Animation by Andreea Vintila
Robot restaurants in technologically advanced countries like Japan and USA are considered solutions to labor shortages and growing customer demand as on-premise dining starts to pick up. Yelp Economic Average reports that searches for reservations increased by 107% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.
Digitalization has become the key to service improvements in restaurants, and one of these advancements is robotics. Different processes can be automated by using robots. While such automation can impact the performance of a restaurant, applying robotics also comes with challenges.
Approximately 82% of restaurant jobs could be replaced by robots in the future, according to a report published by Aaron Allen & Associates. Robots are used to help humans in the kitchen perform repetitive tasks, such as slicing or mixing ingredients. Robots can also:
- welcome guests
- take and deliver orders
- manage payments
According to articles from ResearchGate, the Turkish Business Journal, and Elsevier, robotics decreases the efforts of individual waiters, reduces investments in human labor, simplifies food orders, supports restaurant services, decreases human-induced service failures, reduces work hours, and improves service quality.
Hospitality & Catering News states that an average human server can serve 200 meals daily, while a robot server can serve 300-400 meals. If waiters serve more tables in the same period, they can serve the dishes faster, contributing to an increase in the restaurant’s overall productivity.
Recent research on digital responses to COVID-19 highlights that if the waiting times per table increase, the time spent at a table increases. This means that the table will be occupied for a long time, negatively affecting customer satisfaction and total revenues for the restaurant since they have a limited number of tables. The waiting time per table can be decreased by implementing electronic menus so that the cooks do not have to read the order notes from waiters. This is a process that slows them down and increases the risk of mixing up orders.
An IEEE article explains how robots and electronic menus cut down on wait times per table. When a customer orders something using an electronic menu, the order and the table number appear on the cook’s screen. When the chef has finished cooking, the order is transferred to the robot, which will have the table number of that specific order so it can deliver it to the customer. Digital tools help visualize orders and provide systematic overviews.
As stated in a 2020 Atlantis Press article, digital tools simplify the process of choosing the desired dishes. These digital platforms also enable keeping statistics of ordered dishes so that the restaurant can determine what foods are most popular and when (during particular times of the day or seasons), as well as which foods to leave off their menu. Additionally, by offering discounts in their ordering application, restaurants will increase customer loyalty.
There are two types of challenges that emerge from using robots in restaurants. The first kind results from the complexity and technical limitations of the machine (see Figure 1):
Figure 1. Adapted from: A Car-bot Waiter for Providing Services of Restaurants to Limit Human in Pandemics like COVID-19 | Issues in Existing Robotic Service in Restaurants and Hotels | Wireless Waiter Robot | Service Robots in Catering Applications: A Review and Future Challenges
Consumer acceptance is another challenge for digitalizing restaurant services. Studies have revealed that some people feel uncomfortable interacting with a robot. Before bringing autonomous robots into restaurants, owners should assess socioeconomic implications, such as the balance between operational efficiency and customer expectations and robot costs.
Process automation will increase productivity in the restaurant industry, but this will also make it difficult for restaurant workers to find new employment.
Digitalization of the restaurant business is inevitable. Initially, the new system may cause chaos because every restaurant owner will be eager to implement such technologies. This enthusiasm can result in impulsive investments to keep up with the competition, leading to unnecessary risks and, ultimately, no added value for that business. But, if safely adopted, robotics may improve performance, increase productivity, and decrease overall costs. Even though the goal may be to digitalize the whole restaurant, these robots will only partially operate by themselves so soon.
Innovation entails coming up with something completely new or creating a huge concept. Nothing will change if you just fully accept the realities at work or in your personal life which is why innovation frequently begins with something that concerns and is important to you. This stems from the desire to alter certain things to be better because it is necessary.
Some companies out there are struggling without proper knowledge of innovation. You have a better chance of reacting to changes and discovering new possibilities if you innovate. It may also aid in the development of competitive advantage by allowing you to create better goods and services for your clients.
There are four types of innovation that can take place within a company:
- Organizational innovation – this transforms a company’s business processes, as well as the way its workplace is structured as well as its connections with external stakeholders.
- Process innovation – the implementation of a new or improved production or delivery is the approach with this type of innovation, including changes in operational processes, techniques, and equipment or software.
- Product innovation – referring to the introduction of new or enhanced products or services, this kind of innovation may relate to enhancing technical standards, materials, or software, or even boosting user experience.
- Marketing innovation – this refers to the development of a new marketing strategy such as the packaging or design of a product, as well as other pricing or promotional decisions.
Promoting workplace innovation
Rather than aiming to rebuild the entire company at once, consider developing ideas that can be tested in your own community first. As you prepare to take your idea to a much wider stage, this might be an excellent way to fine-tune your efforts and assess your performance. Setting up suggestion boxes around the office or hosting frequent seminars or company away days to explore ideas are just a few examples. This will also create a friendly environment for employees to express themselves without fear of being criticized or ridiculed.
Leaders should always have the courage to take risks and experiment with new ideas. They should also encourage their employees as well and not penalize them whenever they try new ideas and fail. Emphasizing the shared responsibility for innovation to employees at all levels of the organization will foster a feeling of involvement in the movement of the company. The fewer levels of administration or decision-making are in your organization, the more employees will believe their ideas are valued.
Business owners should examine the market and customers’ needs and not immediately create a big development to be released in a short period of time. Studying the market and learning how innovation may bring value to consumers is important, especially if you want to propel your firm ahead. By adjusting your product or service to the way your market is evolving, you may explore other possibilities for innovation.
For example, the current market is becoming health-conscious, even more so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A food industrialist can try to launch new flavors, adjust your ingredients to be more health-conscious, and promote them in a better way to reach customers. For those in the education field, they could organize class conferencing apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams to ensure the safety of students while continuing their education.
Making plans for innovation
Generally, innovation should be part of your company’s strategic vision of how you want your firm to evolve. Once you’ve spent time researching trends for your business sector, you can then focus your inventive efforts on the most significant areas. Not only will innovation help your firm survive, but it will also help it expand and generate more revenues.
There are a variety of practical methods for determining whether or not your ideas have profit potential. Studying the market or industry trends and being aware of the environment your organization operates will assist you in planning. You can find competitors via a number of ways such as local corporate lists, advertising, and exhibitions. You can also find those with similar products through online searches, information from customers, or pamphlets.
You may also support your innovation-driven development such as gaining financial investors or even through loans. Any route to external investment, however, will need a high-quality business plan that outlines your company and provides specific projections for its future. Depending on their borrowing needs, businesses frequently resort to their banks for a line of credit or loans.
Communication is very important to both your customers and suppliers. Building a good relationship with clients will make them realize that the company is providing effective products and services for them to make the business grow better. By communicating with them, you will be able to listen to their opinions and observe their behavior around your current products and services. From there, you can produce new ideas and promote improvements in your current products and services.
You can also expand your business by giving opportunities for suppliers and business partners to be involved in the company’s plans for innovation. This allows them to provide unique ideas as well. Merging your abilities with those of your suppliers or other business partners might help you generate and develop new ideas. Opportunities for business networking might also lead to the formation of potential collaborations.
Although innovation can occur in any department of a company, it has the potential to affect the whole corporation. To achieve innovation through creativity, you have to find the right amount of challenges and don’t be afraid to take risks; failure is not constant and every problem can have a solution. It’s also important to experiment with an idea first before implementing it by involving your employees in conversations so they can also provide better ideas to improve the company.