Culinary Arts
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Restaurant technology trends to watch in 2024

EHL Insights
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The restaurant industry, which until recently has relied on traditional processes, is currently undergoing a huge digital transformation with food and beverage establishments of all sizes adopting technology and innovative digital solutions. Against the backdrop of uncertain markets, record inflation, and the IMF forecast for global growth to decelerate from 3% this year to 2.9% in 2024, well below the historical average, we know that eating out and going for a drink or leisure activity, what are considered 'luxuries' to the majority of the population, will be the areas people cut back on to reduce their household expenditure.

The resilient F&B sector is no stranger to challenging times, the past few pandemic-fuelled years of economic hardship have forced food and beverage outlets to look beyond the traditional. Many restaurants have turned to tech in the last couple of years, even if reluctantly, to adapt to a new reality. One which includes more contactless technology, and is realigned with new customer expectations and wants whilst trying to offset the rising operational costs.

How these restaurant technology trends will help overcome challenging markets in 2024

With economic instability forecast for 2024 at least, an already struggling restauration sector will be forced into yet more spending cuts as consumers alike will be tightening their budgets. Tech can often be the solution for finding new ways to trim the fat from any business type. What's more, quality and experience will be key as customers will be less forgiving towards any bad experiences.

In a Deloitte survey, more than half of Gen Z and millennials say they live paycheck to paycheck. As the cost-of-living crisis continues, consumers are having to be more careful with their budgets, and that may mean cutting back on takeout.

It’s predicted that growth in the restaurant industry will be largely driven by off-premise consumption, using technology is not just about improving operations and service delivery, but also reimagining restaurants. In fact, it’s estimated that 50% of restaurant owners are tapping into new revenue streams, such as grocery, retail, and meal kits.

Technology and innovation is what has helped, even saved, restaurants as they transform how they operate to not just survive, but thrive, in this new connected and contactless era. The F&B industry can no longer afford to ignore the trends that are helping businesses reinvent themselves to remain relevant and competitive.

To help you stay ahead of these growing trends, we’ve put together a list of the top restaurant tech trends that you might want to consider investing in in the coming year.


Top Restaurant Technology Hardware 2024

1. Contactless payment

Contactless payment has become increasingly popular in the restaurant industry. This technology isn't just about placing an order online; it also allows diners to pay for food with a smartwatch, smartphone, or smart card via an app or touchless device.

While contactless payment had been gradually gaining momentum in the global restaurant industry, the pandemic made it the new normal to prevent the spread of germs through exchanging money. According to 2020 Juniper research, approximately 53% of global transactions running through POS will be contactless in the next five years.

With no cash, human contact isn't required, meaning contactless payment is not only quick and convenient for the customer but also hygienic and safer for customers and staff alike. If restaurants don't want to be left behind, it's high time they invest in a mobile and digital payment solution.

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2. Digital kitchen ‘boards’

As online orders continue to increase, restaurants must adopt new ways to streamline their operations. Kitchen display systems (KDS) are digital menu boards for kitchen staff that help restaurants streamline back-of-house operations. This technology improves operations by creating synergy between the front-of-house and the kitchen, enabling them to take customer orders and confirm whether those orders are ready in a more efficient way.

A kitchen display system is directly linked to the restaurant's point-of-sale (POS) system and starts to work immediately when an order is placed. The screen displays orders automatically based on priority and flags any special dietary requests. It also tracks meal delivery times and monitors inventory to signal when an item is out of stock. Digital kitchen displays promise a sustainable kitchen operation by ensuring better communication, clearer workflows, and accuracy.

3. Self-Order Kiosks

Self-order kiosks are not new to consumers in the fast-food segment especially, but they are growing in popularity in 2024 for a number of reasons. Customers enjoy the convenience of ordering via easy-to-use digital displays, and the digitally native consumer finds this a more relaxing experience in comparison to ordering with a human. They can also review and personalize their order autonomously - meaning it's less likely for small yet irritating slip-ups to occur, like forgetting to add the sauce.

For the restaurant owner, aside from the obvious potential to reduce front-of-house staffing costs and increasing speed of order fullfillment, service kiosks offer them the opportunity to increase the average order value with upsell prompts. Some digital menu boards have integrated AI technology able to upsel dynamically based on trending products or the weather.


Top Restaurant Technology Software 2024

1. New delivery app features

There are no signs of this trend waning in 2024 as customers get increasingly accustomed to ordering food online and having it delivered right where they are. In fact, according to Statista, the global online food delivery market is estimated to be $130.2 billion and is expected to grow to $223.7 billion by 2027.

Third-Party aggregator food delivery solutions such as DoorDash, UberEats, and GrubHub will keep on being essential tools for restaurants that cannot offer in-house food ordering and delivery services. However, larger fast-food chains such as Dominoes have their own integrated apps offering users a seamless experience whilst the well-known pizza brand gets to take up real esate on the users phone and has the potential to send push notifications.

The aggregator apps however, are developing new innovative features in order to stand out from the crowd. Uber Eats for example is now offering searchable pickup maps on their mobile app, which allow customers to simply search for a cuisine by using an emoji. Hungry customers can also start ordering ahead for pickup at airports, to avoid waiting in line at the counter before their flight.

