In many ways, technology helped restaurants weather the pandemic storm. Online ordering and touchless payments became common practice across the country, and many diners became accustomed to the convenience that came with that technology.

Increasingly, both consumers and restaurants are looking for ways to simplify and streamline, and technology presents some appealing opportunities. We’ve rounded up four growing and upcoming restaurant tech trends to watch.

Contactless Tech

The pandemic forced restaurants to find ways to eliminate direct contact from ordering, receiving, and paying for food. QR codes replaced paper menus in many restaurants, but only now are operators fully seeing the potential they represent for a consumer-driven dining experience, which reduces the dependence on labor and leads, often, to higher customer satisfaction due to factors like lower wait times and improved order accuracy.

In addition to QR codes, you can expect online reservation platforms, online ordering, kiosk ordering, and other types of no-contact payment technology to become more common in restaurants, with Quick Service and Fast Casual leading the way and other models soon to follow.

AI Inventory Management

While many advances in restaurant technology center the consumer, the emergence of AI inventory management is all about the operator. Inventory management that interacts with a restaurant’s POS system can reduce labor costs and improve accuracy. Similarly, digital kitchen ‘boards’ can provide information to FOH staff in real time, displaying info like sold-out items and allergen information, while reducing the need for redundant communication between the BOH and FOH.

Food Delivery Robots/Drones

We’re already seeing chains like Domino's experimenting with self-driving delivery vehicles, and though this technology is in its infancy, it’s important to consider the implications. In direct response to consumer demand and a strain on the labor force, restaurants will need to think creatively (and technologically) about solutions that can get food to consumers faster.

Customized Loyalty Programs

Gone are the days when a punch card could be a compelling incentive for a restaurant’s loyalty program. Today’s consumers are looking for customized experiences that respond to their own personal preferences. Smart, mobile-friendly, digital loyalty programs that remember guests’ orders, allow flexibility and choice, and reward diners with incentives that speak to their unique experiences will be useful for restaurants interested in connecting with guests in a meaningful way.

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