Tackling Technology

Forget the talk about the impact Millennials and Generation Z continue to have on the foodservice industry. Among all the trends affecting today’s foodservice industry, technology has the most profound impact.

Take, for example, social media. Restaurant concepts of all shapes and sizes continue to design and plate dishes that not only taste good but photograph well, as Amelia Levin points out in her story “Five Food Menu Trends: The Equipment Impact”. There is an insatiable desire to share their experiences on Instagram and other social media platforms.

Taco Bell even tracks which menu items make the most appearances on Instagram. Fine-dining operations used to shudder at the notion of some amateur shutterbug whipping out their phone to snap a photo of their meal, feeling it would detract from the restaurant’s ambience. Today, many of these operators now see this type of sharing as bonus word-of-mouth marketing.

Customer-facing technology affects every aspect of foodservice operations. Members of the foodservice equipment and supplies industry often feel that the implementation of apps, online ordering or third-party delivery systems won’t impact how they support their operator-customers — but they could not be more wrong. In fact, customer-facing technologies will only be as successful as the physical infrastructure supporting them. This includes proper spatial planning, food preparation and holding equipment, packaging and much more. Failure to properly account for these factors can significantly impede a concept’s ability to be successful today.

At first pass, it might seem as if customer-facing technology was the exclusive domain of quick-service and fast-casual restaurant communities, but as the trio of participants in the “Consultants’ Roundtable” story points out, customer-facing technology now has a place in such noncommercial segments as business and industry, as well as college and university foodservice.

Finally, there is the concept of the connected kitchen. For years, the foodservice industry has romanticized the idea of a kitchen where the various pieces of equipment communicate with each other and receive operating instructions from the point-of-sale system. The benefits of a connected kitchen are many: improved product consistency, less food waste, reduced energy consumption, and enhanced food safety, to name a few.

The technology is there to implement such a vision, and yet some estimate the industry remains 10 years away from seeing a truly connected kitchen. Indeed, a few stubborn challenges continue to cloud this blue-sky vision for the future of the industry, as Dana Tanyeri reports.

Few factors will continue to shape the foodservice industry quite like technology will in the coming years. Are you ready to tackle technology or will it tackle you?