The changing face of dining
Restaurant automation is still in its early days given its relatively high cost vs labour. Most automation is taking place in the dining area, but operators are also beginning to rethink labour economics in the kitchen. Advancements in robotics and AI, coupled with 5G, are set to further revamp workflow. Over time, regulatory changes could accelerate the adoption of drone and land-based robotics delivery.
We expect operators to leverage restaurant automation
Near term, we expect a rising number of subscale restaurant operators to leverage the novelty effects of robot waiters as a way to generate publicity, gauge consumer interest and experiment with automating for optimal efficiency. In the medium to long-term, a need to address fundamental sector challenges and falling hardware costs will likely be the key drivers of this theme.
COVID-19 a wake-up call?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the dining industry, resulting in large-scale closures and traffic declines. But it also illustrated the public health benefits of automation: delivery robots were deployed to neutralise the risk of human-to-human transmission; patrol robots to enforce facial mask-wearing; and sanitation robots to disinfect public areas.
The bottom line is that the technology for restaurant automation already exists and is being used to various degrees as restaurant operators look to improve efficiency and customer experience.