Will you recognize your restaurant operation five years from now? You may not, at least according to some of the trends presented at FSTEC this week.
If you couldn't attend yourself, or just want to share what you learned, here’s a recap of the four technology trends highlighted at FSTEC in 2017.
Trend #1: AI Will Change Where and What We Eat
When you joined Netflix, do you remember being asked about your favorite movies and TV shows? Netflix was trying to learn more about you so it could recommend the relevant content.
The same thing is about to happen with food. Imagine visiting a new city, unsure of where to eat. If your phone knows you prefer sushi, it can take that into account when you ask for a recommendation.
Now, take that a step further. What if your phone could recommend menu selections based on what people like you have enjoyed? And instead of waiting for you to ask, it won’t be long before your phone makes recommendations on its own.
Diners of the near future won’t use on technology to merely retrieve and sort eating options. Instead, they’ll rely on AI-based tools to make smart, personalized suggestions.
Trend #2: Traditional POS Hardware Is Going Away
According to Daniel Schulman, CEO of PayPal, standalone POS hardware is already disappearing.
In Shanghai, shoppers can spend the entire day making purchases only with their smartphones. At one dining establishment, patrons simply scan a barcode on the food they’d like to buy. Payment happens at once, with no further interaction needed.
And if you think that kiosks are the wave of the future, things may not turn out that way. While kiosks might seem attractive compared to traditional cash registers, they still have drawbacks. For one, kiosks can only be used by one person at a time, so they create queues. Secondly, with guests having to log in each time, kiosks don't always offer the fastest service possible.
Mobile payments can offer a better user experience, primarily through faster transactions the elimination of lines. Once all the security issues are resolved, it's only a matter of time before mobile becomes the de facto method of payment.
Trend #3: Expect Unrelated Industries To Disrupt Your Business
Tesla's JB Stroebel believes that changes in transportation will disrupt entire business ecosystems.
Take self-driving cars. Think they have nothing to do with foodservice? Consider this: when machines do the driving for us, diners may not care if your restaurant is nearby or a bit further away.
Furthermore, what happens when self-driving cars turn into a fleet of on-demand delivery vehicles? Consumers will start to expect that the dining experience to comes to them. As a restult, the act of actually going to a restaurant may become a less frequent event.
That’s just one example of how an “unrelated” industry could change the way you do business. Consider these other trends:
- Voice is becoming the new computer interface of choice. Just take a look at the Alexa skills already available for Delivery & Takeout.
- Amazon has entered the foodservice industry head first by purchasing Whole Foods.
- Drones are transforming delivery infrastructure. In fact, Wal-Mart has already applied for a patent on a floating warehouse that would make heavy use of drones.
- Machines will start buying on our behalf. Today you can order more coffee with the press of a button. Tomorrow, a computer will detect when you’re low and automatically order for you.
- The Internet of Things is already here, with over 100 billion connected devices. And new standards in Wi-Fi, Bluetooh, and cellular continue to provide new ways of connection.
Trend #4: Restaurants Need All Data They Can Get – And Tools to Make Sense of It All
Everything mentioned above – AI, personalization, mobile payments, and more – depends on two things: vast amounts of data, and software to turn raw information into actionable intelligence.
There’s still a lot of work to be done before that becomes a reality. Here are the immediate challenges that technology companies are focused on solving today:
Data segregation. Data sets are siloed, and operators can’t get a holistic view of their restaurants. Software that can merge mutliple data sets together will be of enormous value.
Understanding what drives behavior. Restaurants already have plenty of ways to track sales. But visibility on what drives that behavior is limited. Restaurants need to know how things like weather, social media trends, news, and traffic affect sales. Expect new software to arrive that answers this.
Anonymous diners. Restaurant operators know little about the people passing through their doors. Technology that can identify guests, track behavior, and create micro-segments will revolutionize foodservice marketing.
Food Service is Either A Scary or a Thrilling Place To Be
We can do our best to predict the trends that will shape the industry, but no one can see the future with certainty. However, if you wait until something becomes a "sure thing", you've already missed your chance to get ahead.
With change happening so rapidly, only the restaurants that embrace disruption are likely to succeed long term. Some see this as frightening; we think it's exciting. We hope you do to.
Did you have the chance to attend FSTEC yourself? If so, we’d love to hear what you learned. Let us know in the comments.