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Restaurants that continue investing in new technologies—from tablets and contactless payments to ChatGPT, automation, and HR tools—will be able to unlock new avenues of revenue and service.

Embracing New Technologies Helps Restaurants Thrive in a Growth Economy

New technologies can augment a restaurant’s service and support its bottom line.

Zayn King-Dollie

ChatGPT can help restaurants with marketing campaigns, social media, and design to cultivate new guests and reward loyal customers, writes Zayn King-Dollie.

The National Restaurant Association distributed some encouraging news this year in its recent report examining surging sales trends and top industry concerns. Nearly a trillion dollars in sales are forecast for 2023 alone, with an accompanying need for 500,000 jobs to support this hike in activity. As the industry rapidly returns to pre-pandemic levels, operators are juggling demand for services with heightened customer expectations, a tighter labor market, higher food costs, and supply chain issues.

The challenge restaurants are facing is managing the growth in a way that sets a foundation for success now and in the future. Those that continue to invest in new technologies—including online and in-house tablet ordering, contactless payments, ChatGPT, artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, human resource tools and more—will be able to navigate this new reality with confidence as they unlock new avenues of revenue and service.

While technology has supported thousands of restaurants over the last few tumultuous years, not every new program geared to the industry will work for every business. Let’s examine where technology can augment a restaurant’s service and support its bottom line. Two areas, in particular, show potential for strong return-on-investment: capturing usable information from online ordering systems and incorporating AI to handle both routine and complex tasks.

Mining Online Order Data to Improve Marketing

The pandemic was brutal to the restaurant industry—by the end of 2020, more than 110,000 restaurants and bars were shuttered, along with 2.5 million jobs. Those businesses that were able to swiftly pivot to become online and take-out establishments survived, and now have nearly three years of valuable data to analyze for improving their operations. The NRA survey revealed that 64 percent of consumers consider restaurant services to be “essential” to their lifestyle, with 55 percent saying take-out and delivery options are a top priority. In fact, 60 percent of full-service operators say that off-premises sales are larger than they were in 2019, so this is an area where technological innovation can pay off.

The pandemic experience has made a huge impact on customer expectations, and they are united in a desire for easy interactions via contactless payment and online ordering options. These platforms also provide restaurant operators an unprecedented look at customer behavior. Managers can make data-informed decisions about promotions, increase availability of preferred menu items, add customization, and revise staffing allocation based on information found in these interactions. 

Is AI Worth the Hype?

The shiniest new tech on the scene is improved artificial intelligence software, which has reached mass audiences this year. One of its most promising attributes is its ability to replace human interaction beyond rote tasks. Learning by digesting vast reams of data and programmed to handle a myriad of conversational details, AI can be a useful augmentation for incoming phone calls, for example. Restaurants can save staff time by having AI take reservations, answer questions about the menu, provide operating hours and directions to the restaurant and other queries.

An offshoot of AI, ChatGPT, can also be a useful addition to a restaurant’s technology arsenal. The industry’s vibrant growth is stimulating heightened competition. ChatGPT can help with marketing campaigns, social media, and design to cultivate new guests and reward loyal customers. Not every restaurant can afford a full-time marketing manager, but a ChatGPT can fill in the gaps by drafting content and ads that can be fine-tuned by an employee. While AI can’t replace the human element, it allows employees to focus on those interactions that require personalized and complex understanding of a situation. 

As the industry goes through a powerful growth phase, restaurants that continue to invest in smart technology will be best positioned to reap higher revenue and be nimble in the face of labor uncertainties. The pandemic forced restaurants to innovate boldly with new technologies in order to survive. Today’s challenge is understanding what technologies will help a restaurant thrive.

Zayn King-Dollie is the Product Officer for Ordrslip, a Bitwise Industries company. Under Zayn's leadership, the Ordrslip team supports restaurants and coffee shops across the country by providing a streamlined online ordering process. With his strategic vision and years of experience in customer success, Zayn looks to rapidly grow and scale Ordrslip, while creating lasting partnerships with business owners and companies.