Automation is now applied in various ways to almost all industries, from transportation to restaurant services you can clearly see the changes brought by technology.
The growing demand for robotic automation globally will surely get double in the coming years. From the pile of perks it offers, businesses are eagerly looking for taking advantage of such systems. Restaurateurs around the world, especially in the UK started investing in automated restaurants in order to get a competitive edge in the niche.
But how effective is this?
Does it have any negative impact also?
Like the two sides of a coin, everything has its own negatives and positives. In the case of automated restaurants also surely not everyone has been agreed or convinced with the pile of benefits it offers. There must be to some extent it possesses certain disadvantages for both customers and restaurateurs.
To get a clear picture of that extent, and to know do the positives will outrace the negative or vice- versa a detailed discussion and listing down of both negatives and positives of running an automated restaurant is highly necessary.
But before we get into a detailed study, a proper understanding of the term automation and how it works in the restaurant business is truly significant.
So let’s start with the term automation.
So, What is Automation?
Automation is defined as a technique or method of making a process or a system operate automatically. It can be described as an array of technology, which helps in diminishing human interventions.
Or in our case, we can even describe automation as the creation and application of advanced technology to track and manage the manufacturing and delivery of products or services to our customers.
The food and beverage industry is started welcoming automation in order to streamline the various tedious processes and for providing better customer services. For instance, McDonald’s has introduced self-ordering kiosks for customers to place the order and make the payment without making any human contact. At the same time, it backfires with job threats to cashiers.
A university in Texas has launched a full automated cafe with mobile and tablet apps for placing orders for offers a convenient and quick service to the customers.
Automation involves a wide array of functions such as installation, integration, design, procurement, maintenance, and management. Even marrying and sales are now changed and advanced with automation. It incorporates an exclusive range of technology and tech-savvy techniques like robotics, cybersecurity, restaurant management software, telemetry and communications, wireless application, system integration, and many more.
What Are Automated Restaurants?
Automated restaurants or robotic restaurants are an advanced category of dining or takeaways systems in which robots do all the tasks from cooking, serving to deliver. With the development and practice of innovative technologies, now various domains are using self-service electronic tools through supply automation systems.
The first self-service automation device was introduced back in the 70s in Iran for decoding barcodes for identification cards. But with even more advanced systems in 1980, replace barcode identification cards with magnetic contact cards. Innovations and rapid changes are happening in every nook and corner of the world every second with technologies.
When it comes to the food industry, they introduced a restaurant management system or even restaurant robots to automate and streamline various and significant operations of restaurant ventures to improve productivity and to keep up with the growing demands of customers.
It was not just happened overnight, even in the 1970s, there is a number of restaurants in Japan that serve food through vending machines. Now they improvise the same with more options for customisation and billing. Like I mentioned early, McDonald’s has already launched around 7000 self-ordering kiosks across Europe for more convenience to the customers and profit to the business.
Recently, a majority of restaurants are started using semi-automatic systems for collecting
orders, serving, and billing. Automation in restaurants can be considered a great achievement but at the same time, cutting down human labour is something we can’t encourage.
Let’s see some of the renowned restaurants which are fully automated and runs successfully.
- Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant
Fritz’s Railroad restaurant is one of the renowned is situated in Kansas City in Missouri. Here customers can place orders through a phone cabin and the orders are served through a system of tracks or bars called “cat-skating”. Apart from water, everything is served with the help of automation. A mechanical arm is used to stop the food at correct destinations and the speed is reduced when it reaches the customer.
- Restaurant Baggers
Restaurant Baggers is one of the top famous restaurants in the city of Nuremberg in Germany. Here they installed metal tracks to deliver food and beverage to the customers. Customers can easily order food from a touch screen after accessing the self-reading tool with their smart cards and the screen shows the expected time of arrival of the food.
Sounds pretty cool!
- Fua-Men Restaurant
As the name Fuwa Maine exemplifies fully automated, the restaurant offers a fully automated and convenient service to the customers. Situated in the city of Nagoya in Japan and famous for its delicious and piping hot Ramen. One of the main reasons for the immense flow of customers to this renowned restaurant is to see robots cooking the entire dishes. Also, the instantaneous service is also well renowned among customers. For a regular pasta dish with pork soup, it only takes about 1 minute and 40 seconds. Moreover here, people can’t even distinguish the difference between human cooking and automated cooking.
This is something people will surely try no matter what.
- Hajime Robot Restaurant
Hajime robot restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand, an authentic Japanese restaurant renowned for its Samurai costumed robots that serve customers by taking orders, cleaning tables, serve food, offer entertainment programs, and whatnot. According to the reports, those robots have cost around $ 93,200,000 but when comparing with the profit they earn, all these are worth.
Now we have a comprehensive understanding of automated restaurants and how they work.
Now let’s see how the dominance of automation affects the restaurant business, whether it is good or bad? If it is good, to what extent it is truly beneficial to both customers and restaurateurs?
Let’s start with positives.
Advantages of Running Automated Restaurants
- Convenient Ordering And Payment Methods
An automated system can diminish the workload of your employees and helps them to provide a better service to your customers. For the customer, they now have the choice to choose from a wide range of options even without stepping out of the home, easily from a handheld device like smartphones or tablets just within few clicks. Within a finite time frame, they will get their favourite food at their doorsteps. The payment options are also very convenient since they accept all modes of gateways, so you can have your favourite food through a contactless and quick service.
Another main advantage of automation is the effective restaurant billing systems. No longer have your customers had to wait in long queues to place an order? The order placed by the customers goes directly to the kitchen display without any interruption. Your team in the kitchen will get the order in less than 3 seconds and the customers immediately get an alert for that. Here the food ordering system is directly linked with the cloud-based storage application and hence an immediate print of the order is available.
