The Restaurant Revolution – The Rise of Automation

Restaurants are looking to automation to off-set rising costs.

According to a survey of 174 restaurant operators published by Capterra, a software review platform, 76% of respondents said that their restaurants use three or more automated tools and 56% said that their revenue has increased as a result.

The term ‘automation’ refers, in the instances above, to behind-the-scenes processes like employee management, the customer experience with QR codes (both in-store and online), contactless ordering and loyalty programs.

This shift to automated services benefits both restaurants and customers alike. Not only does it protect the health and safety of restaurant staff and their customers, but it is both cost effective and sustainable.

Is there a place for robots in the restaurant industry?

When it comes to running a restaurant, the operators in this survey are of the view that robots would be better suited to some jobs than others.

AI enabled robots, according to those surveyed, would be most suited to jobs as drive-thru operators (30%), baristas (36%), hosts (40%), and cashiers (41%). They would be least suited, however, to jobs as managers (68%) and cooks/chefs (76%).

It will be interesting to see whether advancements in AI technology and robotics increase the variety of jobs robots can do. Will the repetitive, menial jobs they are currently used for be expanded to include those jobs that require cognitive and, perhaps even, social skills?

The prospect of robots replacing humans in the future workforce poses a whole series of questions about the changing nature of employment and its impact on people’s lives, which are beyond the scope of this article, but which will, undoubtedly, become an increasingly important consideration.

What do customers want?

It appears that the appetite for restaurants is set to continue and that the increasing use of automation is going down well with customers.

According to a recent survey conducted by SoundHound AI, Inc., a global leader in voice artificial intelligence, there is evidence that customers are seeking out tech-led experiences in fast food chains and casual dining restaurants.

Another study by Nationwide Insurance (insert link) found that more than half of restaurant customers feel positively about the transition from paper menus to paperless menus and the use of mobile devices to pay for their meals.

Significantly, a survey by Deloitte found that 47% of customers would be happy to order from restaurants with driverless car and drone delivery options as compared to 44% in a similar study conducted in 2021 pointing to a growing demand for innovative technology solutions.


Into the Future


In 2022, Panera Bread introduced AI voice ordering technology, called ‘Tori’, at the drive-thrus of two of its café locations in  Rochester, New York, with a view to a national roll-out.

Other fast-food brands, including White Castle, Krystal, McDonalds and Popeye, are also turning to AI technology to provide a more efficient customer service, while Checkers and Rally’s, have gone all out, employing AI to take drive-thru orders at more than 200 restaurants.

Looking to the future, restaurant owners will, necessarily, have to weigh up the costs of investing in new technologies against the costs of running their businesses to determine if it’s worth their while.

One thing is for sure, the use of new technologies to address the challenges that restaurants face is here to stay and is already revolutionizing the industry.

  • Deirdre Hughes