Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2019

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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T he foodservice employee of the future is smart, tireless, and never forgets a face—or a birthday, a credit card number, or a customer's previous order. Advanced technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and others have been given entry-level positions in the restaurant industry, where they are helping drive sales gains and increase efficiencies. "We are seeing AI and machine learning everywhere in our day-to-day lives," says Nick Low, senior solution manager, Oracle Food and Beverage, citing as an example the "suggested items" on retail e-commerce websites. "These same tools are spreading into the restaurant space, too." The restaurant industry is adopting these tools throughout their operations, including menu planning, food-prep scheduling, and determining where to open their next location. In fact, 60 per- cent of restaurant operators surveyed by technology provider Oracle for its "Restaurant 2025—Emerging Technologies Destined to Reshape Our Business" report said they expect the use of AI in site selection to be mainstream by the year 2025. Low notes that many of the advanced technologies that some large restaurant chains are experimenting with might not yet be impacting smaller, chef-driven operations. "Operators should focus on the issues they are experienc- ing—for example, high labor costs, low customer counts, or bloated inventory—and look for the right technology to solve that problem," he says. Automation Innovation Labor costs have long been a significant challenge for the foodservice industry and are one of the driving forces behind the latest tech devel- opments, says Jeff Spitulnik, head of products, marketing, and design at Eatsa, which is one of the pioneers in restaurant automation. The San Francisco-based company opened several highly auto- mated restaurants there and in Washington, D.C., and New York before scaling back to two San Francisco locations. Eatsa created an automated front-of-the-house system for ordering and pickup that eliminates the need for wait staff and cashiers. Customers enter their personalized orders for a menu of qui- noa bowls on iPads, and the dishes are created to order by human line cooks who are out of sight behind a wall. When the orders are ready, customers pick them up in the compartments they have been directed to by a digital display. Eatsa is now supplying its technology to other restaurant oper- ators, including Wow Bao in Chicago, which is using the technology to operate automated dumpling and noodle shops. Spitulnik says the Eatsa platform creates value by speeding up the ordering process and increasing throughput, allowing restau- rants to receive three times the number of orders they would using a traditional system. "Technology can and should enable businesses to grow through efficient and speedy operations," he says. PHOTO: MISO ROBOTICS 28 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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