This way both your customers and employees can save time and energy.
- Increased Productivity
Using these most convenient and time-saving tech-savvy techniques you can drive more and more customers to your business as well tackle regular customers in repetitive business which in turn improves productivity. With the most convenient and quick service, you will get the ability to incorporate more customers through dining as well as through takeaways.
Since it helps in removing burdens of the workload from your employees, now they can focus on different and important areas in service to expand their skills and which will boost a better working environment and also beneficial for the restaurant businesses.
- A Productive And Automatic Customer Database
All real-time information regarding your customers is instantaneously available through the comprehensive insights provided by automation systems in restaurants. A detailed dashboard shows the end-to-end details about the customers like their buying pattern, most ordered dish, how often they buy food from your restaurant, the payment gateway they used, how often they buy more food they a promotion or a discount offer is available, does he/she a loyal customer, etc.
You can use this set of assets to customise your promotions and a meal offer for them, then there is a high chance for conversion. With their contact information like phone number, email address, you can send alerts regarding the promotions and offers. This way you can make consistent communication with your customers and keep them engaged with friendly and attractive reminders.
Having an automated restaurant management system will help you to reduce spending money on the workforce because here the orders are directly sent from the customers to the kitchen display. In the early days of promotions, you need to spend a lot of money on billboards and pamphlets and which may or may not give the expected results. But at the same time promotions through such innovative software for restaurant management can give the expected return of investment, along with a fraction of the cost that you spend on billboards.
Cost for paper printing for receipts can be reduced to a great extent with an electronic invoice that is directly sent to customers given email addresses or phone numbers. Also before restaurant management systems, people need to depend on multiple platforms to get an overview of their business and that is quite expensive. But with the online management systems, you will get entire data about each matrix of your business from a single platform with a pocket-friendly budget.
- Utmost Data Security
One of the major problems that restaurant businesses faced nowadays is the increasing security breaches. Customers make online order placing by trusting your service and hand over confidential data like credit/debit details, contact details, passwords, and more. This problem mainly happens when restaurant owners focused more on the hospitality factor and entirely neglect the IT security domain.
As a part of the business, you have your own private company financial reports, your internal and confidential communications. But without a fully automated defense mechanism like a restaurant management system, all this data is unguarded.
Such systems have end-to-end encryption and have the most secured payment options. It will be guaranteed to reduce fraud and unethical hacking activities.
- Free or Cost-Effective Marketing
The restaurant management system offers a 24/7 strong online presence even without paying a lot of money. Otherwise, you need to take expensive methods like billboards and media advertising for your brand building. Internet being a vast and free tool, you can easily make a robust and attractive identity for your brand through the widely used social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and many more.
Now, let’s see how automation negatively affects restaurant businesses.
Disadvantages of Running Automated Restaurants
- Potential Job Losses
According to a survey by Oxford Economics, around 45% of people in the restaurant domain will lose their job due to robots in 2030. Automation will easily replace employees from their jobs by adapting features similar to or even more than humans. One-third of employment could be at big risk because of automation and this is the biggest concern most of the employees shared in the restaurant industry.
Consider a robot that is performing most of the jobs in a restaurant, and no need to give time for rest or any paid leaves. Definitely, it will possess a great threat to employees in the restaurant. With the introduction of artificial intelligence, now robots are advanced with reasoning and language understanding and they can effectively interact with customers.
Another job threat is faced by delivery drivers with the introduction of self-serving vehicles, drones, and robots. It can accurately deliver food to the correct destination without any mistakes. These all possess job threats to employees.
- High Initial Investment Price
Cost is an immense obstacle to entry for restaurants. In the majority of cases, the initial investment in such advanced technology is expensive than we expect, along with the cost for hardware, customisation, training, maintenance, service support, redesign, upgrades, and much more. There are no tricks to get such smart and responsive machines at affordable prices.
Like an example mentioned above about the restaurant called Hajime robot in Bangkok, Thailand, the cost for the Samurai robots is about 93,300,000 but the restaurant owner ready to take that risk because the profit earned by such restaurants is really massive. So for such restaurants that can afford such prices can only invest in such advanced automated systems and still earn a huge profit. Otherwise, a restaurant with a medium financial capacity will never be able to handle that expense and end up in debt.
However you can still save money by reducing labour costs, and controlling food wastage but still, it can’t be a permanent solution without good working capital. This brand-new technology is fully- automated and likely more expensive. Moreover, you need a high skilled and qualified specialist for any kind of repair or maintenance. So it is on your shoulders to take care of all these bills.
- Incapable of Handling Complex Situations.
Even though experts are trying hard to give better and better technologies day by day, just like incorporating artificial intelligence and language understanding to robots for making an effective interaction with customers, it can never be successful to fully duplicate the exact emotions and decisions that a human can take.
For instance, if one of your customers gets offended with the dish the robot served in front of him. Here a human employee can handle the situation far better than a robot. By listening to all their concern and recommending better solutions can be done by a human employee, not a machine.
An automated system can only be performed according to some pre-planned programs. In such cases, customers will find it irritating and a waste of time and money. Automation in the restaurant is still an appreciable achievement but it lacks some important factors.
- Lacks Human Connection
How nicely and respectfully to treat your customers defines a lot in customer experience. The way you greet them, compliment them, and helps them to select the most delicious food, helps to resolves all their service-related queries. In short human communication and interaction is a major pillar in every customer-centric business.
But all these things can be done by a robot?
Of, course it can perform all these to a great extent by pre-programming it. But if a sudden decision to be made based on an effective connection then it will be a problem for sure. Robots can surely improve the productivity of your restaurant business by resolving all the anarchic processes rapidly and effectively. But it can never replace human connections and interactions which are mandatory in every business.