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07/12/2021

Tech Transforming Restaurants Now and in the Future

In this Day 2 keynote at MURTEC, Phil Crawford, CTO of CKE Restaurants, shared his thoughts on the technology transforming restaurants.

In the Day 2 MURTEC keynote, Phil Crawford, CTO of CKE Restaurants, known for its Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito and Red Burrito brands, shared his thoughts on the technology transforming restaurants now and in the future.

Crawford said he sees drive-thrus as “truly an avenue for growth,” for not only QSRs, but also fast casual and other restaurant formats. Drive-thru visits have increased 36% since the early days of the pandemic with 9 out of 10 visiting in the last month, according to the State of What Feeds Us report.

He also shared a real-world approach to artificial intelligence: “If you can leverage AI ... to inject orders automatically, it becomes a leverage point moving forward.”0

His bottom line? “If you can make it one frictionless environment, from ordering to payment to food, you are going to win.” 

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Crawford is a "big fan” of ghost kitchens and multi-brand ghost kitchens saying they are here to stay. “Ghost kitchens are continuing to evolve in metropolitan areas and there are a lot of efficiencies that can be gained by large brands,” he said. Also, “Virtual brands are speeding up.”

Pointing to the prevalence of smart devices, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, voice ordering "like AI, is here to stay and grow upon too," Crawford said. Bottlenecks to date include “user adoption and the software needs to be more fluid for our industry. It will get there," he says.

Robotics too show promise. Certain repeatable tasks can be automated, and but robots are currently cost prohibitive. “It will take time and some iterations,” Crawford said.

MURTEC speakers were split on the promise of drone deliveries. Restaurant CIO's Joe Tenczar says “it’s time to start paying attention” to robots and drones and their role in food delivery. 

When it comes to drone delivery, Crawford, on the other hand, is not optimistic. "It's a complete fad. I don't think I'll see a drone delivery dropping burger and fries in my backyard,” he said. “Maybe a package.”

Crawford and Tenczar were two of dozens of speakers at MURTEC 2021. ICYMI, MURTEC sessions are now streaming on demand in the MURTEC Highlight Hub.