In the current times, technology has been an indispensable part of every industry.
In the last few years, technology has taken large strides in terms of impact. However, if we talk specifically about the food and beverage (F&B) industry, it has seen tough times during the last few years.
The pandemic caused a total closure of outdoor dining. This resulted in restaurants moving to makeshift delivery or cloud kitchens, asking visitors for proof of vaccination and allowing limited seats.
The ordeal was harrowing, and several big and small operators suffered from untimely bankruptcy and closure.
Even as the pandemic environment and closure of dine-in hopefully become a thing of the past, there are still continual staffing and economic challenges facing the industry. However, those who were able to survive and are continuing to thrive do so in part because of their adapting capabilities and ability to embrace technology.
This article discusses the top 11 restaurant technology trends to know in 2022 and beyond for the F&B industry.
1. The rise of QR codes and digital menus
The contactless payment market will cross a 6 trillion dollar valuation by 2024 and is fast gaining traction globally.
F&B brands started acknowledging that it was not only about placing online orders and contactless delivery, but they also needed intuitive payment methods to facilitate a social distancing-certified food experience.
While some countries leveraged existing payment infrastructure, others introduced ideas like tap and pay and more to create a seamless experience for their customers.
Mobile-first countries like China had adopted QR code menus and other digital modes for serving menus years back.
However, previously many developing and even developed countries relied on hard copies or single-use menus for serving their customers.
Alas, with social distancing becoming the norm and people preferring to limit physical contact, most restaurant brands started using QR code menus and other digital menu forms.
A QR Code menu is an excellent way to minimise physical contact.
It helps reduce unnecessary communication between serving staff and diners. The service staff can, therefore, focus on more value-added interactions, and give access to complementary capabilities like contactless payment along with the primary purpose of ordering.
The best part of such tech is that you do not require your customer to download an additional app for ordering. Instead, all they have to do is scan the code through their camera, and it will redirect them to a visual menu for ordering and payments.
2. The shift to online ordering
As per McKinsey, the food delivery business is now worth over 150 billion USD, a 3 times growth in the last five years, primarily because of the pandemic. Due to their steep growth, delivery businesses like ‘DoorDash’ and ‘UberEats’ have become household names.
There were many reasons for restaurants holding back their steps to go online. However, irrespective of their previous stance, many have primarily relied on their delivery sales to bring in revenue, especially given the shift in consumer behaviour over the past couple of years. .
For this, more and more restaurant brands have collaborated with marketplace delivery apps which have existing customer bases, to help facilitate more online sales and more revenue for their business.
Additionally, in order to manage performance visibility and customer feedback across multiple delivery apps, restaurants have been also using tools like Momos, to provide them the ability to manage multiple sales and feedback channels in 1 easy to use platform.
3. Shift to first-party delivery platforms
This is a system where customers can order directly from the restaurant’s website for delivery. Third-party delivery services often charge additional money from customers as well as high commission rates from restaurants, which can make it challenging at times for restaurants to make their sales channel extremely profitable.
However, with the advent of technology, first-party options have now become affordable and accessible, particularly for brands with a strong website and digital brand presence. Both large brands and small/local food chains can easily use these and drive more sales and direct engagement points with customers.
With Momos, our branded microsite allows brands to advertise their chosen channel of delivery sales, and makes it easy for customers to order in just a couple of clicks.
4. Automated inventory management software
Managing multiple sales channels has becoming an extremely challenging task for F&B businesses, not just from marketing but also from a kitchen operations perspective
One of the major pain points was their inability to keep count of the inventory, from raw materials to finished goods. This ended up creating a significant gap between customer expectations and reality. It also led to increased wastage, apparently costing brands in this space 100 billion dollars annually.
So a lot of companies came up with unique solutions that could automate inventory management for the restaurant industry. There has also been a growing trend of technology providers linking sales information to inventory management software to supplier ordering to fully streamline the management and purchasing of inventory for restaurants.
5. Rise of Kitchen Display Systems (KDS)
With most aspects of the front-end restaurant world shifting online, there was a need to automate its back-end processes too.
So, along with automated inventory management software, we also saw the rise of kitchen display systems.
It helps the workforce maintain consistency and efficiency by pushing all the orders across online and offline channels to the KDS for improved visibility.
In addition, these KDS are integrated with POS terminals to allow automated inventory and order management without compromising on speed, service quality, accuracy, and consistency.
6. Increased importance of cloud kitchens and virtual brands
In the past, many skilled business people had to give up their dream of owning a restaurant because of their inability to secure a decent space to accommodate their diners.
