Is Automation A Viable Solution For Food Industry? 5 Factors Restaurants Can Explore

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The Indian foodservice industry has been making significant strides of growth over the past decade and integrating new technology every day to cater to food enthusiasts with quick, delicious, and juicy bites. The market value of Indian restaurants was recorded to be around INR 4 trillion as per last year’s report and is expected to see a high in the upcoming years. The growth of the sector, however, has not been without its share of hurdles. Until 2015-16, food outlets were localised; they were very geography oriented and did not expand much, primarily due to demand constraints. But around the same time, renowned aggregator platforms joined the ecosystem, which addressed the 3 major aspects of the order cycle, i.e., discovery, demand, and delivery.

Online Food Delivery Becomes Popular

During these chaotic times, amongst the widespread cases of COVID, food ordering saw a surge in demand. We witnessed food being ordered to houses and offices rather than the other way round. The scenario also translated into a huge concern around the supply of good food brands in the market, and thus every food outlet rushed in to fill the gap. Single outlet owners started expanding to multiple locations, while mid-sized retail owners with more chains were now looking at national expansion. Home-grown brands were some of the dynamic F&B businesses that benefitted from the early mover advantage of this new demand and expanded multiple times in a matter of a few years. The demand was such that delivery-only kitchens (cloud/ghost kitchens) flourished in metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore.

(Also Read: How Food Technology Helps With Food Wastage – Expert Reveals)

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Online ordering has become the next big thing.

Coming to present times, dine-in has been shut, and so is business. This is when the demand for delivery has begun to rise. The massive number of orders and reduced discounts has become the new normal and the value-conscious Indian customer has evolved into a convenience-focused consumer.

This said shift led to 3 substantial problems –

  • Huge demand, which brands had to fulfill across multiple geographies and hence scale fast
  • Focus on the consistency of food, move from a dine-in 5-star experience to a dine-out 5-star experience
  • Evolve cloud kitchen concepts and business models

The new-age food entrepreneurs who got a whiff of the problem started looking at technologies to solve these; the hallway had become an analytical problem-solving session, and like any other industry, looking towards technology to solve the problems.

  1. Solving for consistency- Kitchen level automation for cooking
  2. Solving for scale- Automation in order receiving, menu engineering,
  3. Solving for better operations- Kiosk ordering, supply chain management, digital menu. 

(Also Read: Robot Chef: Move Over Chef, Machines Are Taking Over The Kitchen)

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Since food businesses have begun to shift online, there are a number of other automations they can incorporate.

Here Are 5 Factors Restaurants Can Consider To Automate Their Business:

1. Centralised Dashboard To Help Manage Online Presence

The rise of cloud kitchens is of utmost importance to delivery aggregators. While it’s crucial to have your presence on all of it and leave no stone unturned to get a customer, juggling between this dashboard adds to unwanted chaos for your staff. The centralised dashboard not only gives ease of business but a stronghold with a comprehensive view of your online business. Automation in the industry is helping the sector to stay competitive regardless of the crisis.

2. Food-Ordering Kiosks

Large-scale brands opted for technology like ordering kiosks at an early stage. However, Covid-19 compelled even medium and small size businesses to be open to such technologies. These kiosks allow customers to casually stroll to the restaurant, tap their orders in, and complete payment without any assistance from human employees.

(Also Read: Capture That! An App That Can Tell How Many Calories A Dish Has Just From Its Pictures)

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Food orders can be placed with the help of kiosks.

Such implementation reduces the order placing time and allocation of resources for the business. Also, it’s a lot quicker and more convenient to place an order and make payment for the customer.

3. Automation In The Cooking Process

Consistency in taste has always been the most crucial aspect for the food industry, especially nowadays where there is just a delivery-only model in place and brands in this business do not have the option of impressing their consumers with their extraordinary service or ambiance. Cooking automation allows you to cut the output time by a substantial amount while making sure the SOP and signature recipes are followed as a directive. These automated cooking machines make sure the food texture and quality are consistent and help in operational efficiency since the pilferage and wastage are minimal.

4. Fresh Food Vending Machines

Fresh food vending machines are projected to be the next enormous adoption in the food industry. Currently, we have only seen snacks, tea, coffee, etc, gain traction for vending machines as it is hard to bring out this technology on the streets as of today. However, the development and research in this field have offered a chance to bring about an extensive portfolio of dishes to these machines. With every daily transaction going digital, the environment is pretty cohesive for something like fresh food vending machines. Everyone uses UPI payment applications like Paytm and Google pay, so one can scan a QR code, pay the amount and collect the food.

(Also Read: The Robot Cookbook: Can A Supercomputer Write Recipes?)

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Vending machines can be used not just for packaged goods, but also fresh food.

5. Inventory Management Solutions

The food industry faces a lot of challenges as they have a massive customer base. Predicting exact inventory requirements is one of the major challenges and estimating the same is practically very difficult till you have proper data and analytics in place. This often results in wastage of food, which costs brands about 2% of their total revenue. Thus, inventory management software can help businesses by providing precise information on this aspect to help increase operational efficiencies and return of investment.

Challenges Ahead For Automation

Collaborative technology and robotic machines have already made their way to the Indian foodservice sector and are anticipated to engage intensely with the workforce in the industry to increase efficiency and help estimate the inventory requirements. Foodservice and hospitality businesses have started evaluating the processes that can be automated, and the ecosystem has become comparatively favourable. Still, one major challenge is that automation has infamously gained an impression of being an expensive affair. However, the truth is far away from this, as kitchen automation is meant to help smoothen the operations while reducing the cost, ensuring consistency of the food is maintained, and quick returns on investment within a short span of time.

About Author: Eshwar K Vikas is Co-Founder & CEO, Mukunda Foods.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. NDTV is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this article. All information is provided on an as-is basis. The information, facts or opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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