By CJ Pakeltis, Director of Business Development at RizePoint
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the restaurant industry, offering endless opportunities to improve restaurants’ safety, quality, transparency, efficiency, sustainability, and more. In fact, AI is optimizing all aspects of restaurant operations, streamlining these businesses, and improving customer service dramatically.
Restaurants of all sizes can (and should!) leverage AI technology to improve operations, make more informed decisions, and improve food safety and quality – among other things.
- Elevate food safety and quality. Each year, millions of people become ill from food safety breaches. Now, restaurants can use AI to detect contaminants or spoilage to boost food safety, regulatory compliance, and consumer trust. AI monitors and analyzes quality parameters, ensuring the highest standards are maintained throughout the supply chain journey. Since AI-powered tools can accurately detect flaws in products with unparalleled precision, brands can proactively identify, address, and resolve any quality issues. And if, despite best efforts, a food safety breach occurs, AI expertly tracks ingredients for faster, more accurate recalls.
- Save time. Certain tasks – like inventory and purchasing – are vital for restaurants, but manually conducting these efforts is tedious, time-consuming, and error-prone. AI-powered solutions can automate these efforts, such as tracking stock levels in real time and automatically ordering products when quantities run low. This way, staff can focus more time and energy on value-added, customer-facing efforts instead.
- Make more informed decisions. One of AI’s biggest benefits is its ability to analyze massive amounts of complex data, uncover trends, and provide key insights. This information powers more informed decision-making and fosters continuous improvement. Analyzing data can help restaurant leaders identify safety and quality issues before they arise, predict demand patterns, optimize ordering and inventory, etc.
- Elevate supply chain management. What if there was a way for your restaurant to better forecast demand, optimize logistics, and boost safety, quality, and transparency across the entire supply chain? There is! Restaurants can use AI to track products along the supply chain and ensure consistently safe, high-quality environments, processes, and products.
- Manage labor shortages. As any restaurant operator could tell you, the labor shortage is continuing, with nearly two million open jobs in our industry. Overworked, stressed employees may try to take “short cuts” to complete tasks faster, threatening food safety and potentially jeopardizing the customer experience. AI boosts automation and efficiency, allowing restaurants to do more with fewer employees. And because AI saves time and automates tedious tasks, employees can focus more time and attention on doing the things they love, like providing exceptional customer service and cooking delicious meals. As a result, AI can help boost employee satisfaction and retention at a time when these things are essential!
- Minimize food waste. As food prices remain sky high, restaurants must use products efficiently to minimize costly waste. Yet, many restaurants are still wasting significant food due to preventable factors like inefficient inventory management and inaccurate demand forecasting. AI can help reduce food waste (and related cost) via accurate demand forecasting, inventory optimization, and expiration date management.
- Improve cost tracking and menu pricing. Most restaurant operators (92%!) say astronomical food prices are a significant issue. Now that every penny counts, restaurants can leverage AI to calculate the costs of each plate to see whether they’re making money or if their margins are shrinking. Doing this task manually is a headache, with complicated spreadsheets, formulas, and fluctuating prices. AI can make the process significantly faster, easier, and more accurate. This gives operators a real-time understanding of the cost of each menu item so they can make educated decisions when updating their menu items and pricing.
- Improve forecasting. Using predictive analytics, AI can analyze historic sales patterns and other data to estimate future sales. By eliminating the guesswork, restaurant operators can better forecast their staffing and inventory needs to maximize profitability.
- Boost sustainability. A whopping 78% of consumers prioritize sustainability, and even more (84%) say that a lack of sustainability efforts will alienate them from a brand. It’s wise for restaurants to prioritize sustainability efforts, and AI can provide valuable data about this initiative. For instance, AI-powered tools can track data around restaurants’ carbon emissions, energy consumption, and food waste. Armed with this information, operators can identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to reduce their environmental impact.
- Elevate customer service. There are many effective ways to use AI to improve the customer experience. For example, Hardees, Carl’s Jr. and Taco Bell are using AI to improve their drive-thru efficiency, which helps boost customer satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, AI tools can make meal recommendations based on customers’ preferences and ordering history. AI can also make dinner reservations, help with online ordering, speed up meal delivery, and even answer questions, like “Where can I park near your restaurant?” In the past, chatbots’ abilities have been limited – they’ve only been able to respond with pre-set answers – but the functionality of the new ChatGPT has improved tremendously, which is opening the door for many exciting possibilities.
AI offers unlimited opportunities to improve efficiency, accuracy, transparency, innovation, sustainability, and compliance. It’s clear that AI is transforming the food industry, and restaurants need to embrace this technology or risk getting left behind.
CJ Pakeltis is Director of Business Development at RizePoint, a technology leader in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space. RizePoint’s quality management software solutions help companies, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Hard Rock International, and more, keep brand promises through their quality, safety, and compliance efforts. Customers gather better data, see necessary actions earlier, and act faster to correct issues before they become costly liabilities. Check out RizePoint’s website and/or contact the team to learn how these solutions can help your company.