The Cheesecake Factory and McDonald's deploy IoT in real-time. 

In today’s highly competitive food industry, restaurants are constantly seeking innovative ways to drive efficiency, improve food safety, mitigate risks, and enhance transparency. Embracing technology and harnessing the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) enables restaurants to achieve these objectives (and more). In fact, IoT is revolutionizing the restaurant industry—as many brands have already discovered—and it’s time for more restaurants to leverage this innovative solution to reap significant benefits.

Restaurants are Optimizing Operations with IoT

Some restaurants have successfully implemented IoT solutions to streamline operations, deliver exceptional customer experiences, and ensure food safety. For instance, The Cheesecake Factory employs IoT-enabled sensors in its refrigeration units to continuously monitor temperatures. These sensors send real-time data to a central hub, allowing staff to promptly address any issues, such as temperature fluctuations, to prevent potential food spoilage. Additionally, The Cheesecake Factory uses IoT-enabled tablet devices for tableside ordering, leading to accurate orders and quicker service, to the delight of their guests.

Additionally, McDonald’s has incorporated IoT devices into its drive-thru systems. These high-tech devices collect and analyze data, such as vehicle count, average order value, and wait times, helping management optimize staffing levels and improve efficiency. McDonald’s also utilizes IoT-powered kitchen display systems that enhance coordination between cooks, expeditors, and servers, resulting in faster order processing and better service.

Communication and Trust in IoT Implementation

Effective staff communication is essential to successfully implement and maintain tech solutions in any organization. Clear and coherent communication at all levels of the business ensures that employees understand the purpose and benefits of innovative technologies like IoT. This can be achieved through ongoing training programs and regular updates to keep staff engaged and informed about IoT systems (and technology overall).

Building trust with customers is equally crucial. Restaurants must educate customers about the use of IoT and ensure that data collected is utilized solely for enhancing service and safety. Honesty and transparency are vital to gaining customer trust and encouraging their acceptance of IoT-driven initiatives. Customers will be impressed and delighted that your restaurant is working so hard to keep them safe.

The Fully High-Tech Kitchen

Imagine a fully high-tech restaurant kitchen where every appliance is interconnected through IoT. The kitchen features a smart fridge that monitors inventory levels and automatically creates replenishment orders when supplies run low. A smart oven ensures precise cooking times and temperatures, preventing over or undercooking, and keeps foods (and guests) safer. The kitchen also utilizes IoT-enabled timers and scales, ensuring accuracy in recipe preparation. These interconnected devices work harmoniously, improving safety by minimizing the risk of foodborne illnesses and enhancing efficiency through optimized cooking processes.

Tips for Leveraging IoT in Restaurants

It’s clear that IoT is revolutionizing the food service industry, so how can restaurants leverage this cutting-edge technology? Here are some valuable tips:

  • Enhance food safety with connected devices. Use IoT-enabled devices like temperature sensors to monitor the freshness and quality of perishable items. 
  • Implement smart inventory management. Use IoT-enabled sensors and smart shelves to automate inventory tracking. These sensors can monitor stock levels, track expiration dates, and send real-time notifications when items need to be restocked. Employees can spend less time on tedious manual inventory tasks and more time providing exceptional experiences to guests.
  • Optimize energy consumption. Install smart thermostats and lighting systems that can be controlled remotely. The IoT-enabled equipment can adjust temperature and lighting levels based on occupancy, time of day, or environmental conditions, helping to save energy and reduce costs.
  • Track food temperatures during deliveries. IoT-enabled temperature sensors can be attached to food packages during transit. This allows real-time monitoring of temperature fluctuations and ensures that perishable items are stored under ideal conditions throughout the delivery process.
  • Enable personalized customer experiences. Use IoT devices to gather customer data and provide personalized recommendations. For example, IoT-powered loyalty programs can track customer preferences and offer tailored promotions, enhancing customer engagement and satisfaction.
  • Streamline operations with connected equipment. Implement IoT-connected kitchen equipment, such as smart ovens, fryers, and coffee machines. This allows for automated temperature controls and precise cooking times, resulting in consistent food quality and improved kitchen efficiency.
  • Improve productivity using IoT. For instance, optimize seating and waitlist management through the implementation of IoT sensors to monitor table occupancy and wait times. This information enables efficient seating arrangements, reservation prioritization, and reduction of customer wait times.
  • Integrate IoT with POS systems. This allows your restaurant to automate order processing, track sales, and generate real-time insights on customer preferences and buying patterns.
  • Train your staff. Educate all staff about the benefits of IoT and explain how these solutions will elevate safety, efficiency, transparency, customer satisfaction, and more. Show employees how IoT works and be sure they’re comfortable using these tools.

IoT has become crucial in restaurants’ successes and safety. By leveraging IoT, restaurants can maximize efficiency, enhance food safety, mitigate risks, boost transparency, and improve overall productivity. Examples of successful implementations, such as The Cheesecake Factory and McDonald’s, demonstrate the transformative potential of IoT in the restaurant industry. Exploring additional IoT applications can further empower restaurants to stay competitive and deliver exceptional dining experiences to meet (or exceed) consumers’ expectations.

Francine L. Shaw, food safety specialist, podcaster, and co-founder of My Food Source, is a successful entrepreneur, author, and speaker who spent 20+ years working in the foodservice industry. Her career has included performing services (operating partner, corporate/private trainer, health inspector, 3rd party inspector, adjunct professor) in various sectors of the foodservice industry. She has written hundreds of articles for national trade magazines and appeared on Dr. Oz, the BBC World Series Radio, and iHeart Radio as a food safety expert. 

Expert Takes, Feature, Food Safety, Technology