Technologies are tools that can amplify human capabilities, but the key to safety and quality improvement lies in the culture and values of each organization.

Yum Brands, widely considered to be a tech leader, is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance operations, streamline food prep and delivery, improve kitchen flow, automate driver dispatch, and determine how much product to order in their restaurants.

Panera Bread has invested in AI technology to improve product quality and consistency, ensure proper temperature control and boost drive-thru ordering. Additionally, they’re using AI to automate tasks so employees can focus on providing high value guest experiences.

Chicago restaurant Baptiste and Bottle uses Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) headsets that allow their guests to feel like they’re dining in locations around the world, which increases customer engagement, excitement, and loyalty.

Today’s hottest tech trends, including, AI, AR, VR, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things, and Blockchain, allow restaurants and other organizations to improve safety and quality, identify food safety risks, boost transparency and traceability, ensure product authenticity, and provide more engaging training for staff.

The hottest technologies to elevate safety and quality programs include:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Restaurants are increasingly using AI to boost safety and quality, streamline food service, enhance back-of-house operations, utilize predictive ordering for consumers, and more. AI is automating a variety of tasks, allowing employees to focus more time and effort on providing exceptional customer service vs. handling tedious administrative tasks. These technologies are also being used to monitor and maintain safety and quality. For example, AI can be used to predict equipment failures and schedule preventative maintenance to avoid accidents or downtime. In the food industry, machine learning algorithms can predict food safety risks based on various parameters, such as storage conditions, handling, etc. Additionally, AI can help solve ongoing workforce challenges in the restaurant industry by automating and streamlining tasks. According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry will add approximately 500,000 jobs this year, but there’s currently just one job seeker for every two open positions.

Internet of Things (IoT). Restaurants are relying on IoT devices to monitor various safety and quality parameters in real-time, such as temperature, humidity, vibration, etc. IoT provides constant feedback, allowing for quick action to prevent safety issues and quality degradation. IoT sensors can monitor refrigeration units or cooking devices to ensure optimal conditions for food safety and help prevent waste. For instance, smart refrigerators can track food coming in and out, automate the FIFO method, and determine use-by dates. Smart refrigerators can also regulate temperatures on each shelf and drawer independently, allowing restaurants to store various products at proper temps to mitigate risks. Incorporating IoT into a restaurant’s POS system can automatically adjust product inventory based on sales, and order more ingredients when items fall below the minimum threshold, as determined by sales patterns. IoT can keep managers updated on delivery status, tracking inventory through every step of the supply chain. Not only can managers avoid overstocking perishable items, but IoT can also help deter in-house theft, and reduce labor costs by requiring less time to manage these previously labor-intensive tasks.

Blockchain Technology. In the food sector, blockchain provides better transparency and traceability, ensuring product authenticity, safety, and quality. It can be used to trace food back to its source, helping to prevent food fraud and increase food safety. Blockchain technology can help track products along the entire supply chain to monitor temperatures, verify health and safety standards, and identify any points within the supply chain that are vulnerable to contamination. This technology can also help reduce food waste, allowing restaurants to track their inventory and the expiration dates of each ingredient.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). These technologies can enhance training programs, preparing employees to properly maintain safety and quality. For example, VR can be used to simulate emergency situations for training purposes, while AR can provide real-time information to help employees make safer, more efficient decisions. 

Savvy restaurants will adopt and embrace these hot tech trends, which offer many significant benefits. These innovative tech solutions allow restaurants to monitor food safety, optimize inventory management, reduce waste, increase transparency, elevate training programs, and ensure product authenticity. Additionally, many restaurant brands will leverage these hot tech trends to enhance customer service, personalize guests’ experiences, and boost customer engagement and loyalty. 

For restaurants to successfully adopt these technologies, they must have a robust data strategy, including high-quality data collection, management, and analysis capabilities. Also, issues like cybersecurity, privacy, and ethical use of AI are crucial considerations when implementing these solutions. It’s important to note that technologies are tools that can amplify human capabilities, but the key to safety and quality improvement lies in the culture and values of each organization.

Paul Damaren is Executive Vice President, 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, Marriott, 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 new website to learn how these solutions can help your company.

Expert Takes, Feature, Technology