The increased use of technology in the restaurant has been well-documented, ranging from automated servers to robot chefs.
For example, numerous quick-service restaurants are employing robotics in their kitchens.
U.S. burger chain White Castle is introducing Flippy, an aptly-named burger-grilling machine, while Hyundai Robotics is partnering with KFC to develop chicken-cooking robots.
Meanwhile, Buffalo Wild Wings has tested robotic chicken wing fryers through a pilot program with Miso Robotics, which claims the project has increased food production speed up to 20 per cent while also decreasing oil spillage.
The autonomous mobile robots market is expected to grow annually by 43 per cent until 2027, according to LogisticsIQ, and the cooking robots market is predicted to grow 16 per cent annually through to 2028.
So far, these restaurant robotics are largely brought in to ease labour struggles and streamline efficiencies, and for restaurants there seem to be lots of positives.
But it seems diners aren’t so sure.
New research from Big Red Rooster has found that almost one-third (32 per cent) of diners would prefer not to see robots preparing their food in the kitchen. Forty-four per cent added they would be sceptical to see automated robots in kitchens.
That doesn’t mean that diners are against automated robot technology in restaurants altogether, though.
In fact, while robot chefs aren’t universally popular, more than four in 10 (41 per cent) of diners actually like the idea of robots cleaning the dining room, conducting table walk-bys (40 per cent), and delivering orders to tables (38 per cent). Meanwhile, 31 per cent and 27 per cent, respectively, are also open to robots that deliver orders to your home or prepare/assemble meals.
Big Red Rooster’s report notes that Gen Z and millennial diners are more likely to feel positively about seeing back-of-house automation. However, many dine-in consumers across demographics still prefer and expect human interaction, particularly in welcoming them and preparing and delivering food, delivering it to the table or home and clean the restaurant. Conversely, customers prefer a machine to customize orders, take orders and expedite orders. Three-quarters (75 per cent) of customers still believe interaction with a human is a critical component of going out to a restaurant.
“Consumers have heightened expectations around speed, accuracy, intelligence, and automation and are more receptive than ever to the technologies that provide them. Yet most restaurant consumers still feel human beings are integral, even critical, to the restaurant experience regardless of sector or fulfillment type,” the report said.
Ultimately, the uptick in this technology is likely to continue. The report concluded that, whether they like it or not, one-quarter (26 per cent) of consumers anticipate dining at a fully automated restaurant as early as 2025, per the report.