How AI is changing restaurants and profit margins

Artificial Intelligence – the latest and greatest

There’s a lot of hype around AI at the moment, and a push for all industries to embrace automation. But is the hype worth it? How can AI for restaurants help? Is artificial intelligence really the right choice for an industry that’s really all about people?

The restaurant industry is typically slow to adopt new tech. Ironically, our adoption speed compared to other sectors is usually because we’re moving so fast. It’s hard to make significant changes to our operations without major disruption to our high-speed, high-pressure work environment. And in an industry that rides close to the line with profit margins, we’re not in any position to throw ourselves off track for even a small amount of time and risk the week’s profit in the name of a gimmicky ‘solution’.

So in the midst of all the AI-crazed conversation, here’s some insights into how artificial intelligence and machine learning will transform not only our individual venues but also our entire industry.

Big players like Maccas are already using AI to offer drive-thru customers personalised menus based on time, day, trends and traffic. AI is already taking orders and making reservations at some of our well known big brand names. In only a few years, predictions indicate we’ll be able to order and eat food completely ordered, processed and delivered without a single human hand involved. By all accounts, come 2030 our industry is going to be vastly different from the hospo we know and love today.

The future is coming, whether we like it or not. It’s going to change the way we work, manage and most importantly profit from our passion in this industry.

So how can you get ahead of the curve and adopt new solutions now that are already making massive changes to the bottom line of innovative foodservice operators?

Wages are rising steadily. Ballooning inflation is pushing up food and beverage wholesale costs. On top of that, customers are tightening their collective purse strings thanks to the cost of living crisis (so we can’t just jack the prices up in line with COGS).

The place of AI today

Forget the distant future for a second – these factors are presenting a very real challenge for our industry in 2023. We made it through Covid a little bruised and battered, and now Australia’s financial climate is keeping many businesses struggling to turn a decent profit.

It’s increasingly challenging for restaurants to stay ahead of the curve and meet customers’ expectations while still making a healthy return. The most efficient way for restaurants to improve their customer service, COGS, productivity and profit margin is by harnessing smart tech with AI and machine learning capabilities to help find efficiencies we can easily miss in the hustle of daily service.

How can restaurants and cafes leverage AI today to transform their business?

Selecting an AI that suits your specific challenges is a great place to start. Software like Viability focuses on gathering data from every corner of business to analyse the model and find efficiencies to improve your bottom line. It’s helping business owners today make twice as much profit as they used to. Other tools are helping streamline the customer experience with voice recognition and ordering tools.

If you’re in the market, here’s my team’s no bull-**** guide to choosing the right AI, and read on for ideas about where and what you can optimise with AI.

AI for Front of House

We all know that customer service is key to any restaurant’s success. AI can help you provide personalised experiences to your customers. By analysing customer data such as order history, preferences, and dietary restrictions, AI can help you create customised menus and offers, like Macca’s is already doing.

AI can already assist with taking orders and answering customer inquiries. It can help you manage your online reputation by analysing customer feedback from review sites and social media, and you can use this feedback to identify areas for improvement and enhance the customer experience.

AI for Back of House

AI like Viability can help streamline restaurant operations by optimising your purchasing processes, and ensuring you’re working within the right internal KPIs and benchmarks, helping determine what, and how much, to order so you can optimise service and costs.

By analysing historical data and trends, AI can predict demand and improve ordering costs across all your suppliers, helping minimise waste and reduce costs in real time.

AI for Workforce Productivity

By analysing data on revenue, workforce, wages, and employee schedules, AI like Viability can help restaurants determine the optimal number of staff needed at any given moment, and which team members are the best choice to get the job done.

AI can analyse historical data and future projections to predict peaks and troughs in revenue and help schedule more staff during those times. This improves service quality, and ultimately lead to higher profitability. By analysing data on employee availability, shift preferences, and skills, AI can create optimised schedules that meet employee needs, enable better customer service and lead to consistent, sustainable team productivity.

AI for Forecasting

While analysing the past and optimising the present are both absolutely the wheelhouse of AI, there’s a final part of the picture that advanced operational AI tools like ours bring to the table. The ability to predict – and therefore change – real future outcomes.

While nothing (not even AI) can change tomorrow’s revenue quickly and easily, working with AI like ours, you can change how your business operates … meaning you can absolutely change your profit margin. And consistently improving using smart tools means your revenue is likely to increase naturally as your service levels and productivity get a major boost.

AI for Profit

The fact is, if you combine the power of AI in FoH and BoH, management and forecasting, you come out with a clear positive result in your bottom line. AI is like the human brain – it’s constantly recalculating and redirecting at every moment. Only AI isn’t influenced by gut feel or emotions … it’s pure data. And that means it can do things like continuous, dynamic benchmarking.

Using AI tools can help you improve your profit margins by boosting productivity, identifying and rectifying inefficiencies, optimising pricing, automating tasks, improving accuracy and predicting the future so that you can change it before it happens. (That’s our job at Viability.)

Time to stay ahead of the pack

Have you considered using AI in your venue? Embracing AI now will put you amongst the future-focused industry leaders seeking smarter ways to run businesses.

Smart tech and AI can revolutionise the way you work, the customer experience you deliver, and your bottom line. It’s a win-win for restaurants and our customers.

With more options emerging … how do you choose the best AI tools for your needs?

And if you’re not convinced that AI software solutions are the future of foodservice, or you’re not sure how it would work … you can try ours (for a whole month) for FREE.

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