In 2015, McDonald’s opened a fully-automated outlet in Phoenix, USA. While the facility was far from efficient, in many ways, it marked a momentous event in the hospitality industry. The idea that we are adapting mainstream automation was a step closer to being a reality.
Now, in 2020, the adoption of advanced technology among restaurant owners has made some progress. A number of innovative business owners in the industry have invested big on kitchen automation – and they are leveraging significant benefits out of it. Then there are others who are still debating merits of the new and relevant technologies – like smart kitchens and kitchen robotics.
In today’s day and age, technological progress is defining society’s evolution. We might not necessarily like or completely comprehend immersive AI-driven virtual reality, but cutting-edge VR is imminent. Similarly, you may be apprehensive about kitchen automation, but it’s the natural progression of our technological advancements in kitchen space. It could not be touted as just another fad in the ever-evolving food industry (think unicorn frappes, charcoal laden food, et al). The buzz on food robotics is not a phase but the next logical step.
Have you got it wrong?
Businesses are trying to figure out the innovative kitchen technologies and how its deployment can be a massive game-changer for them. In that process, many are hinged to plenty of fallacies around kitchen automation. Here are seven of those misconceptions:
1. “I don’t need it”
An established food business might assume that they don’t need to invest in kitchen automation. And why should you? Your clients are happy and satisfied, you have a steady revenue and your operating costs are accounted for. In reality, you might be missing out on the bigger picture here. Technology adoption can help achieve higher efficiency and minimize leaking-costs. You can realize your expansion ideas at lesser costs, can serve more customers easily, efficiently and most importantly, secure your market hold.
But generally, any kind/size of food business owners can do with some smart kitchen equipment and facility. Be it to streamline kitchen logistics with CRM or automate food preparations – there’s enough room for innovation and technology to plug in your existing operations. The backward bending labour supply curve is taken care of finally. Inventory management will be a lot better with real time data analytics. So, there’s no such thing as “I don’t need it”. You do! You simply don’t know how – and that’s something you’d figure out soon.
2. “It’s very expensive”
This may have been the case a few years back. Not anymore.
This isn’t to say kitchen automation is cheap now, but it sure is affordable for SMEs in food service industry. Like with every technological advancement, this too comes with a pre-empted belief that it is going to be an expensive affair. Kitchen automation plays largely on the economies of scale. In fact, even the one-time cost maybe significantly lower once it finds itself in mainstream applications across the spectrum. It’s a classic case of one-time cost versus recurring costs. Besides, it’s not exactly a cost but instead an investment that promises to deliver you good ROI. It will pay for itself eventually.
3.“I don’t have the right infrastructure”
Unless you’re planning to invest in hefty kitchen tech and re-do your entire kitchen, you don’t necessarily require a specific infrastructure. You can do with whatever you have. In fact, on the contrary, the new-age automation equipment is so compact and sophisticated in aesthetic, they even save you space when replacing older appliances. So, even if it’s a small kitchen in size, you can welcome advanced technology. This myopic understanding of automation can be a major deterrent. Japan- where space crunch is real-houses hundreds of hole in the wall eateries which have taken to automation like moths to a flame.
4.“We can’t handle such equipment”
Admittedly, running automation technology isn’t as simple. Owing to the complex features and too many options, it requires proper skills to achieve optimum performance and consistency that you’re originally promised. Technology adoption is the least of the worries. Smartphones were deemed miraculous and for the classes back in the day. Creator, a fully automated burger joint based out of San Francisco, has aced the automation game by churning out delicious gourmet burgers at a measly $6 in America’s most expensive city.
If they can do it, it clearly isn’t something that you and your staff can’t learn. The key is technical training. The more you’re training yourself and the staff, the more efficient you will get at handling automated kitchen equipment and solutions. So, with adequate time spent in training and learning the different dynamics of advanced technology, you can manage and troubleshoot smart kitchen equipment better.
5.“I don’t have time for that”
Ironically, switching to automation will eventually free up a lot of man hours. As we move forward, investment in kitchen automation would become less optional and more essential. Make time to know about your distinct needs and requirements. Spend time and energy in figuring out what kind of smart kitchen you need, what kind of automated appliances you should buy, and how you can optimize your kitchen operations for higher performance. Kitchen efficacy is the need of the hour. Moving along, the next obvious step is to sufficiently spare time in learning to better manage your advanced equipment – how to use them efficiently and make the most of them.
6. “It’s not very safe”
This is one of the biggest misconceptions. If anything, kitchen automation enhances the security of the space, leading to fewer instances of accidents and better risk management. Good and updated appliances follow proper safety guidelines and provide effective signs on danger triggers. With robust features, they are usually unfailing at tasks and enable your staff with higher reliability. Moreover, better technical training of your staff further improves the safety of the operating environment, ensuring maximum protection of the people around.
7. “Nobody else is using it”
In recent times, the adoption of kitchen automaton among food business owners has actually seen significant growth. From McDonald’s and Zume Pizza to Shake Shack and Dunkin’ Donuts – they all have made big investments in automating different parts of their cooking and operations. Bbox Café at the University of California’s Berkley is another fine example. Bbox is the first robot café on the campus. The customers make orders through an app; the app alerts them how long it is before the order is ready to pick up. The robots that prepare and serve beverages even have names; one’s “Jarvis”. The fully-automated facility has eliminated the hefty cost of labor. So, comparatively, from juices and pastries to coffee and espresso drinks, everything here is priced much lower.
Many of them are using state-of-art appliances, robotics and cutting-edge facilities in preparing foods, handling operations, and managing customer experience. So, in reality, you just have to look at the right place to know how many businesses in food service industry are actually using automation and other smart technologies.
Kitchen Automation is the way forward
Investing in the advanced (and relevant) kitchen technology is the need of the hour for business owners to scale their operations, widen reach, and outdo competitors. It is basic evolution – adapt and experience. To achieve higher efficiency in your kitchen, maintain good quality in foods, and deliver customers the finest experience – we need to adopt a progressive approach. Strideforward confidently towards the smart and automated kitchen and experience a whole new world of possibilities.