The digital movement has affected every industry in the world, and the foodservice industry is no different. In fact, there are just as many digital innovations for foodservice as there are for healthcare, retail, and eCommerce—if not more. And considering how gargantuan the industry is, digitalization holds endless potential for both businesses and customers alike.
In this article, we talk about some of the largest and most widespread innovations in the foodservice industry and the specific benefits they provide:
1. Better websites
Twenty years ago, it was uncommon for food businesses other than chain restaurants and more successful restaurants to have their own website. At best, small to mid-sized restaurants relied on social media platforms to establish their online presence and saw no point in creating a website for their business. Times have changed since then. As website building became more accessible and digital marketing services like PPC became more affordable, even small-scale operations are putting up their own websites—and are starting to see the value in doing so.
For food businesses, establishing websites increases the online presence and provides a wider reach, especially for local restaurants. And for customers, finding restaurants nearby and perusing the menu beforehand has become much easier.
2. Tabletop ordering systems and tablet menus
More high-tech food joints have adopted tabletop ordering systems and/or tablet menus as part of their modernization plan. These digital technologies allow guests to order from their tables with little to no help from a server, and their orders are transmitted automatically to the kitchen for processing. This type of technology cuts down ordering time, improves the customer experience, and reduces labor costs while decreasing the chances of cross-contamination. That is especially highlighted in the time of COVID-19.
Although tabletop systems and tablet menus don’t eliminate the presence of a server, they help reduce the workload by a significant amount. Customers can take their time ordering from their tables, and servers can focus on other tasks such as serving food, bussing tables, and communicating with the kitchen staff.
3. Self-ordering kiosks
If you’ve ever been to a fast-food restaurant, you will notice that most have already installed self-ordering kiosks in their establishments. These kiosks allow customers to order and pay without going up the counter, making the transaction faster, easier, and more convenient for everybody.
This type of tech is also very useful for non-verbal individuals and people who have trouble with social interactions. Furthermore, they provide more convenient ways to pay by swiping a credit card or scanning through a phone app.
4. Cloud computing
Like many other industries, foodservice businesses have started to migrate their data to the cloud for better security, easier access, and larger storage space. Mostly, this migration is in response to rapidly changing market conditions driven by the digitalization of businesses across many industries.
5. Food delivery apps
The emergence of food delivery apps (e.g., DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, etc.) and food delivery services on ride-sharing apps (e.g., UberEats) has transformed the concept of food delivery forever. Before, food delivery was only popular for certain foods like pizza and Chinese takeout. Today, almost every restaurant offers delivery options thanks to the ease and convenience that online food delivery services provide.
The huge benefit of food delivery apps has been widely recognized since the pandemic started. Ordering food online was nothing new before COVID-19. Still, restrictions have made its convenience all the more important for both businesses (to drive up sales and offset losses) and customers (to order food conveniently and with minimal contact) alike.
6. Kitchen display systems
Before digital kitchen display systems (KDS) came to be, restaurant staff had to rely on ticket printers to communicate orders between the kitchen and the front of the house. Now, modern KDS systems allow for better communication among restaurant staff, thereby reducing errors, waste, and customer complaints—and, of course, improving the customer experience in the process.
7. Automated inventory management
Waste can be extremely difficult to combat in any foodservice business, which is what automated inventory management software aims to solve. With such a platform in place, restaurants can better track stocks, anticipate quantities for reordering, and schedule orders accordingly—all of which would otherwise be time-consuming and prone to error without an automated system.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of digital technologies shaping the foodservice industry as we know it. Still, it contains some of the biggest innovations there are, by far. With digital technology continuing to rapidly evolve—partly driven by the pandemic—we can only expect it to yield more benefits for both businesses and customers.