Tech Innovations in The Food Industry

If the last year has shown us anything it’s this: The culinary industry has no choice but to embrace innovation and the risk that sometimes comes with new culinary technology. We have seen some innovations catch on slowly, only to single-handedly keep a business afloat in uncertain times. Other “advances” that were often safe in the past sink under the weight of our current climate. There are many tech concepts that have risen to the top and changed the way culinary trends forever. Bringing safety, convenience, and quick service to the forefront.

Contactless In-House Dining Experience

The latest culinary trend that we are watching is the food industry’s shift to largely follow a contactless business model. The value of a warm, smiling face now ranks second to diners feeling safe when visiting their favorite local restaurant. Many consumers were apprehensive about the move to a tech-driven restaurant experience pre-Covid, fearing the service would become cold and secondary, but this has largely changed. Simple tasks such as making a dining reservation, have now moved online.

In-house orders are taken at self-service kiosks, eliminating the face-to-face ordering process. And contactless payment through companies like Klarna, SquareUp, Paypal gets diners in and out faster than ever before. All of these “touchless” changes were coming, but Covid accelerated its advancement in the name of safety. Now, we see that these moves also offer convenience for diners and restaurants alike, quick turnaround, and accountability for correct orders and billing. Benefits like this give advanced tech staying power.

Streamlined Takeout

There are more reasons than ever that Americans are choosing takeout. While many prefer takeout after a long, hectic day, others now opt to avoid a crowded dining experience. They’re just not ready to return back to the dining room. The convenience of online ordering makes this process simple and quick. A large number of restaurants now offer an in-house app for easy online ordering, eliminating the need for companies like DoorDash and UberEats. Many point of sale companies even offer personalized apps to their customers, creating opportunities for smaller businesses to offer apps that typically carry a hefty price tag to create. This is a culinary trend that is finally attainable!

With the ease of the takeout process, the list of carryout benefits continues to grow. Pickup times now accompany online ordering, eliminating guesswork and excess time spent waiting on food. Patrons are able to walk into the restaurant, grab their order, and leave. Many fast-casual concepts will have food waiting in an assigned cubby or on a labeled pick-up shelf to minimize wait time even further. Foodservice suppliers sell an array of anti-tamper to-go containers, giving consumers an added sense of safety. 

QR Coded Menus

If you’ve visited a restaurant lately, you’ve likely had to aim your phone at a black and white, square-like image to view your menu. This QR, or quick response code, has existed mostly unnoticed for well over a decade. We have watched over the last year as QR codes have gone mainstream during the pandemic as a way to share information from a social distance. Restaurants value the ability to remove high-touch points and QR codes have done just that, leaving the consumer feeling safer.

It’s important to recognize the benefits of QR codes because there is still a great deal to gain from them. This culinary technology trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Want to highlight your local farms and vendors? A QR code could send your consumer to their website. Have you seen the value of “secret” menus? QR codes could also shoot your customers over to your specials menu, whether it’s posted on a webpage, Instagram, or Facebook. For the trend-forward restaurant, your QR code could even go to a custom-curated Spotify playlist. QR codes are truly personalized to be whatever you as the restaurant need them to be. And for your patrons, they are instant and engaging.

The Future of Restaurant Tech

With so many innovations propelling the restaurant industry forward, there is still so much more to come. Ghost kitchen company C3 is creating “digital-first” food halls. “Citizens food halls are slated for New York and Atlanta, with Seattle, Miami, and California locations in the works. They will feature C3 brands such as Krispy Rice, EllaMia, and Sam’s Crispy Chicken.” This tech-based concept includes a streamlined, recently released ordering app.

Companies like HungerRush are acquiring online ordering companies. This is a part of the attempt to remove third-party services. Guests can order directly from restaurants saving time and eliminating the middleman. This culinary technology gives restaurants the ability to offer direct ordering while utilizing loyalty and analytics tools. It’s important to note that tech-driven loyalty programs are not to be undervalued. According to Restaurant Technology News “For Famous Dave’s, Mobivity’s personalized text message marketing showed an attributable lift of 26% in customer frequency with messaging (compared to non-messaging guests) and nearly a 50X Return on Marketing Spend (ROMS™).”

What This Means For You

To say that culinary technology is the way of the future is an understatement. We call it a culinary trend, but it’s so much more. Tech solutions improve guest engagement at a time where our society is working to “keep its distance”. Customer loyalty is strengthened through ease of use, the assurance of safety, and personalized campaigns. Whether you are a part of a large-scale company or a mom-and-pop establishment, touchless payments, online ordering, and functional apps are available to you. Get creative with how you use them!

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Tony Lagana

Chef Tony is a 42-year veteran of the food industry and is often known by his peers as “The New Product Guru.” Throughout his illustrious culinary career, he’s earned several notable titles and positions including Acquisition International’s “Most Influential Product Development Expert, U.S.” in 2019.

In 1997, Tony also founded Culinary Systems Inc., a group of culinary consultants that assist with culinary training, restaurant start-ups, concept development, and more. Since then, Tony and his team have generated over two billion dollars in sales for their clients in restaurants, retail, and manufacturing.

The strategic, technical, and culinary skills of Tony and his team can be seen on the menus of national chains, in the portfolio of national food manufacturers, and on the grocery shelves of products produced by major retail companies.