Restaurant tech innovations for 2019 are booming, revolutionizing the foodservice industry in ways that were once only imaginable. From the cash register to the kitchen and beyond brick-and-mortar buildings, the latest technology phenomenon is already solidifying its place as an integral part of how restaurants and catering services operate.
Make Eating Out an Exciting Customer Adventure
With new digital solutions available to make running a food or beverage business easier, more efficient, and more profitable than ever before, it is remiss for any foodservice professional not to keep up with the times and learn about solutions that could give them a pivotal edge over the competition. Moreover, with today’s diners seeking new and adventurous eating-out experiences, keeping up with emerging trends is a sure-fire recipe for success when it comes to securing the regulars and attracting new customers.
2019 Foodservice Technology Trends
So, what groundbreaking commercial equipment, kitchen appliances, software, and restaurant apps are available for you to cash in on? Here is a look at some of the newest tech trends in the foodservice industry that could revolutionize your operation in the present and catapult its success far into the future.
‘Smart’ Commercial Kitchen Appliances
From Bluetooth-enabled commercial kitchen equipment to appliances and cooking devices with Wi-Fi connectivity, automated industrial kitchens are paving the way of the future in the food industry. In addition to increasing overall efficiency, with the latest tools you can significantly reduce human-user error, avoid Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) scrutiny, and protect diner safety all in one shot.
For example, the latest professional kitchen appliances feature programmable settings, allowing you to preset on-off switches, automate cooking times for your recipes, and even monitor temperature settings remotely from your phone or other wireless device. Take Bluetooth temperature monitoring systems: They use fixed sensors or handheld probes to automatically or manually measure appliance temperatures. After you program in upper and lower temperature limits for various foods, the software will alert you of any temperature fluctuations that are beyond acceptable HACCP threshold levels and record temperature readings in a digital log, ensuring accurate HACCP reporting.
Finally, hold onto your chef’s hats while you get ready to embrace what may become the future of some eating establishments: Fully automated robotic kitchens that prepare meals in a matter of minutes, robots that act as waiters and bartenders, ghost restaurants, and wireless payment systems that accept cryptocurrency (a new type of virtual payment that uses cryptography for security).
Electronic Inventory Tracking
Say goodbye to spreadsheets, charts, and pen-and-paper schedules and hello to digital inventory tracking systems which are flooding the foodservice business. The software, which can be accessed via any computer or mobile device, provides automated purchasing tools for restaurateurs, customized pickup/delivery schedules for each product in their inventory and an up-to-the-minute count of their current holdings. From high-ticket food items and ingredients to spices, condiments, paper goods, and cleaning supplies, electronic inventory tracking eliminates human error, reduces wastage, and frees staff to concentrate on customer service and other tasks. The software also sounds an alert when products reach low levels, compares supplier prices, and even makes intelligent purchase suggestions.
Point-of-Sale Kiosks and Tablets
If you’ve passed by a restaurant window recently and noticed tables with free-standing screens, you are looking at the latest in point-of-sale technology. The kiosks, as they are called, or tablets allow customers to browse through the menu, order, and pay independently, eliminating the need for some wait staff and cashiers, speeding up the ordering process, and boosting profitability. Looking into the future, device development efforts are focusing on incorporating recognition technology which would use customers’ verbal or visual signals to track preferences and suggest menu items and payment types.
Digital Reservation Managers
A pet peeve and longtime source of customer frustration in the dining-out experience is the long wait times to be seated and waited upon. Fortunately, now keeping hungry customers happy are online reservation managers where they can book reservations directly and receive accurate information based upon requested timeframes and party size. Moreover, the software uses text notification to alert customers when their table is ready, freeing them to run errands or shop while they wait. The establishment also profits since these online reservation logs allow staff to view dining histories, including favorite menu picks and birthday/anniversary dates. This allows them to make personalized menu suggestions and give customers that all-important warm, welcome feeling.
