As 2020 draws to a close and full-service restaurants continue to adapt business plans to constantly changing local COVID-19 mandates, the uncertainty of what lies ahead means executives are continually shifting business plans and expectations. They are also witnessing a rapid acceleration of the critical role and importance of technology due to the pandemic. What is surprising to many in the full-service restaurant industry is that what they thought was on the horizon for 2025 will be implemented in 2021.
The full-service restaurant trends for 2021 are already emerging with five main areas of increased technology acceleration:
Frictionless consumer experience
Predictive decision making
Full-service operators will be looking for technology that currently exists that allows total scalability. They will be looking for ways to “stick a toe in the technology water” before making a major commitment. Being agile during unpredictable times, means starting small with proof of concept and then ramping up to meet both needs and budget.
Guests are returning to restaurant premises, but not the numbers who dined out before the pandemic. That means full-service restaurants will need to continue to seek ways to offer menu items in ways that require the least human interaction. Full-serves that pivoted to online delivery platforms, curbside takeout and touchless checkout continued to thrive during the pandemic, but they may see new competition in quick-service restaurants and fresh food vending in the year ahead. Quick-serves that are embracing technology were quick to adapt to pick-up and delivery, and sit-down concepts that replicate their customer experience will be better equipped to compete. It’s not too early to consider delivery by autonomous vehicles which are set to take-to-the-roads next year.
The pandemic demonstrated the urgent need for end-to-end supply chain visibility to meet challenges created by shortages. In an unanticipated shift, full-service restaurants stepped in to serve customers’ grocery needs by supplying hard-to-get items like hand sanitizer and paper towels. Next year, full-service restaurants should take a closer look at their own supply chains. The ability to match menus with available ingredients depends on accurate data for both availability and speed of delivery.
The dire unemployment numbers in the hospitality industry illustrate how full-service restaurants have been doing more tasks with less labor than ever before, and this trend will continue. Automating internal processes that were historically done manually will be essential, such as accurately labeling orders and keeping close track of tight inventory. Full-service operators will find that automating such tasks will free up employees to provide consumer-facing duties for pick-up and delivery.
The pandemic has also tasked full-service restaurant managers to monitor a whole new level of safety that can also be automated. Because full-service restaurants offer an implied brand promise that: “if we serve it, it is safe,” operators need to follow through by making food safety a priority. Automating and generating data protects the customer and the brand in a centralized, easily accessible manner, for example through expiry management, temperature tracking and adherence to employee handwashing protocols.
Expect advances in supply chain AI driving a safer more productive full-service restaurant operation to be another big part of the conversation in 2021.
Many full-service restaurants struggled in the darkest days of the pandemic during 2020. As businesses continue to ride the tides of COVID, embracing technology that drives success will be the wave of the future in 2021.
Ryan Yost is vice president/general manager for the Printer Solutions Division (PSD) for Avery Dennison Corporation. In his role, he is responsible for worldwide leadership of and strategy for the Printer Solutions Division, focused on building partnerships and solutions within the Food, Apparel and Fulfillment industries. For more information, visit https://printers.averydennison.com/en/home.html.