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contAIn AI for Restaurants

How AI Is Propelling Restaurant Efficiency in a Post-COVID World

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way businesses operate, and the restaurant industry has been particularly battered. Between January 2020 and January 2022, the five industries most impacted by COVID-19 were airlines, automobiles, energy equipment and services, hotels and restaurants, according to studies conducted by S&P Global Market Intelligence. As consumer habits change due to remote work and a challenging economy, restaurants continue to struggle. One strategy that is gaining traction within the industry is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to become more efficient.

The Role of AI in the Restaurant Industry

Artificial intelligence can help restaurants operate more efficiently by streamlining operations and improving the customer experience. Here are some ways that AI is being used in the restaurant industry:

  1. Customer service

AI-powered chatbots can be used to answer customer questions, take orders and request feedback. Restaurants may train bots to handle these routine requests, providing highly customized experiences and freeing up human staff to focus on more complex tasks. One of the most frustrating customer experiences is calling an establishment to inquire about opening hours or wait times only to hit a full voicemail. By incorporating an automated answering solution, customers easily find the information they seek and have more incentive to support the business. Many AI solutions are composable, meaning they may be used in conjunction with existing third-party tools like reservation systems.

  1. Ordering Experiences

AI technologies can analyze a wide range of factors, like weather, time of day, and popular products, to create dynamic displays that feature the most desirable combinations of products. For example, a retailer might use AI to rearrange their displays based on weather patterns, promoting soups on colder days and ice creams on hotter days. By creating dynamic experiences that resonate with customers, retailers improve customer experiences and increase sales. In the context of self-serve kiosks and mobile apps, AI may also make personalized recommendations based on previous orders and upsell additional items to complement their current selection. The convenience reduces decision making fatigue, and can lead to increased delight and sales for the restaurant.

  1. Inventory management

AI can be used to track inventory levels in real-time, reducing waste and ensuring that popular items are always in stock. By integrating with third-party food suppliers, inventory replenishments may be automated. Restaurants may incorporate inventory data with market food trend insights to predict customer preferences and seasonality, evolving their menu offerings to increase sales.

  1. Staff scheduling

AI-powered systems can be used to create staff schedules that take into account staff availability, workload, and demand. One of the biggest challenges in running a restaurant is managing staffing levels. Too few staff members on duty during peak hours can lead to long wait times and decrease revenue. Conversely, having too many staff members on duty during slow periods results in unnecessary costs. AI-powered staff scheduling systems help restaurant managers quickly identify staffing level gaps and adjust schedules accordingly to optimize experience for both staff and customers and drive profitability.

Challenges of Implementing AI in the Restaurant Industry

While there are many benefits to using AI in the restaurant industry, there are also several challenges to highlight.

  1. Cost: Implementing AI systems can be expensive, particularly for small businesses. Existing solutions are often hyper-niche, which means restaurants may be faced with multiple subscriptions to solve the full suite of challenges they face.

  2. Training: Staff must be trained to use AI systems effectively. This can be time-consuming and expensive. Already stressed staff may be error-prone if onboarding is rushed.

  3. Resistance to change: Some staff may be resistant to change, particularly if they feel that AI is a threat to their jobs. Customers' responses may also be impacted as they empathize with staff or prefer more personalized, human interactions.

  4. Data privacy: Restaurants must ensure that customer data is collected and stored in compliance with privacy regulations. The average restaurant operator is not technical and must entrust business and customer data with third-parties that operate in black boxes.

Why You Should Partner SiriusMindShare to Grow Your Restaurant Business

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced restaurants to pivot their strategies to survive in a post-COVID world. This has resulted in openness to technology solutions, more specifically AI, from an industry that once thrived with little need for modernization. AI provides clear benefits to restaurants by allowing operators to use data-driven decision-making to improve efficiency, enhance customer and staff experiences and ultimately, increase profitability. For restaurants willing to work with AI companies that minimize risk, like securely managing customer data, the rewards are clear.

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