Augmented Reality Breathing Life into Menus
So what’s on the agenda for menus in the coming year? Making menu selections ‘jump to life’ and giving customers a 3D, thrilling dining experience is one of the biggest tech trends of 2019 and it’s called Augmented Reality (AR). Showcased by Forbes business magazine as a major driver of sales, AR was created by tech startup Kabaq under the leadership of co-founders Alper Guler and Caner Soyer. The genius app allows foodservice owners to upload images which Kabaq then processes to create a 3-D food model that customers can view in-restaurant or as they order from their mobile device.
Customer satisfaction rates for AR are already sky-high, as they describe not just seeing an image of the food they are waiting for but actually experiencing it as if it was right in front of them. In particular, dessert sales are soaring at an increase of 25% at establishments which have adopted the technology. Since the AR trend is still in its early phases, you have a unique opportunity to jump into the forefront and gain a competitive edge over your adversaries using savvy marketing strategies to attract customers who are vying for something new.
iPod and Digital Menu Boards
Also trending in the realm of menu technology are iPad menus and digital menu boards. While paper menus have not yet reached ‘relic’ status in the foodservice industry, they may quickly become a thing of the past given the popularity of wireless, virtual menus which are practical, interactive, user-friendly, and cost efficient.
Digital menu boards, for example, in the form of large LCD screens featuring a restaurant’s full menu, featured items of the day, and more, eliminate expenses and labor related to writing/printing/manually updating paper menus. Instead, electronic menu boards offer owners an opportunity to create decorative menu and wine list displays and effortlessly change and update items on a minute-to-minute basis. The digital boards can also be used to display allergy information and highlight items which are nut-free, gluten-free, and dairy free for the benefit of customers with dietary restrictions.
Also benefitting your biz is the ability to view menu analytics that highlight which menu items are popular with customers and which are underperforming. Finally, savvy restaurant owners are utilizing their boards as marketing opportunities, promoting holiday specials, signature brand offerings, accessories (i.e. sale of specialty beer mugs or coffee cups), and in-store contests (i.e. guess the number of beans in the jar).
On the flip side of the coin, customers are thrilled at the opportunity to use their iPod or other handheld wireless devices to see what their food will look like, access information on the source, content, and nutritional value of foods requested, and be in control of their own ordering process (without the hassle of human error associated with handwritten order pads). Best of all, given the proliferation of digital menu technology, both options are available at prices owners can afford.
Latest in Mobile POS: Cryptocurrency
Point-of-sale (POS) and mobile POS payment systems have been around for a while and there is hardly a retailer or foodservice owner who does not offer customers the opportunity to pay via a smart phone or tablet instead of at the cash register. However, there is a new kid on the block when it comes to wireless payments and it’s called cryptocurrency.
A major benefit of POS systems has been their built-in security features. Today, digital cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, and Ethereum are making headlines and offering upgraded cryptography for security. The cryptocurrency market is expected to explode in 2019, so if you operate any type of food or beverage establishment, now is the time to jump on the wagon and be on the cutting-edge of both technology and the competition by integrating cryptocurrency into your existing POS systems.
All-in-One Restaurant Management Software
Finally, you can kill many proverbial birds with one stone if you wisely invest in the latest restaurant industry software available: All-in-one restaurant management platforms. These innovations literally do it all: manage inventory, supply analytics, display menus, offer online ordering, integrate point-of-sale, and more.
Keeping up with the Joneses
With new food industry tech trends emerging all the time, how can you keep up with the Joneses and make your foodservice operation standout from the rest? Recommended by the experts, here are some ways to remain competitive in 2019:
- Be on the watch for emerging trends by regularly browsing the now-hundreds of restaurant industry blogs posted and updated online every day
- Track food and beverage trends and gain access to millions of consumer dining experiences shared daily on social media outlets, including the always bustling Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram platforms (where you can also view images of the latest pieces-de-resistance from around the world, which may in turn stir your own chef’s culinary juices)
- Network! In a business where virtual connectivity has become the name of the game, don’t forget to network offline with other restaurant owners, caterers, and chefs, who can share valuable insights and experiences and be a great source of information regarding local and global food industry happenings.