Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been turning up in more and more industries, and everywhere it goes it’s making a major difference for companies, customers and crews. The restaurant industry is no exception, though the ways it’s changing in response to the new capabilities of AI may surprise you.
Here are four unexpected ways AI is affecting the food service industry.
1) Inventory Management
Efficient inventory management is crucial to surviving on the thin margins of the food service industry. A single load of unsold main course ingredients can wipe out an entire night’s profit margin for some establishments, so getting stockouts correct is a major leg up.
It’s also hard to do without automation and requires extensive industry and market expertise that’s hard to come by if you want to avoid guesswork.
Good inventory management must take into account:
- Pricing for potentially hundreds of items
- Variety of goods in stock
- Special events
- Holiday schedules
- Weather and other potential interruptions
AI is basically a deep learning tool that takes swarms of independent factors together and builds an accurate model of how systems are working under the surface.
With the right learning algorithm, AI can monitor past performance and current churn in a restaurant’s inventory, make accurate estimates for future flow and continuously check predictions against actual results to stay up to date.
2) Scheduling and Data Service
Since 2020, the food service industry has become far more mobile, since home delivery has taken off and many more places deliver than ever before. Your establishment can pay a premium to deliver with a service such as UberEats or Mr D, or make deliveries with in-house labour, usually a delivery driver who works part-time.
Labour cost is now a major factor adding to overhead for food service, so you need to get the most out of every hour on the clock. Predictive AI can work from past delivery data to predict places and times where your orders should peak on any given night. This lets you more efficiently assign delivery workers and skip paying third party vendors for at-home food service.
3) Verification and Customer Confidence
Customers can benefit from smarter AI as well. The freshness and high quality of restaurant food is a major part of what draws people out to eat. There’s always a small bit of doubt about whether a given restaurant is properly observant about only serving this morning’s catch, for instance.
Open-source AI can track produce and food logistics from the farm to the fork, using UPC data to identify individual box lots and use-by dates.
This hasn’t caught on with ordinary restaurant patrons, at least not yet, but it’s started to appear in the world of designer coffee, where customers like to know the roast date of their blends.
Look for more of this, as the verifiable freshness of the food becomes a major selling tool for establishments that become early adopters of the technology.
4) Marketing to the Public
Scanning vast amounts of data and producing appropriate behaviour outputs is the essence of what AI does best, and you can’t do that anywhere better than social media. Food service providers can amass quite a following on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, to the point that human interaction gets to be impossible for the vast majority of casual followers. AI bots can change that by connecting with every follower, asking for feedback and encouraging repeat visits.
AI and Food Service
AI promises a number of changes, and some are already in the works. Hospitality industry workers know how demanding it can be to run a tight ship.
With the help of AI, the ship is likely to get a great deal tighter as the decade rolls on.
Don’t delay, contact us now for a demo on Ideal Point of Sale that promotes efficient services and saves on costs!
Ian Said, founder of Ideal Software, a software company specializing in Point of Sale and Inventory Control software designed exclusively for the hospitality industry. Follow him on Twitter @costofsale