With the tremendous amount of innovation in the restaurant business, gone are the days when a food truck only meant simple street food. Today, even small entrepreneurs in the food sector have got business models in place that allow them to use the finest of ingredients in innovative ways (think, gourmet Asian fusion from a kiosk or a small kitchen).
Additionally, over the past few years, online ordering is on a steady rise, with food orders and delivery growing 300% faster than dine-in traffic, from 2014 to 2016. There are several opportunities in the food sector, but traditional restaurants are facing a number of challenges as a result of this since their establishments are more permanent and mostly rooted in aged practices. Though these restaurants have a large pool of information and resources, the dynamic and increasing number of trends make drawing customers to these restaurants a difficult task to maintain, if processes and products aren’t up-to-date with the latest in the industry.
This is where using artificial intelligence (AI) can provide an effective solution to traditional establishments. Using AI can help restaurants seamlessly collect data on relevant trends for their individual businesses, both for the food as well as customers’ dining experiences. Further, AI has the potential to help integrate and streamline operations and processes that will help them increase productivity and cut costs simultaneously.
Get a hold on dynamic trends with adjusted processes
Restaurateurs have generally played it safe, taking their time to plan and test products and services before they launch them. In this world where the trend landscape is ever-changing, this method proves to be mostly ineffective. This is because, as one prepares and is just about ready to hop on to the wagon of a new trend, there is already a new version of it on the rise. Hence, adaptability and quick execution of plans are of paramount importance.
Having processes based on AI tools makes this possible more easily, as one can quickly make changes and shifts according to what these tools find or predict. Here is where restaurateurs need to incorporate the available data into their systems and really make use of them to find impactful solutions.
A global fast food giant has already used AI to bolster its growth strategy. With a focus on improving digital capabilities including kiosk ordering, delivery and accelerating the implementation of its new future-friendly restaurants. Through these enhanced processes, they saw average growth across these stores of 5.5 per cent in a year’s time. They are planning to further enhance processes to cut down problem-solving time via natural-language bots to improve the kitchen and infrastructural functions, thus giving more time to customers and giving them a better experience.
Give experiences more importance - they win half the battle
Everyone is looking for a great dining experience. Taking pictures of a great looking place and a plate of food before one eats it has become a ritual in today’s times, almost like a pre-meal prayer. People’s social media feeds, be it bloggers or just amongst friends, are flooded with great experiences to try out. These provide immense aspirational value, often taking precedence over anything else about the restaurant. Millennials, especially, are likely to visit a place based purely on the ambience and experience - just to tick that off their “been there” list.
So, you could have the best food but an ‘okay’ experience, and have people order in or not engage with you at all. This is why restaurateurs need to focus more on the experience they have on offer, and AI can aid this to a large extent. The more information and perspectives you give an AI tool, the smarter it gets. Making use of the right AI tools for your business can give you an edge over competitors, and smooth transitions in your offerings to cater to what people want. As a result of adopting this strategy, restaurants can increase profits and stay on top of the trends that are likely to dominate.
In the retail sector, several companies are looking at using AI to give customers experiences of the future, such as having processes automated to the extent that there is no need for a checkout counter (and waiting in line). With these processes in place, customers can just take what they like and will be charged and given a receipt virtually. This is based on AI sensors that track exactly what they have picked up, thus enabling a smooth shopping experience (where ‘experience’ is the keyword).
For the customer to truly be ‘king’, use AI to deliver
Consumers have fast-paced lives where food decisions are taken quickly, and behaviours are changing accordingly. With the advent of new technologies across industries, those who are fast-adopting the new are setting the foundation for the future of their businesses. Traditional restaurants are mostly being overshadowed by the new wave of food businesses, which focus on factors like convenience and style. To be able to retain, as well as draw in new customers, beginning to implement an AI-based strategy is the best possible way forward for restaurants before the world takes a deep-dive into the automated sphere.
It is important for these businesses to make these shifts and implement processes now, because of the pace with which technology is taking over functions. With several players in the food sector already implementing AI, those who don’t will find that they have been left way behind. Additionally, fuelling AI with relevant information will make it smarter, so it’s best to do it now rather than wait for later when it’s time to carry out these changes. This is because others will have already done it, and the whole purpose of staying ahead of times with AI may be defeated.
Though the discussions around AI have largely been about its immense potential to transform businesses into movie-like futuristic forms, using the basics of AI is what will help restaurateurs right now. These basics are obviously, customer service, business operations, and last - but not the least - food trends! AI will serve not just as a peephole into what other businesses are doing and what customers want, but also help traditional restaurants actually implement these in order to survive in the long run.
-- Mr Anil Kaul, Co-Founder and CEO, Absolutdata...