Automated Restaurants: The Rise of Smart Restaurants

Nick Mirev
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    Since the middle of the last century, the fields of robotics, AI, and automation have been developing rapidly. However, in the past decade, these areas are experiencing a renaissance. That’s because there are more applications for robots and AI in the economy. Companies can use these technologies to maximize profits by reducing their operating costs. The food and beverage industry is no different. Automated restaurants are among the hottest restaurant technology trends at the moment. In this article, we’ll dive a little deeper into the topic of automated restaurants. We’ll see what they are and what are the advantages and disadvantages of operating a smart restaurant.

    What Is an Automated Restaurant?

    The hype and advance of AI in restaurants and other businesses have made it easier for businesses to consider investing in the latest technology. That is why automated restaurants are likely to become even more popular. But what exactly is an automated restaurant? It’s an establishment that is either fully or partially automated to offer a dining experience with very little or no human interaction. These venues integrate restaurant automation technologies such as an AI ordering system, robot waiters, and robot chefs. Most commonly, these establishments are partially or fully automated fast-food restaurants. The reason behind that is the fact that in fast food, there are a lot of repetitive tasks that can be handled by robots. Additionally, when people eat at a fast-food place, they expect quickness and taste. Things like the complexity of the menu and personal touch during service are not essential.

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    What Technology Does an Automated Restaurant Have?

    Self-Ordering Kiosks or Tables

    These ordering machines include all menu items so that people can order their preferred dishes. AI restaurants can also implement machine learning algorithms that recommend desserts, beverages, and other menu items.

    Food Preparation Robots

    Currently, robots are great for tasks related to frying and doing other repetitive actions. Assembling ingredients and plating dishes with simple meals are also part of the jobs performed by robots.

    Delivery Route Planning

    In the near future, perhaps, self-driving cars deliver food directly to our doorsteps. However, we’re not there yet. Currently, restaurant automation and AI technologies allow delivery route planning software to calculate route optimization and approximate delivery times for different orders.

    Customer Service

    There are two types of customer service robots in a restaurant. The more frequently used ones are chatbots. They are based on AI technology in order to answer the most common questions a customer might have. Robotic servers are also available on the market. They are not so popular as they might cause issues. However, machine learning and modern technologies are making them increasingly popular for establishments to invest in.

    Automated Payment

    A lot of businesses invest in automatic restaurant payment processing via digital payment methods. For automated restaurants, the easiest way to implement this feature is for customers to pay directly at the ordering kiosks or via a mobile app.

    Key takeaway: Robots can be used in restaurants in various ways. The most common one is as servers. The main advantage of automated restaurants is the fact that it cuts labor costs. The main disadvantages are related to the lack of personal touch and the potential technical issues.
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    Advantages of Automated Restaurants

    There are many reasons why establishments invest more in robots and other ways of automation. Here are the main pros of automated restaurants:

    1. Better efficiency. The operational efficiency of a restaurant can be improved by reducing service time and automating ordering and food preparation. 
    2. Cost savings. With the increase in labor costs, more and more restaurants are encouraged to rely on robot waiters and automate other processes.
    3. Consistency. Robot chefs guarantee precise portion control and steady quality. 
    4. Improved customer experience. Self-service kiosks and ordering tables give customers control and convenience. This interactive ordering process is also faster and reduces waiting times.
    5. Marketing effect. A lot of customers might be interested to visit a restaurant that is either fully automated or uses various robots. Guests will be enthusiastic to share about their experiences online. If marketed with proper storytelling, an automated restaurant has the potential to become viral on social media.

    Disadvantages of Automated Restaurants

    Even though “hiring” robots is becoming more popular in restaurants, there are reasons why many establishments prefer the classical human approach. Let’s dive a little deeper into the main cons of using robots in a restaurant and the disadvantages of self-service technology.

    1. Social implications. “Hiring” robots instead of humans might lead to disappointment in the local community.
    2. No personal touch. A lot of people enjoy the social aspect of having a meal at a restaurant. That’s something automated restaurants that use robot waiters might lack.
    3. Technical problems. Establishments that rely heavily on technology should be prepared for potential malfunctions. Regular maintenance and reliable technical support are a must for automated restaurants. Technical glitches might result in a very poor experience for guests and potentially a lot of bad reviews.
    4. Limited menu. Robot chefs still have a long way to go. Current technology allows them to perform mostly repetitive tasks such as frying and putting the dishes on plates. Robots don’t have the opportunity to cater to special requests or dietary preferences. This means that an automated restaurant will have a very limited menu.
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    Frequently Asked Questions about Automated Restaurants

    Are you considering “hiring” robot waiters? Or maybe you wish to start a fully-automated restaurant? Either way, you probably have a lot of questions. In the next paragraphs, we’ll attempt to answer the most common questions on the topic of automated restaurants.

    What Is the Price of a Restaurant Robot?

    Most waiter robots for automated restaurants cost between $10,000 and $16,000. Cook robots are pricier. Their price can be more than $30,000. The price depends on a variety of factors like battery life, functionality, and carrying capacity. Buying waiter robots to cover the needs of a restaurant can be an expensive investment. That’s why many restaurant managers prefer to rent them. The price for that is between $800 and $1,300.

    Are Automated Restaurants the Same as Robotic Restaurants?

    Yes. Generally speaking, robotic restaurants and automated restaurants are synonyms. There are still very few establishments that are fully automated. However, in the next decades, this will become one of the restaurant industry trends.

    How to Start an Automated Restaurant?

    In order to start a robotic restaurant, you need careful planning and extensive capital. Automated restaurants are the final step of restaurant technology, but they require a big investment in robots and a lot of marketing efforts in order to generate buzz and increase the brand awareness of the establishment. The main things needed to start an automated restaurant are:

    1. Research the market and identify a potential niche.
    2. Prepare a detailed automated restaurant business plan
    3. Carefully select the right location. It should be a place with a lot of traffic in order to attract the attention of nearby crowds.
    4. Determine technological integration. Do you want your restaurant to be fully automatic? Or maybe you just want self-service kiosks and robot waiters? All approaches must be considered and included in the business plan along with their pros and cons.
    5. Choose the right menu items and train your staff.
    6. Obtain all necessary licenses and permits for an automated restaurant.
    7. Organize the workflow. 
    8. Plan the marketing for the restaurant. A robotic restaurant has a lot of potential to become viral on social media and local news.
    9. Continue to improve and adapt your establishment. Improve the menu and provide better customer service.
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