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RTN Market Watch: Leveraging AI and Data Analytics

Industry Insiders reveal the trending restaurant technologies that will have the most impact. PLUS, what’s next in contactless.
food on a table

RTN Market Watch, an HT exclusive, features thought leaders from the Restaurant Technology Network (RTN) community and their insights on what’s hot now and where the restaurant technology industry is headed. This edition: RTN thought leaders share their thoughts on the technologies poised to reap the greatest rewards.   

Trending Now: The Kitchen and AI

“You will see a revolution in the kitchen, powered by artificial intelligence, computer vision and voice recognition technology. If you consider all the processes that should be followed, but aren’t always, and the statistic that 15% of restaurant orders are not prepared to guest expectations, you’ll agree that there are huge opportunities to use AI to better monitor, guide and enhance kitchen operations,“ says David Gosman, Global Industry Lead - Hospitality, HP

Amesha Tate-Thomas, Marketing Manager,  Rosnet, also sees the potential for AI and related technologies. “AI, robotics and machine learning have a big role in restaurants, and they are not just a trend. These innovations are helping operators fill the gaps left by the labor shortage. What was once a novelty is becoming a necessity.”

Maximizing Data and Analytics

Restaurant operators have multiple sources of data, and therein lies the challenge. “Nearly every process conducted in the restaurant is now tied to some form of technology,” explains Tom Seeker, CIO, Earl Enterprises. “From the initial orders to vendors, invoices, customers connecting to the guest network, loyalty programs, sales, labor… everything. The problem is turning extreme amounts of raw data into actionable facts. Data Warehouses and Business Intelligence in reporting have become the standard from enterprise to individual restaurants.”


The Scoop on RTN’s Customer Record Data Standard

When it comes to leveraging data analytics to create actionable insights, restaurants need a single source of truth.

“If information is spread across multiple applications, it’s often difficult to get a true picture of operations,” explains Tate-Thomas. “Having as much information as possible in one platform is key to operationalizing data at a new level to increase efficiency across the board. For example, something as simple as pulling in weather data will allow operators to visualize how weather could impact sales. A mere five degree swing can completely change a bar mix,” she says.

Asking the Right Questions

Data only goes so far. It’s imperative to ask the right questions. “Collecting data is the easy part. It is knowing what questions to ask and leveraging data to derive the best answer that is the key,” stresses Alan Hayman, Founder and President of Hayman Consulting Group. “Data analytics is an art and a science. Today, there is plenty of science leveraging robust solutions for collecting and analyzing data. What is often missing is the art of asking the right questions."

Whether it's to nix a menu item or to add an extra server on Saturday nights, it is imperative for restaurants to leverage their data to make informed decisions, not decisions based on gut feelings. 

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Skip Kimpel, Senior Consultant, ConStrata, advises restaurants to leverage data to better understand their guests. “I am also starting to feel the shift around the idea that your CRM is becoming the ‘center of the universe’ instead of the POS system. The ability to collect data and the RIGHT data and to be able to tell a story, is such a powerful concept,” he says. 

“You can have all the data in the world but if you don't have somebody to look at it and make it actionable, it is useless. To minimize labor costs around the analytics, I believe there needs to be more work in the industry to produce easier to use technologies to automate this data and using AI to accomplish this," says Kimpel

Diving Into the New Normal

Prior to the pandemic, the restaurant industry was slow to adopt new technology, points out Seeker.  “This paradigm has shifted greatly with IT being part of the future planning and realization that nearly every aspect of day-to-day operations depends on the tech stack. I am most excited to see the attitudes change towards technology in the food industry." 

Restaurants have embraced technology at a rapid pace these past few years.  “We are in the early phases of a revolution in restaurant technology,” predicted HP’s Gosman “Innovation leaders grow at 2.6 times the industry average, and many brands have lagged in prioritizing technology investments. Consumer habits have been permanently altered by the pandemic and mass adoption of consumer technology, which has encouraged many restaurant brands to increase their R&D and technology rollout budgets. This will lead to some exciting advancements of how restaurants operate and will greatly improve the experiences they bring to their guests.” 

Tate-Thomas also sees a path forward paved with restaurant technology innovation. 

 “We are excited for restaurants to continue to embrace technology. Whether it’s existing technologies or new innovations, restaurants have to move forward or risk being left behind,” she says.”We strive to not only provide our clients with the best systems to run their day-to-day, but our goal is to support them in any way possible. That will continue as everyone is learning what the new normal is.

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