Last year, the restaurant industry was characterized by the increased adoption of advanced technologies, including AI, IoT, blockchain, and machine learning. These innovations helped boost transparency, traceability, safety, quality, and compliance—all positive things for our sector, businesses, and customers.

In fact, 2023 will be remembered as a time when restaurants increasingly relied on tech solutions to:

Optimize operations—Many restaurants harnessed tech solutions to enhance inventory management, streamline supply chains, improve food safety, and more. These tech solutions also provided brand managers with critical data, allowing them to make more informed business decisions on everything from purchasing to scheduling.

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Improve customer engagement—Restaurants are wisely using tech tools to intensify customer engagement, such as using data analytics to drive personalization and loyalty programs. Accessing a deeper level of insights into customers’ evolving needs allows restaurant brands to meet (and exceed) customers’ expectations. When brands personalize customer experiences, offerings, and recommendations, it goes a long way in strengthening customer relationships, loyalty, and retention.

Boost sustainability—In 2023, sustainability was a priority within the food industry, as consumer demand for eco-friendly practices continued increasing. Restaurants met this call, using technology to monitor (and improve) their eco-friendly practices, reduce waste, enhance supply chain sustainability, pivot away from single-use plastics, etc.

Prioritize food safety—Food safety and quality remained a focus for restaurants, who relied on advanced technologies, including AI and IoT, to maintain the highest food safety standards. Innovative equipment – from smart refrigerators to Bluetooth sensors – indicated any anomalies that could potentially cause a food safety breach. For instance, smart refrigerators generate alarms when temperatures deviate out of the safe range, so employees can immediately rectify the situation and prevent food spoilage.

Meet regulatory compliance—Although it can be challenging to stay current on ever-changing food safety regulations, restaurants rose to the challenge last year. Many brands took proactive efforts to monitor regulatory changes and implement protocols to ensure compliance and mitigate risks.

Exceed consumer expectations—Increasingly, customers are demanding transparency around the foods they eat, prioritizing sustainability and ethical sourcing. Brands met the demand, becoming more transparent about ingredients, sourcing practices, and sustainable initiatives. This trend will continue in 2024.

2024 Trends to Anticipate

All signs point to an ongoing digital transformation in 2024. Restaurants will use cutting-edge tech solutions to optimize operations and meet heightened customer expectations.

In 2024, restaurants will use tech tools to:

Enhance personalization—Customers no longer want a “one-size-fits-all” dining experience. They want personalized menus, recommendations, and service that meets their individualized needs and dietary requirements. Savvy restaurants will use tech tools to customize all aspects of the dining experience. Expect to see more tailored marketing messages, personalized nutrition plans, and recommendations based on guests’ purchase history. In short, technology will help restaurants connect with customers on a deeper level.

Improve traceability—As the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) approaches its deadline, restaurants will focus on meeting the document’s guidelines. This includes preventing foodborne illnesses, ensuring traceability across the food supply chain, and implementing other FSMA regulations. The FSMA adoption will be driven by heightened consumer demand for safe foods and transparent business practices, as well as tech advancements for monitoring and compliance. The industry will work collaboratively to create and maintain a safer, more secure food supply.

Create a more resilient supply chain—Supply chain disruptions persist, so it’s essential to use tech tools to ensure the steady flow of products. In 2024, restaurants will utilize high-tech solutions that use data analytics and real-time tracking to anticipate and mitigate supply chain disruptions. Blockchain technology, in particular, will play a pivotal role in enhancing supply chain transparency and resilience.

Utilize data-driven insights—One of AI’s biggest benefits is its ability to analyze massive amounts of data and provide valuable insights. In 2024, there will be a huge focus on harnessing the power of data analytics to gain insights into customer behavior. By leveraging data, brand managers can anticipate customer preferences, track dining habits, and even predict peak hours. This will help them make smarter decisions about every facet of their business, from more informed purchasing decisions to optimized staff schedules.  

Create seamless ecosystems—The beauty of restaurant tech is its ability to integrate and create seamless ecosystems where different technologies work well together. Restaurants are pivoting away from disjointed tech stacks, which often result in errors and redundancies. Moving forward, they’ll integrate their systems, including point-of-sale systems, kitchen management software, inventory tracking systems, and customer data platforms. This will streamline processes, improve accuracy, boost efficiency, and provide valuable insights into customer preferences and habits.

Offer omnichannel experiences—Restaurants will continue to invest in their online presence and mobile apps technology, providing elevated, consistent, omnichannel experiences. This means that whether a customer dines in, orders takeout, or opts for delivery, they’ll receive the same high level of personalization, convenience, quality, and engagement. Also, anticipate more loyalty rewards and targeted promotions tailored to individual preferences.

The highly competitive restaurant industry will face increased competition for customers in 2024, especially in saturated markets. Restaurants should leverage tech solutions to differentiate themselves through innovation, personalization, and exceptional customer service.

Paul Damaren is Chief Revenue Officer at RizePoint, a technology leader in the food safety, quality management, compliance, and social responsibility space. RizePoint’s quality management software solutions help companies, including Starbucks, McDonald’s, Hard Rock International, and more, keep brand promises through their quality, safety, and compliance efforts. Customers gather better data, see necessary actions earlier, and act faster to correct issues before they become costly liabilities. Check out RizePoint’s website and/or contact the team to learn how these solutions can help your company.

Expert Takes, Feature, Technology