Grubhub is helping football fans get back to the game with order pick up at sports stadiums. It’s estimated that this will help cut wait times at major sporting events. Whether travelling, partcipating in leisure activities or just relaxing at home, customers are expecting more convenience when it comes to online food ordering.

2. Automated inventory management software

Automated inventory management software helps restaurants track food and beverage stock, anticipate quantities, and schedule reorders more efficiently and faster. More importantly, implementing this software in your work process can minimize food wastage, which reportedly costs the hospitality industry $100 billion annually not to mention the environmental cost.

By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), companies are not only helping restaurants reduce food waste but also ensuring their efficient and sustainable running. Also, partnerships with programs like Too Good to Go can save restaurants from wasting their excess food–they can avail it to users as a meal deal. Let's face it: initiatives that save time and money, all while ensuring environmental sustainability, are a no-brainer, especially since sustainability is at the forefront of the global agenda in 2024.

3. QR codes

QR codes are slowly replacing restaurant menus. Already popular in mobile-first societies like China, this restaurant technology is gradually going global, with more and more restaurants around the world adopting it. In fact, the global QR Code Labels Market size is projected to reach $1.3 bn by 2026.

In the prevailing contactless era, auto-scanning barcodes allow customers to access online menus, order, and pay for their orders by performing a simple scan on their mobile phone. This technology, which does not require that an app be downloaded plays a key role in helping restaurants with contact tracing –is currently mandatory in various parts of the world. Providing various benefits to restaurants at low costs, QR code technology will continue to be important in 2024 and beyond.

4. Autonomous delivery & meal preperation

Despite the toll that the rising cost of living is taking on people's budgets, ordering food to go is still more popular in 2024 than it was pre-pandemic.

One of the eye-catching technology trends in the restaurant industry is the implementation of autonomous vehicles in food delivery. This technology can not only streamline the delivery process but can also cut delivery costs. Domino has already tested self-driving delivery cars in Las Vegas and Miami, while not mainstream yet, the use of driverless vehicles for food delivery will happen in the near future.

Similarly, drone technology has the potential to take off in 2024 as it meets a range of last-mile consumer derlivery types, such as prepared food, convenience products, and other small packages. This technology is not only cost efficient due to lower labor costs but also lower in CO2 emissions compared to electric and fuel-powered vehicles.

Another automous trend lowering labor costs is meal preperation bots. McDonald’s is testing out new innovations when it comes to cooking and taking orders. At a handful of locations, they’re already testing out bots that are used to cook orders, Alexa-style voice ordering, and self-serve kiosks being used to drive pickup orders.

An executive from Yum brands, which owns several fast-food chains including Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell, predicted in 2017 that AI, robots and automation could replace human workers “by the mid (2020s).”

5.. Online table reservation system

While booking a table via a phone was considered convenient, the emergence of online table reservation technology is rendering it a thing of the past. Providers such as Eat App,Wisely, and OpenTable enable customers to see available slots and make table reservations on the go.

By leveraging technology-enabled table reservation systems, restaurants can manage waitlists, seating, dining preferences, and customer loyalty as well as collect crucial client data which they can use to gain market insights or for contact tracking.

OpenTable takes the concept of online reservation a notch further. Through its Experiences program, OpenTable makes it possible for restaurants to show customers the best food and dining experiences they offer when a customer books 'a unique dining experience. Whether it's a 'side dish' of line dancing lessons, tasting menus, or wine pairings, customers can easily book their next dining experience and indulge in whatever meal they crave.

6. Digital Customer Loyalty

Another exciting restaurant technology trend focuses on enhancing customer spending and fostering loyalty. In many restaurants customers now have the option to join a loyalty program either online or through an app by providing their contact details like a phone number or email.

Once enrolled, the program diligently monitors their spending habits and offers personalized rewards based on their previous purchases. This seamless and individualized approach not only enhances the overall dining experience for customers but also empowers restaurant owners to suggest new dishes and incentives to encourage them to indulge and spend more.

7. Automated Customer Service

In response to the global labor shortages, an increasing number of restaurant brands are embracing innovative technology to optimize their operations and automate various tasks. By implementing automated systems for customer communications and payments, restaurants can efficiently bridge any gaps and focus on what they do best.

In fact, up to 46% of restaurant owners are already automating their customer communications to help streamline their business and in 2024 this is set to rise once again. Customers value great customer service more than ever, therefore automating some customer service processes is just one tool to enable restauranteurs to communicate with customers and deliver excellent service in their digital spaces as well as at their physical venue.

AI Chatbots can provide valuable assistance to restaurants in a variety of ways:

  • Intuitively guide customers through a website
  • Take customer orders
  • Offer special promotions
  • Answer customer questions

Consider the possibilities of dedicating more time to renewing your restaurant's menu and exploring innovative concepts while technology takes care of automating various reptitive and mundane tasks for you. With the increasing popularity of food delivery, it becomes essential for restaurant owners to optimize efficiency in order to stay ahead in a competitive market.


Accelerating digitalization in the F&B industry

These restaurant technology trends are helping accelerate digitization in the F&B industry and will help restaurants grow in 2024 and beyond. They offer unique solutions for restaurants to differentiate themselves and gain an edge and for owners and managers to run their businesses more efficiently. As a result, they have more time to focus on delighting their guests with mouth-watering food and new unique dining experiences, be they in-house or off-promise. A win-win solution, don't you think?

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