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Benefits of a “Living Network” That Adapts to Restaurant Needs

David Naumann 2024 headshot
David Naumann, Retail Marketing Strategy Leader, Verizon

Our data shows that AI is streamlining restaurant analytics, personalization, and inventory. What AI opportunities and/or challenges do you foresee in 2024?

AI is certainly the hot buzz word in the past year, especially with the emergence of several generative AI applications. Using AI to analyze vast amounts of data is already common, especially for sales forecasting, so it is not surprising to see 52% of restaurants using AI for this purpose. 

Areas that seem like low hanging fruit for generative AI are creating marketing materials and campaigns, providing order recommendation based on previous orders and logical complementary items, chatbots for delivery orders and multi-language voice-assistants for drive through. A logical next step may be to use voice assistants at the counter for QSR and fast casual restaurants and at the table for full-service restaurants to replace servers taking orders. However, restaurant operators must carefully consider their customers’ expectations and their brand promise for customer experiences. Just because they can automate some aspects of the customer experience doesn’t meanthat they should.  

Kitchen automation, IoT, and robotics are booming. How do you believe they can help solve for rising costs and staffing challenges?

As labor shortages and higher wages continue to impact the restaurant industry, restaurant operators are looking for ways to leverage technology to improve productivity and retain staff. When used in restaurants, automation can make the employees’ jobs easier and more fulfilling. That’s because it can free employees from performing repetitive manual tasks, giving them more time for things that are more fun (and less frustrating), like serving guests. Key ways that restaurants can leverage technology to improve labor productivity and operations include turning to mobile apps to create efficiencies and making use of robotics, drive-thru automation and computer vision. 

Some emerging technologies are gaining traction as well. Real-time inventory tracking helps improve visibility and reduce shortages of ingredients that impact menu items. As robot technology continues to improve, several restaurant chains are testing a variety of robot technology in the kitchen area and dining room, and once they are ready for prime-time, they will likely become more ubiquitous. 

IT budgets continue to grow, including an increase in implementations of new solutions. What are some best practices for restaurant technology leaders seeking to maximize their investment dollars?

Emerging technologies promise to create new efficiencies, enable new connected guest experiences and make it possible for restaurants to communicate with guests in entirely new ways. As restaurants continue to deploy more bandwidth intensive technology, it will create a strain on networks.

The increased technology demands will require restaurants to invest in foundational network enhancements to deliver the secure and reliable connectivity that provides the experiencesthat employees and consumers expect.

The key is to build a network architecture that will give in-restaurant applications access to the right bandwidth at the right time and enable them to scale up or down as needed. Today’s Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) subscription-based consumption model enables restaurants to make use of as much — or as little — network infrastructure as they require, to create a “living” network that can be changed quickly to keep pace with seasonal dining trends, dayparts or unexpected surges in demand. 

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