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How artificial intelligence is changing the face of the UK restaurant industry

Matthew Khoury, CEO of LOKE, the tailor-made loyalty, ordering and payment app for the hospitality industry, looks at how AI is driving change in the industry and what this will mean for operators in 2019.

The sheer volume of artificial intelligence (AI) establishing its presence in our daily lives is quite phenomenal. Rewind to 2016 and a hop across the pond to the US and at the time, what operators were doing with AI, was considered truly ground-breaking. According to insight from CNBC, 60% of US restaurants were failing due to choice of location. However, the clever ones were deploying location intelligence to stay ahead of the game to reduce the risk on failed expansion plans. Location intelligence uses complex methods of analysis, which combines real, raw data from a business with location information, to predict the effect of a nearby competitor’s presence on an operator’s profits to an exact level of confidence.

Fast forward to 2019 and the latest global study by Oracle, entitled ‘Restaurant 2025’, revealed that consumers are more willing to engage with new technology if they feel they are still in control and enjoy a personalised customer experience. Interestingly, the study also found that a third of restaurant operators think that guest recognition via facial biometrics will be in use within the next five years, whilst one in two customers agreed that having this recognition would improve their experience.

So, let’s take a look at the world of AI and how it will play a major role in the future of the UK restaurant industry.

AI gets personal

Whether its customers using a venue’s app, or staff carrying out tasks on site, the beauty of AI is that it is able to adapt according to the needs of the individual and across a multitude of platforms. For customers, particularly social-savvy millennials, they could be sat at work just before lunch and receive an automated push notification from an operator to let them know that their favourite venue has a table free for them. The venue’s app will also recognise that the customer is short of time and will offer to have the kitchen start preparing the customer’s favourite order so it’s ready for them when they arrive. Those looking to pay quickly, will be able to do so using AI, whilst earning valuable loyalty points to encourage that all-important return visit. For team members, AI capabilities working in conjunction with EPoS systems will enable faster stock-taking, whilst flagging any team scheduling issues during seasonal rush periods.

Managing your online reputation through AI

Hospitality is a reputation driven industry and with a staggering 84% of diners choosing a restaurant based on online reviews, the stakes have never been higher for operators to deliver on that all important customer experience. For operators, managing their in-house reputation as well as social is no easy feat. However, if done well, an operators’ AI particularly comes into its own when it comes to keeping ahead of social media reviews, responding to customer posts swiftly with automatic holding responses, giving teams valuable time to reply. It’s important for operators to leverage this online reputation and make sure that their web presence is a true reflection of the brand in order to stay front of mind with customers.

Streamlining operations through AI

From stock levels, bookings management, staff rostering and more – AI platforms will be able to deliver and predict real-time information to operators, helping to alleviate any delays, miscommunication and leaving little room for human error. The data collected through AI can also help provide transparency throughout a business, meaning operators can keep an all-important check on venue efficiencies, whilst maximising opportunities on items that sell well, re-thinking those that don’t, and of course reacting quickly to fill that empty table. Keeping all the necessary information together on one platform will lead to better planning, whilst eliminating that element of surprise to ensure operators are performing at the top of their game.

Robots can now make table bookings for you!

A long-standing goal of human-computer interaction has been to enable people to have a natural conversation with computers, as they would with each other. Introducing Google Duplex – an AI system for accomplishing ‘real-world’ tasks over the phone. Most notably, Google Duplex is set to revolutionise the way customers interact with restaurants by booking tables on their behalf and sending automated reminders about any upcoming bookings. In addition to making the reservation, it is hoped that automated reminders will reduce the chance of no-shows by enabling easier re-scheduling and cancellations. Google Duplex will also be able to help answer customer queries that aren’t obviously available on a business’ website, freeing up valuable time for team members to continue ensuring they continue to provide great customer service on site.

The world’s first entirely robot-crafted burger

Creator, launched in 2018, is San Francisco’s most high-tech burger establishment. For $6, customers can get a made-to-order burger crafted by a 14-foot-long robot from start to finish in around five minutes. The long stretch of sleek machinery has 350 sensors, 50 actuators and 20 computers to ensure every sauce is dispensed down to the millimetre and every spice down to the gram. Glass silos hold condiments, whilst three compressed air-tubes hold freshly baked buns, ready to push out to the belt once an order is received. Eventually customers will be able to order through an app, with the ability to customize every details of the burger.

What about staff I hear you say? It was important to the brand that they didn’t lose the human element of food service, so staff are encouraged to spend 5% of their time doing something to benefit themselves in the long run. The brand has set aside a budget for books, so staff can spend their time reading. Ultimately, their aim is to revolutionise restaurant employment as well as cooking.

Do I see a future where our industry will become dominated by robots? Absolutely not. Operators shouldn’t be looking to jump on the band wagon just because it is the latest cool trend. Adoption of AI technology has to be about the streamlining of processes to drive operational efficiencies across front and back-of-house, which in turn will drive profits for that all-important bottom line. 

For more information about LOKE, visit www.loke.global

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