Digital solutions like AI are becoming more affordable, accessible, and widely used.

Restaurants are currently facing numerous safety and quality challenges. For instance, labor shortages make it difficult to find and retain experienced staff, operational inefficiencies waste precious resources, and supply chains lack transparency. Luckily, Artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a game-changer in modern quality management, helping restaurants overcome these challenges (and more).

AI offers endless opportunities to improve restaurants’ safety, quality, transparency, efficiency, accuracy, and compliance. In fact, AI is revolutionizing the food industry and optimizing all aspects of restaurant operations.

Brands like Dominos, McDonald’s, Checkers & Rally’s, and White Castle are using AI to:

Analyze complex data. One of AI’s biggest benefits is its ability to analyze massive, complex data, uncover trends, and provide key insights, empowering more informed decision-making and fostering continuous improvement. Analyzing vast datasets can help restaurants identify safety and quality issues before they arise, predict demand patterns, and optimize staffing schedules.

Optimize operations. AI improves productivity, efficiency, profitability, and product quality, while reducing waste, costs, and errors. For instance, inventory and purchasing have historically been time-intensive tasks. Now, AI-powered tools can track stock levels in real time, automatically reordering products when quantities drop below a certain threshold. AI can also analyze vendor performance and pricing to drive decisions about which suppliers to use (or avoid). These tools allow restaurants to automate tedious tasks so staff can focus on value-added, customer-facing efforts.

Improve quality control. AI monitors and analyzes quality parameters, ensuring the highest standards are maintained throughout the supply chain, from point of origin to consumption. AI-powered tools can accurately detect flaws and discrepancies in products with unparalleled precision, allowing brands to proactively identify and address quality issues before they negatively impact the end product.

Boost food safety and mitigate risks. Use AI to detect contaminants or spoilage in real time to boost food safety, regulatory compliance, and consumer trust. AI can also help restaurants improve regulatory compliance and ensure proper food safety, labeling accuracy, and other critical quality standards. Additionally, AI expertly tracks and traces ingredients for faster, more accurate recalls when safety breaches occur. Interestingly, scientists at the AI Institute for Next Generation Food Systems are using AI to develop better food production to feed a growing population, determine how increase crop yields, predict food safety risks, and identify contaminations that could sicken consumers. 

Improve supply chain management and transparency. AI allows companies to better forecast demand, optimize logistics, and boost safety, quality, and transparency through every step of the supply chain. By leveraging AI to track products across the supply chain, brands help ensure safe, high-quality environments and processes. In the event of a food safety breach, AI provides quick, accurate information about products’ path along the supply chain for faster, more accurate recalls.

Manage labor shortages. The hospitality industry is still facing a labor shortage, with nearly two million open jobs in our sector. Employees are overworked and may be given responsibilities they’re not qualified to handle. Tech solutions like AI can help boost automation and efficiency, so restaurants can do more with fewer employees. Additionally, AI can help brands better manage, track, organize, and access information to meet strict safety and quality standards. Recently, 58 percent of restaurant operators said they expect tech and automation to help alleviate labor shortages this year.

Minimize food waste. As food prices continue to soar, restaurants must use products efficiently to minimize costly waste. While 92 precent of operators say the cost of food is a significant issue, many restaurants are still tossing significant quantities due to inefficient inventory management, inaccurate demand forecasting, and other preventable factors. AI tools can help reduce food waste (and related cost) via accurate demand forecasting, inventory optimization, and expiration date management. 

Predict equipment maintenance needs. A broken oven or walk-in can lead to frustrating and expensive downtime for restaurants. Malfunctioning equipment can also cause food safety hazards, with foods not being held at—or cooked to—proper temperatures. AI tools can monitor specific parameters – including temperature, pressure, and performance—generating alerts when they detect anomalies. Restaurants that use AI to monitor their equipment can boost productivity, reduce food safety risks, optimize equipment utilization, and avoid unexpected equipment breakdowns. 

Boost sustainability efforts. Today’s consumers prioritize sustainability, with 78 percent of consumers believing that sustainability is important, and 84 percent saying that poor environmental practices will alienate them from a company. Therefore, restaurants must prioritize their sustainability efforts. Restaurants can use AI-powered tools to access valuable data related to their sustainability efforts, including information on their carbon emissions, energy consumption, and waste. This can help them identify areas for improvement and implement strategies to reduce their environmental impact. 

Improve customer service. Increasingly, restaurants are using AI to better understand individualized preferences and make personalized recommendations based on customers’ past behavior and purchases. If a customer typically orders vegetarian meals, AI will recommend other plant-based items they might enjoy. As another benefit, AI tools can provide quick responses to customer inquiries, emails, and social media comments, automating a time-consuming task and driving important metrics, like increased consumer satisfaction, loyalty, engagement, and sales.

Digital solutions like AI are becoming more affordable, accessible, and widely used, so restaurants of all sizes (and budgets) can leverage this innovative technology to mitigate risks, improve safety and quality, and stay competitive and compliant.

Dallas Henderson is Director of Business Development 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