AI is poised to transform the restaurant industry in 2024

By Daniel Hawes

The restaurant and hospitality sectors are in a time of rapid digital transformation due to the widespread introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) into the consumer space.  AI will significantly influence and reshape these sectors, as operators continue to look for ways to streamline restaurant processes and customer interactions, accelerate internal workflows, and provide a more efficient guest experience.

Integration of AI into workflows

AI, in all of its forms, will increasingly become an integral part of restaurant workflows. More restaurants will adopt AI functionalities like predictive analytics for staffing decisions, demand forecasting, inventory management, and overall efficiency. With ample data-driven insights, predictive AI is a powerful tool for restaurants to tackle labour shortages, forecast customer needs, reduce food waste, and much more.

By utilizing AI-powered tools, businesses can also expedite the creation of high-quality content. These tools can generate compelling visuals for menus, marketing and promotional emails, and written copy for social channels, enabling restaurants to maintain a consistent brand voice and attract their target audience. By leveraging AI, restaurants can save valuable time and resources in an inflationary market and support their customer engagement efforts.

Personalized experiences will become more commonplace as restaurants embrace AI-powered systems that analyze customer data. For instance, AI can delve into a customer’s order history; perhaps the guest is a vegan, and a customized plant-based menu recommendation can be offered when they visit. This can be used to drive loyalty and increase customer satisfaction.

Automation and customer interactions

 Many integrated POS systems already streamline and automate operations, and this automation will extend to customer interactions. Some quick-service restaurants have already implemented kiosks for convenient ordering, AI-powered phone answering, and even robot servers.

AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants have seen widespread mainstream adoption, and this year, the industry will see conversational AI go one step further. With ChatGPT, restaurant operators now have an interface into all of the specialized intelligence of their restaurant at their fingertips – and they can make this available to customers. This will change the user experience considerably. Human interactions with kiosks will become more conventional, making the guest experience even more seamless and intuitive. While there’s no replacement for the human touch, expect to see more automation in the front-of-house.

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Immersive technological potential

The integration of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies into the foodservice industry to create immersive experiences is still in the early days but could have a transformative impact on how we experience dining.

These technologies are reshaping how customers interact with restaurants. During the pandemic, QR codes replaced physical menus and now, restaurants can use AR applications that overlay interactive menu visuals, accessible with just a smartphone.

The recent launch of Meta’s AI-powered smart glasses suggests that AR/VR could become even more integrated into the foodservice industry beyond the smartphone. While it’s not yet mainstream in dining establishments, pioneers ventured into using VR headsets to enhance the dining experience with multisensory elements. These experiences can transport diners to alternate settings or weave storytelling narratives alongside meals, adding an additional layer of entertainment to dining.

For now, AR is more likely to be used to provide real-time meal information like ingredients, recipes, and nutritional details. Integrating these elements into restaurant concepts can offer customers a highly unique and differentiated dining experience.

The future of artificial intelligence for restaurants

AI’s impact on the restaurant and hospitality industry in 2024 will be far-reaching and transformative. From automating customer interactions to innovative, immersive experiences, businesses that strategically leverage AI will be well-positioned to thrive in this evolving landscape. While the restaurant of tomorrow will be highly integrated with AI technology, the challenge lies in balancing this technology with the human connection.

As technology continues to develop, restaurants must remain adaptable to change. By implementing a malleable strategy that allows operators to integrate new methods like automated staffing processes, the restaurant and hospitality sector will be better equipped to keep up with the pace of creation. The future is bright.

 Daniel Hawes, whose work marries the worlds of technology, design, and academic research, is the Vice President of Product Design at Givex. Daniel plays a pivotal role in developing Givex’s AI initiatives, pushing the envelope with new products and services, and using AI to improve the customer experience.