies automate specific tasks or, at the very least, eliminate a few steps for staff. As a result, they increase efficiency and product consistency, helping them offer better service.
Additionally, the F&B industry is taking to Artificial Intelligence. While you may think AI sounds a bit extreme, some smart kitchen technologies are relatively simple, easy to implement, and already commonly used. Finally, drone food delivery took off this year (literally!), making deliveries faster and less expensive for customers. Undoubtedly, more delivery restaurants will start teaming up with drone companies soon.
#2 Virtual brand marketplaces
Thanks to the widespread success of virtual brands on delivery platforms, more restaurants will launch their own virtual brand in the year ahead. A recent survey conducted by Deliverect and Qoot, 70% of the respondents expressed that they are planning to open new dark/cloud kitchen operations.
And why shouldn’t they?! Virtual brands help expand the reach and delivery radius, improve sales, and experiment with new dishes to meet demand. Kitchen space can also be optimized by preparing food for delivery at off-peak times.
However, while setting up a virtual brand is easy, it requires market research to define gaps in the market, compare competitors’ offers, and develop a fitting marketing and branding strategy. That takes time and resources that may not necessarily be available.
#3 Contactless payment and ordering systems
The demand for contactless processes has been growing considerably since the onset of the pandemic. Mobile ordering, payment apps, and QR code menus offer plenty of benefits for food businesses and their customers. They help increase table turnover, optimize the operational flow, and give restaurants access to customer data, helping them build a meaningful connection with guests.
On the customer’s side, going contactless ensures more secure payment transactions, increased order accuracy, and an overall improved dining experience.
#4 Digital loyalty programs
With diners cutting expenses due to the global economic crisis, restaurateurs are investing in loyalty programs to increase customers’ spending and encourage repeat business.
Retaining an existing customer is five times cheaper than acquiring a new one. Current customers are also more likely to try new dishes and spend more. So, investing in your loyal regulars makes a lot of sense.
While some companies prefer old-school punch cards, digital loyalty programs are trending because they fulfill consumers’ need for contactless experiences. A digital loyalty scheme allows customers to register online or through an app – using a phone number or email, for instance. The program then keeps track of their spending and suggests rewards based on past purchases.
The best thing about loyalty programs is that they come in different shapes and sizes. In other words, they can be as simple or complex as you want. One of the trends we’re seeing today is programs that offer immediate incentives, like in-store discounts or reduced prices on delivery. Alternatively, you can provide a free drink, appetizer, or dessert after several visits or orders.
Finally, most digital loyalty schemes can be integrated directly into your restaurant POS, making tracking, personalizing, and redeeming rewards easier than ever.
#5 Online order aggregator software
Over the past few years, food service operators and Q-commerce businesses have been turning to online ordering systems and (third-party) delivery services to meet increased demand. As the next step, they’ll be looking to optimize their online ordering operations and maximize potential. That’s why delivery aggregator software will gain even wider-spread adoption in 2023.
Online order aggregator software is designed to help restaurants manage online orders without effort. At its most basic level, it aggregates all online orders and synchronizes them with the restaurant’s POS, improving the business’ operational flow.
But state-of-the-art delivery management platforms do much more than that. They also enable restaurant owners to efficiently manage their menus and stock and help you gain valuable insights into your sales and consumer behavior. The cherry on top is the software’s ability to integrate with other software systems seamlessly, so you get a 360° view of your business in real-time.
Restaurant tech is the way forward in 2023
Restaurant technology and automation can help restaurants remain flexible and adaptable to changing realities, making daily activities more efficient and giving owners all the tools needed to build a profitable business.
While you can adopt countless restaurant tech solutions, some platforms will come in extra handy over the coming year because they fit today’s consumers’ needs. We recommend looking into contactless payment and ordering systems, digital loyalty programs, virtual brand marketplaces, delivery aggregator software, and automation and robotics platforms. Implementing these technologies can help food businesses go from surviving to thriving.