How Customer Autonomy is Driving New Restaurant Trends

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

Despite being one of the oldest institutions we know, the restaurant industry is in need of a facelift. As innovations in AI and autonomy have brought about some major changes in other industries, this trend is starting to come around to restaurants, which is going to be huge.

This isn’t just about being able to walk up and serve yourself, but rather how that change in behavior is going to affect the service industry across the board. And while it might seem scary, the future of autonomy in restaurants is already starting to impact new trends. Here’s how:

Banking On The Future

Just last year alone venture capitalists Benzion Aboud and Joe Randazza announced a plan to invest $21 million into new restaurant concepts (as noted by Nation’s Restaurant News). Yes, with the right idea in place, food is becoming a hot commodity among investors, with autonomous service solutions at the forefront.

An excellent example of this trend has been with Momentum Machines, which according to Business Insider, raised $18 million in financing last year for a robot that can churn out 400 burgers an hour. An impressive feat by any machine, it’s easy to see why investors find such an idea attractive. Not only could it be distributed to every McDonald’s in the world, but it additionally reduces human labor for restaurants, a tremendous cost (especially when you consider turnover). Granted, technologies like this won’t always be able to replace that ‘human touch’ for our food, but they can help us get some food in our stomach quickly. And with how popular fast casual has been, expect startups like Momentum Machines to find a way to thrive in that market.

While we’re still in the early stages regarding how far autonomy in the industry can go, early signs are pointing in a positive direction. Especially when it comes to industries of high-volume, autonomy could be a gamechanger.

Giving The Customers What They Want

All of us hate waiting in lines. Whether it be at a food truck, in a bar, or even through made-to-order corrals, there’s nothing more frustrating than being seconds away from what you want. However, these hotspots are where autonomy could thrive, especially with the bar scene.

One company that’s doing some amazing at the forefront of bar technology is Pacific Pourhouse, which is set to open in San Francisco’s East Bay at the end of January. As an early adopter of the self-serve beer system, what makes Pacific Pourhouse interesting is the model they’ve established to reduce the number of roadblocks ahead. Using an RFID chip in a bracelet, they’re able to prevent over-consumption, as well as underage drinking, which can be quite costly to any bar. Additionally, the service increases efficiency and overhead, as customers don’t need to see a bartender anymore or even work out their tip (especially after a couple of drinks).

As an early use case for the self-serve beer trend, this could be a smash hit in adoption of autonomy. When you factor in how widespread the craft beer trend has been, people are going to look at this as the natural next step, eventually demanding it at festivals and corporate events. Plus, the self-pour model actually enables customers to explore more craft varieties, as they can try out multiple beers without having to order a full glass.

Make no mistake, the future is now, and it’s only a matter of time that others start to see the benefits in an industry that’s so dependent on numbers.

A Reduction In Waste

If you asked any restaurant owner to determine their biggest expense (beside staff) most would probably say waste. This has been a constant problem since we graduated from the public-house, as there’s no rhyme or reason to what people will buy and when. Additionally, with how much that has to go into training everyone perfectly to reduce waste, it can be a true headache to deal with (let alone how much is lost to theft). However, when customers serve themselves, a significant amount of that cost is passed onto the consumers.

Going back to the self-serve beer model, this is practically a Godsend for those looking to save on beer costs. In fact, according to Modern Restaurant Management, approximately 20 percent of every keg is wasted beer, which when it comes to buying expensive craft options, can be a significant amount of money. However, when charging by the ounce, you’ve reduced the cost that bad pours cost you, as well as eliminated any samples your bartender would give away. And when other restaurants start seeing the numbers back from that, switching over will be a no-brainer.

At the end of the day, autonomy in certain instances is going to be something that both business owners and consumers will love. On one end, the customer is served quicker, while on the other, the restaurant loses less money. Which, if you’re a restaurant owner, this begs the question: when do you think you might convert over to an autonomous system?

Before You Go

Popular in the Community