Technology in catering: what does the future hold for us?

Results from the 2016 Restaurant Technology Survey, which were unveiled at the National Restaurant Association’s latest show, show that restaurateurs agree that technology can help increase sales and improve customer service. However, the obstacles brought about by the introduction of new technologies tend to slow down their company’s progress, with the result that one-third of operators surveyed say they are behind in implementing the technology in their establishment.

In fact, only 10% of survey respondents believe that their institution is at the cutting edge of technology.

According to the survey, the use of a point-of-sale (POS) system, the creation of a detailed website and the Wi-Fi connection offer for customers are the most common technological elements for restaurants. Automated tabletop ordering, mobile payment, and smartphone applications are the least common options.

What can we expect from the institutions that are currently at the top?

Robots are among us, and they are no longer just in the background. Automation can improve a restaurant’s food safety and efficiency while allowing customers to customize their meals without hassle. Here are three of the innovations presented at the NRA Show:

Speed up the sushi production process: Suzumo International has found a way to bring masses of fresh sushi to the population. The traditional process of making maki, homemade rolls and nigiri are very laborious and time-consuming, but Japanese society plans to change all this by introducing robots that produce between 1,800 and 3,600 pieces of nigiri per hour. The company also offers an automatic roller machine and a sushi rice mixer.

Automated Frying: Kitchen equipment manufacturers Middleby Corp. and Pitco recently teamed up with Rethink Robotics to create the first automated employee. The latter can cook a batch of fries as efficiently and quickly as any cook and its long-term performance are more economical than that of a regular employee ($30,000 for 35,500 hours of repeated work, not counting a lifetime of more than five years).

Custom made salads: visitors to the show had the opportunity to discover Sally, a robot similar to a vending machine that allows customers to customize their salads in space even more compact than a salad bar. The countermodel contains ingredients for the equivalent of 50 salads in a refrigerated compartment. Customers just choose their favorite ingredients, and the salad falls straight into a bowl.

The benefits? Operators can offer a more extensive choice without the risk of cross-contamination.” In large factories, robots have been used to make food for at least 20 years. We simply took the huge robots and made smaller ones so that every restaurant can now have one,” says Deepak Sekar, president, and CEO of Casabots.

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