It has been a thing of the past now, with modern restaurant entrepreneurs fast adopting the concept of cloud kitchen. The concept of cloud kitchen is simple - they only accept takeaway or delivery orders and do not have a premise for the diner to come, sit, and enjoy their meal.
With increased automation, the owners can run successful cloud kitchens at a fraction of the retail estate cost and labour otherwise involved in maintaining a full-fledged restaurant.
The concept of virtual brands is another innovative trend, which allows restaurants to use a single kitchen for cooking multiple types of food under multiple customer-facing brands.
This maximises a restaurant’s ability to generate revenue from a single kitchen, particularly useful when it comes to satisfying different consumers’ taste preferences and ordering preferences at different times of day, all from a single location.
Momos works specifically with virtual brands to help manage their online reputation, marketing and data, which is pivotal for them to be successful.
7. Customers opting for self-ordering kiosks
Today, GenZ prefers self-ordering and given that they are tech-savvy, it was only fitting that restaurant brands would use technology to make it a reality.
As a result, one of the biggest restaurant technology trends of 2022 has been the rise of brands similar to McDonald’s with dedicated self-ordering kiosks at multiple locations within their stores.
While it has undoubtedly reduced the need for keeping extra staff, there have been several ancillary benefits of allowing users to order via digital screens.
First, there are shorter queues at the counter which has helped manage the workload for their employees.
The second benefit would be the improved order accuracy as there is minimal human involvement while an order is being placed.
Finally, brands have played smartly and used this opportunity to improve cross-selling and upselling by suggesting combos and add-ons to the customers.
8. The shift to marketing automation
With the increased focus on online channels, it is imperative for restaurant brands to understand that they are not just meeting their potential customers in physical dining outlets. Customers are now coming through multiple digital channels, such as SMS, phone calls, and more.
While it seemed cumbersome initially, restaurant brands are finally starting to realise that it gives them plenty of opportunities to connect with their customers and collect vital data for decision-making.
Unfortunately, traditional systems are incapable of harnessing and managing omnichannel marketing.
So, brands are fast moving towards marketing automation using dedicated tools which use AI, cognitive tech, and more to enable them to manage and execute their endeavours better.
These tools have made hyper-automation a possibility, have placed automated triggers for specific actions, and have been able to use the data available to generate vital insights and predictions.
Also read our article on “Digital marketing for restaurants: How to get started?”
9. Automated food delivery via drones and robots
Automated food delivery was always on the cards, and it finally started taking shape in the last couple of years.
Implementing machines for automated deliveries benefits both sides as it reduces labour costs for the restaurant owners and eliminates the need for tipping for the end customer.
The feasibility of these processes is still in the testing phase, and there is a lot of work pending.
However, if brands are able to use drones and robots for their delivery needs successfully, it will pave the way for an improved delivery structure and ease issues associated with manual deliveries.
10. Eco-friendly packaging technology
Interestingly, about 50% of consumers report that environmental sustainability is vital to their purchasing decisions.
This is the reason why various restaurants and packaged food brands have started investing in eco-friendly packaging techniques for their products. These include the use of recyclable and biodegradable materials like paper, bamboo, bioplastics, etc.
Many large restaurant brands like Starbucks, McDonalds, etc., shifted some of their plastic products like straws and cups to biodegradable ones.
And the effect has been more than positive on their customers.
Consumers noticed how these brands were concerned about conserving the environment and, in return, developed a stronger attachment and loyalty towards the company.
Following the leads, various other food organisations have started taking interest in sustainable products like paper-based straws and cutlery, paper packaging boxes, paper towels, and other environment-friendly tableware.
11. Digital loyalty and reputation management
Online reputation management and building loyalty online is another essential restaurant technology trend that can not be missed.
It starts with strategies like responding to customer reviews, building customer profiles, maintaining a consistent social media presence, creating a strong website presence and optimising GMB listing.
Other restaurant brands have also extended this to providing bespoke loyalty programs and rewards to customers via their website or app to drive repeat business and brand loyalty.
Tools like those from Momos help to increase digital loyalty and customer engagement by simplifying the management of reviews, messages, customer interactions, etc.
While technology trends will continue to bloom, there is a need for restaurant brands to set up a structure that would enable them to make the most of these innovations.
For this, they need to continually evolve, innovate, and understand customer preferences to ensure they are in sync. There is also a need to ensure the technology providers they choose are compatible with each other in order to maximise automation and the benefits from technology seamlessly across all the different parts of managing a successful restaurant!