Presented in an education session at NRA Show 2016, the soon-to-be-released Restaurant Technology Survey 2016 (conducted in partnership with American Express) shows that restaurant operators agree technology can help increase sales and enhance customer service. However, barriers of implementation hamper progress and lead a third of restaurant operators to say their operations are lagging in tech use. Only about one in 10 believe their establishment is leading edge.
According to the survey, adoption of technology among restaurants is higher in some areas, such as using a POS system, having a website and offering Wi-Fi to guests, the research found. Other areas are less common, including tabletop and kiosk ordering and payment stations, mobile payment and smartphone apps. There are fairly significant differences in adoption among segments and ownership categories, however.
What can we expect from the establishments that are leading the pack? Some may say robots!!
Robots are among us and they’re not just for the back of the house anymore. Automation can enhance food safety, efficiency and consistency and allows guests to easily customize meals. Here are three automation innovations from the NRA Show.
Speeds up sushi-making: Suzumo International has found a way to literally bring fresh sushi to the masses. The traditional process for making maki or hand rolls and nigiri is labour-intensive and time consuming, but the Japanese company plans to change that, says Simon Kim, a representative for the company’s Canadian distributor. One robot makes 3,600 pieces of nigiri an hour; another makes 1,800. The company also offers an automated roll machine, roll cutter, rice sheet maker and sushi rice mixer.
Fry cook: Is automation in the kitchen of the future? Kitchen equipment manufacturers Middleby Corp. and Pitco think so. They’ve teamed up with Rethink Robotics to create foodservice’s first automated “employee,” which they showed off at this year’s NRA Show. The robotic “employee” can cook a batch of French fries as easily and quickly as any line cook. Why companies are thinking about “hiring” the robot: Wage issues, liability costs and turnover, says Middleby engineer Randy Burt. What does that mean for the average restaurant? $30,000 for 35,500 hours of constant repeatability and a lifespan of over five years.
Salad customization: Meet Sally, a vending-machine-style robot that allows guests to customize salads in less space than a salad bar. The counter-top model contains ingredients for 50 salads in a refrigerated compartment. Guests select their preferred ingredients and the salad drops into a bowl, similar to a drink or ice cream machine. The benefits? Operators can offer hundreds of salads versus four or five without risk of cross-contamination. “Millennials love customizable food,” says Casabots CEO Deepak Sekar. “Robots have been used for making food for the last 20 years in big factories,” he says. “We’ve taken the huge robots and made them smaller in size so every restaurant can have one.”
For photos of the 2016 event, please visit https://show.restaurant.org/Attend/Press. NRA Show 2017 will be held May 20-23 at McCormick Place in Chicago. For more information, visit Restaurant.org/Show and find the NRA Show on Twitter @NRAShowIntl and our year-round content hub Brainfeed.
Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises more than 1 million restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of 14.4 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We operate the industry’s largest trade show (NRA Show May 21-24, 2016, in Chicago); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart); as well as the Kids LiveWell program promoting healthful kids’ menu options. For more information, visit Restaurant.org and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube.