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October 19, 2022

The food industry is on the cusp of a tectonic shift, according to industry experts. Technology is the driving force behind the projected change.

“In the next two years, we expect industry organizations to start using machine learning for food and beverage demand planning in restaurants, using it to correlate historical POS data with external data such as weather and events to predict future demand,” Craig Colby, president of OneStream Software, told The Food Institute.

“These forecasts help drive effective demand planning, sales forecasting and integrated business planning processes – and they do so on an ongoing basis,” added Colby.

Technology such as machine learning, robotics and self-service kiosks are rapidly changing the customer service experience. The industry’s pending technological transformation is the main theme of this month’s extensive Food Institute report, available to members on October 19 (to join the FI, click here).

Artificial intelligence could also be a game-changer for industry categories such as food retail.

For example, Mike Rondinaro, co-founder of Parkday – which delivers fresh meals to consumers – thinks AI can take personalized nutrition to the next level.

“Artificial intelligence will address the following trends,” he said: “43% of consumers follow some type of specific diet, and the personalized nutrition industry is expected to grow by 16% annually over the next 10 years.”

Meanwhile, robotics could make food service teams almost unrecognizable in a decade, experts say. Robots can be used for tasks like packing food and cooking (already a common occurrence in QSRs like White Castle).

While many Americans are nostalgic for the first job they spent cooking hamburgers at fast-food restaurants, operators today say robotics has become increasingly necessary amid labor shortages.

It’s simple math, said Izzy Kharasch, founder of Hospitality Works, Inc., a bar and restaurant consulting firm.

“Robots and other advances are not replacing anyone; they are filling positions that people are no longer interested in,” Kharasch said in a statement shared with The Food Institute. “I recently opened two restaurants [and] we’ve been trying to fill vacancies for four months.”

Kharasch says robots can give a big boost to restaurant results.

In California, he noted, the cost of two restaurant “runners” working 6-hour shifts, seven days a week, at the state minimum wage of $14 an hour, combine to cost an operator $65,520. The cost of a robot is $700 a month, or $8,400 a year… or a total annual savings of $57,120, noted Kharasch.

“The introduction of robots into the hospitality workplace makes me very sad,” he said, “but I’m a realist. If we can’t get human employees to work, robots aren’t replacing anyone.”