New technology has become crucial for restaurant survival. Having just emerged from the severe disruptions of the pandemic, which caused more than 70,000 restaurants to close permanently, the restaurant industry is again in crisis. Now, food service providers are under pressure from a troubled economic landscape. Persistent supply chain issues and high inflation have led to sharp rises in operational costs. These rising costs have caused 87% of restaurant owners to raise menu prices to keep up.
At the same time, the industry — and the wider hospitality sector — is also experiencing severe labor shortages. There are more than one million unfilled jobs, and 78% of restaurant operators report having insufficient staff to support customer demand. This imbalance has degraded restaurants’ quality of service, and customers are reporting longer wait times and reduced friendliness from staff. Nearly one in three restaurant owners have had to decrease their level of service, according to PYMNTS research.
The “B2B and Digital Payments Tracker®” explores how technology can help restaurants overcome these challenges and improve customer service.
Wendy’s partnered with Google Cloud to create Wendy’s FreshAI, a solution that automates the drive-thru with artificial intelligence (AI). Leveraging Google’s large language models (LLMs) to generate and understand human-like speech, Wendy’s FreshAI can process orders and answer customer questions. The fast food chain hopes the solution will help reduce employees’ workloads and improve customer experiences.
At the 2023 National Restaurant Association Show, OrionStar Robotics and Rocky Mountain Robotech revealed an AI-powered robot for restaurants. The technology can easily integrate into existing workflows and manage various tasks — helping companies improve operations and enhance customer experience.
For more on these and other stories, visit the Tracker’s News and Trends section.
Technology is critical to restaurants’ ability to provide customers with quality service. But it is not the only facet restaurants need to operate in an increasingly challenging environment.
To get the Insider POV, PYMNTS spoke with Bill Fultz, vice president of point of sale at Heartland, a Global Payments company, about why companies must pair technology adoption with a thorough understanding of customer needs to succeed.
The restaurant sector has rapidly transformed. The pandemic forced the industry to adopt digital tools and online sales channels to survive the disruption. Once laggards when it came to modernization, restaurants now use technology more than ever. PYMNTS found that nearly 55% of all restaurants have implemented curbside pickup, and 50% have adopted mobile order-ahead.
In fact, due to the challenging economic environment, restaurants plan to implement technology even further. According to a 2022 survey, 75% of restaurant operators plan to adopt new technology to address labor and cost challenges. Nevertheless, while restaurants have already implemented a lot of innovations, consumers want more. To alleviate mounting wait times and deteriorating service, 70% of consumers expressed interest in integrating technological aids, such as AI voice assistants, personalized menus and smartphone apps, into the drive-thru.
To learn more about how technology can help restaurants overcome this latest crisis, read the Tracker’s PYMNTS Intelligence.