On the blogby Alfred
April 3 2019

Is artificial intelligence in the restaurant industry eliminating jobs in the process?

by Guy Doucet

For starters, the answer to the question is no, artificial intelligence (AI) will not eliminate the majority of the jobs in restaurants. It will allow a concentration of the human resources on the product and on the customer experience, using the AI for less strategic tasks. The result is more profitable operations and better-remunerated jobs. With the constant presence of the workforce shortage problem, these new technologies will contribute to save many local businesses that are going to be able to operate with a lower amount of employees earning higher salaries. These employees will then be able to better focus on the quality of their products and their service.

In an article published last November, my friend Martin Lafrance, entrepreneur and owner of Ueat, a business located in Québec, exposes the technological revolution that currently is happening in the restaurant market. If this industry has been slow to adopt technology for its transformation, it will be quite different in the upcoming months. On this subject, I suggest reading the article of Martin Lafrance that exposes the different industries and the impacts of technology on these domains

The restaurant market is enormous, complex and rapidly evolving. In the United States only, restaurants generate more than 800 billion dollars and employ more than 14 million people, which is close to one out of 10 workers in the entire country. The restaurant market is known to be a hard market to succeed in, and this is even truer nowadays. The tastes of consumers change rapidly and the types of restaurants progress quickly.

The customers experience food in new ways, by discovering unique and authentic culinary experiences. At the Le Coureur des Bois in Beloeil, a restaurant that was awarded the prestigious Grand Award by the Wine Spectator magazine, the main points to seduce customers are the wine list, the cellar and the quality of the food. To succeed in this environment, the restaurant managers must understand how the customers take their decisions, to anticipate the changes in the competition and to stay ahead of trends at all times, says Ian Purtell, director of the restaurant.

A common hypothesis for restaurant owners that do not know much about AI is that it immediately refers to robotics; a mechanical machine that flips hamburgers or a robot transporting food to the tables. This type of technology can indeed function in certain restaurants, but the true value of AI resides in its capacity to help restaurant owners take better decisions in terms of customer service. AI can also contribute to tasks such as inventory management or purchasing processes.

Artificial intelligence represents an opportunity for transformation of restaurants, because of the precise recommendations it can come up with. By using an inventory management system such as Alfred Pro, the restaurant manager can ensure that the customer will not be disappointed by an unavailable product or by a wine bottle that cannot be found amidst the thousands of products in the cellar. This also ensures that the stocks are rotated optimally, ultimately greatly reducing the workload associated to maintaining the inventory. In a close future, it will be possible to anticipate the needs of the customer base with the historical data, while also automatizing the purchases of products by following the current trends.

AI can identify new trends faster than humans can. Even with its reputation of being quite complicated, it is easy to use when integrated to existing tools such as Alfred Pro to anticipate the needs of the customer base. 

We have already reached the era of the restaurant collecting and using data. Whether these restaurants elect their focus to the quality of their wines, their to-go meals or on their delivery services, millions of customers will visit these businesses and will take millions of decisions as to where they want to spend their hard-earned money. For each purchase of wine or food, these clients will generate data that restaurants must collect and analyze. Solutions such as Alfred Pro are an intricate part of collecting this essential data, while also allowing the owner to improve his profit margins and to concentrate the efforts of his team on the quality of the products served and on the overall customer experience.

Just like the conclusion of the article written by my friend Martin said, no industry or domain is protected from change, no matter how long it may take. Giant companies such as Sears have gone extinct because they failed to embrace the changes, thinking that their industry would stay the same and that their reputation would suffice to carry them throughout the years. The real question is not if changes will happen, but more so when they happen, will your business be able (and ready) to adapt to them?

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Photo : Ian Purtell, restaurant manager with Alfred Pro, the first intelligent wine list for the restaurant market

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