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How smart things are helping restaurants to become more finely tuned to their customers.
As humans, we’re more connected than ever. Connectivity is something we live by and it makes sense that sooner rather than later, the things around us will join the world of global connectivity. Of course, we’re all excited for the internet of things (IoT). If the things are smarter we don’t have to be. All of the mundane, boring tasks suddenly become automated and taken care of by “something” else.
Restaurants are one particular industry we’re interested in. Smooth operations have always been a key part of hospitality. Without them, restaurants fail to run and customers can get annoyed quite quickly. Here are some of the best and most realistic IoT solutions we see for the connected restaurant of now and the future.
Companies such as Restaurant Technologies track data across the connected restaurant space. This data might monitor say, oil levels across multiple pieces of cooking equipment. The company then delivers oil only based on what the restaurant actually needs at any given moment. This dynamic delivery services saves the restaurant on cost, waste and ensures it never runs out of oil again. The real beauty as they tell it, is in the way the data is analyzed. Data collection is not too difficult using cellular device transmission units attached to each fryer or oven. The difficulty is in the analysis of said data and the action you can take as a result. For example, oil level low = order more oil. The same system could monitor fridges for product stock or even keep a check on how many plates or glasses are stacked on a certain shelf to save on last-minute shortages.
Restaurants are one industry where it’s quite difficult to monitor what’s going on unless you’re inside the physical restaurant itself. Now and in the future, data will become much more accessible through smartphones and app-based monitoring. When you think of an online company, such as a SaaS tool, you have all sorts of dashboards available that tell you about the health of your company. You can login and see how many customers you have, what type of sales you’re making that day, who’s visiting your website and so on. In a restaurant, this information is invisible, or at best hard to obtain.
For example, the operations manager of a chain of restaurants could monitor the entire kitchen ecosystem. Able to check in on exactly how long the cooking equipment is being used for, peak periods, energy usage and so on. Sensors mounted on each piece of kitchen equipment could send this data to the cloud in real time, allowing them to make instant decisions on opening hours and equipment use.
For a general manager, IoT could monitor customer number, peak periods and average orders, allowing them to view the information on a smartphone app from wherever they are to better schedule staff and market their business in quiet periods.
Having live data available on a smartphone gives restaurants a way to react in the moment, improving operations as a result.
The digital screen. Often, this is the easiest smart “thing” to implement that many restaurants are already using today to great effect. Digital signage allows restaurateurs to set up personalized, tailored displays of content that appeal directly to their audience. These content streams don’t have to be the static news displays they once were. With cloud-based digital signage software systems, digital menus can be changed and edited in seconds. This allows restaurant staff to make changes to menus as items sell out, or to upsell specials on specific times and days. One of our deli customers did exactly that and went from selling zero speciality hot chickens to selling out of chicken in just a few flicks of their screen.
Digital signage can also be used to add real time travel updates, live news, emergency warning systems, social media and customer feedback and testimonials. All great ways to make your restaurant more awesome and increase connectivity between your customers and what you do.
Online and connected ordering systems are already here in many restaurant chains, including McDonald's and Pizza Hut. These systems allow customers to order, pay and sometimes receive their orders without relying on a staff member. Great for those times when you know exactly what you want and just want to get your food.
The next step of the connected restaurant space is hyper personalized ordering systems. Vitamogo, a restaurant in London, is a bit like MyFitnessPal crossed with a make your own pizza party (without the pizza). Their mobile app allows you to create your own meal, choosing individual ingredients. Once chosen, you can then adjust amounts in order to get that perfect protein or calorie balance. They claim to be able to create meals for vegetarians, vegans, paleos, low carb and gluten free diners. You then collect your order in as little as two minutes, or order in ahead and choose a time slot to collect if you’re really hungry.
Due to everything being hyper personalized in our online lives, it probably won’t be long before hyper-personalized meals become the norm in the connected restaurant space.
With customers now demanding farm-to-table freshness in their meals and an onus on seasonal produce, stock and wastage can be an issue. Restaurants are now using connected systems where sensors and stock control are managed in the cloud, producing warning, alerts and smarter stock management systems.
This even works at the very point of sale. SteadyServ® iKeg® solution is a keg tracker that monitors beer servings from point of delivery, through to pouring. This allows bars to keep a better handle on what they’re selling and when they may need to reorder. Similarly, BarVision is a connected system that tracks how much of a drink is poured. This not only makes stock management easier, but also makes security on products a breeze. When you can see what’s being poured you can easily track any over or under pouring issues.
At the end of the day IoT, and any form of technology, will never replace great food and drink. But what they can do is create a great experience to go with it. Restaurants put on a show night after night, and no two night are ever the same. This increases the pressure for them to get things right first time, every time. In an IoT-enabled restaurant space, interconnectivity between people, systems and products could make all the difference.