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How automation is shaking up the restaurant sector

How automation is shaking up the restaurant sector

Sanjeev Sanghera, Döner Shack’s co-founder and managing director, looks at the tech trends driving change and their effect in shaping the restaurants of the future

The restaurant sector is changing and evolving at a rapid speed, both for owners and customers. Technology innovation is largely driving this evolution, along with modern-day consumer demands and expectations.

Technology and innovation have always had a strong, positive impact on the restaurant industry. Restaurants want to deliver a flawless, convenient, and enjoyable experience to their customers and technology provides a means to accelerate processes, maximise efficiency and improve the customer journey. For anyone running a restaurant franchise, this presents great opportunities but also significant challenges to keep up-to-speed with the pace of change in this new era of connectivity.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has acted as the main driver of emerging technologies like data, robotics and Internet of things (IoT), and it will continue to act as a technological innovator for the foreseeable future. It is offering unique solutions for restaurants to differentiate themselves and for owners to streamline their businesses.

Contactless ordering solutions
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic swept around the globe, the restaurant industry was having to adjust to consumer behaviour and preferences, moving towards a more efficient virtual ordering experience. As a result, contactless ordering solutions and online ordering have become intrinsic to the operation of many restaurants, boosting customer convenience, reducing queue times and keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Consumers are now looking for the safest options to place orders and pay for their meals so they can maintain the least contact with others as possible. With contactless ordering, customers can browse digital menus and quickly place orders to ensure they have a touch-free experience. QR codes direct customers to digital menus and payment options, removing the possibility of touch contamination via physical menus and payment terminals. Contactless ordering also helps manage the full-order life cycle and ensures customers receive their food faster and to detailed preferences.

Online ordering gives customers more choice and greater flexibility, without compromising the control restaurants have over their kitchen and operations. Click & Collect is a growing trend for many restaurants, including Döner Shack, who have implemented a system to give customers a seamless ordering experience at all times and direct contact with their brand whether they are eating in, collecting a takeaway or ordering a delivery online.

We live in a digital world where everyone is familiar with the convenience of getting what they want or need from the click of a button – this is the same for customers who now expect restaurants to offer online ordering. We have developed an integrated online ordering solution to enable our customers to easily order directly from our restaurants, which removes any third-party delivery fees and takes better control of the customer experience. We believe that by offering a streamlined ordering system, our customers are more likely to order from us again in the future and that’s exactly what we want!

Data-driven innovation
Data will play a pivotal role in helping restaurants understand their customers on a greater level, which in turn will open new revenue streams for increased sales and customer traffic. By predicting customers’ actions, it allows restaurant owners to support key marketing and loyalty initiatives, building a stronger relationship with their customers by offering a very personalised service.

Gathering customer data is an important step for any restaurant but being able to effectively interpret and put that data into action is vital to understanding and meeting your customers’ expectations. We’re able to capture how our customers order and pay for their meals through various digital tools, such as our new loyalty app and Click & Collect. As a result, we can offer better customisation and personalisation by analysing data from our customer order history.

Kitchen robots
Robots have already been implemented in some larger restaurants and chains as they have the ability to automate most, if not all, of the processes carried out in a restaurant. This adoption is going to continue with advancements in technology. 

Döner Shack is leading the way in fast-casual restaurant franchising and is the first kebab restaurant in the UK to introduce robotics and advanced operating procedures for preparing the food in our kitchens. We are constantly driving toward greater efficiency in our restaurants and to ensure speed of service is best in class, as well as creating a safe and simple place to work.

We have designed state-of-the-art robotic cutters to help reduce labour-intensive food preparation time and minimise our food waste. The robots have also simplified our processes by consistently cutting the exact quantity and proportions of meat required for each day, which means the probability of errors is minimised, if not eliminated. We’re also able to reduce our operating costs by automating repetitive tasks that our staff would normally have done, which then frees up their time to focus on enhancing the customer experience, resulting in happier staff and higher retention rates. Our aim is to provide a better experience to our customers, so by accelerating our processes with robots, we can enhance the behind-the-scenes operations. It is, however, important to strike a balance between automation and human workers.

Evolving technologies are transforming the future of the restaurant industry and as this progress continues, franchisees need to be ready for what’s around the corner to fully take advantage of these developments. With advancements in AI, including robotics technology and increased affordability, fully automated restaurants may one day become commonplace. For now, a semi-automated restaurant with robots limited to mundane tasks is proving to be the best bet for restaurants and their customers.

The author
Sanjeev Sanghera is the co-founder and managing director of Döner Haus and Döner Shack. With over 25 years of experience, Sanjeev is a leading restaurant entrepreneur with a business that is growing internationally, including North America, Europe and The Middle East.

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