Tech can help smaller restaurants fight bigger chains more effectively

Striking a chord with customers, reducing operational costs, and making a splash in the media — it's all a piece of cake with technology.
1 November 2018

AI can make a world of a difference to smaller restaurants. Source: Shutterstock

Passionate chefs often start small restaurants that tend to have the yummiest fare but struggle to make ends meet because operational costs are too high or because they fail to strike the right chords with their customers.

However, experts are convinced that artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies might have something to help these mavericks — a whole host of solutions that can help them better compete with some of the biggest chains and independent restaurants in the business.

And although there aren’t too many (small) restaurants out that that truly leverage technologies, there are success stories tucked away in popular corners across the world.

Take Spyce, for example. Four mechanical engineering grads from MIT set up the ‘quaint-ish’ restaurant and made quite a splash. It features robots that whisk up grain bowl-based foods for customers, at their table, once ordered on a touchscreen.

The restaurant uses robotics to bring efficiency into the kitchen, and the touchscreen-based interface lowers costs significantly. And while the wow-factor from the robots will slowly die down, Spyce’s operations will only get smarter, faster, and better.

Another great example of small restaurants leveraging technology is Poke Bop in Dallas. It’s using a Facebook messenger-based chatbot to better engage with diners.

Think about it, an AI-powered engine such as a chatbot is best suited to answer queries about items on the menu, tell people when the shop is open/closed, and accept/cancel reservations.

It’s something that the giants like KFC and Dominos are already using — in more sophisticated ways. Also, deploying a chatbot doesn’t usually involve a huge investment. Hence, not only does it make a good customer experience enhancement but also proves cost-effective.

Obviously, technology has proved itself to be a good partner to restaurants and the more restauranters that go looking for synergies between technology and the kitchen or operations, the more solutions we’ll see in the future.

The rise of the internet of things (IoT) especially can play a big role in helping some of the smallest restaurants deliver the greatest experience — to complement the brilliant food they serve.

Sensors and cameras can pick up customers movements, their expressions, and using big data and complex algorithms, can predict what ambiance they’d appreciate and how they’d like their food served.

Maybe a group in the middle of a conversation might like to be sent their next course while there’s a bit of silence instead of when they’re at their most excited? The possibilities are unlimited — but there’s no doubt that technology holds the key to operational and service excellence, at “affordable prices”.