6 Ways Technology Could Change The Catering Industry
Catering is a ‘people-focused’ industry, driven by social engagement, interaction, and great customer service. Perhaps it’s for this reason that many are surprised technology is playing a progressively greater role over time.
Technology may initially seem the antithesis of the personal human touch, but catering companies are starting to demonstrate how the two can go hand-in-hand. Since the start of 2020 and the new decade, there have been a number of technological innovations in catering.
Below, we take a look at six of the exciting ways that technology could enhance and change the catering industry over the coming years.
1) Customer Service
There is no substitute for personal interaction, but in catering, technology is helping to bring people together. It is serving as a way to connect clients and customers, and to enhance service in unexpected ways.
Technology can help ensure a faster and more efficient service, such as with electronic menus that can communicate directly with the kitchen staff, or take orders through a touchscreen or drive through. Plus, if you have event spaces or meeting rooms in your venue that are available for hire, you could significantly improve your processes by using a conference room management software solution to assist customers with their bookings.
Two areas that have been identified as key in providing great customer service are smoothness and speed of service, and ease of communication. Technology can help to improve both, and is expected to drive significant innovation in the next few years.
Customers are arguably expecting a greater range of choice than ever before. Allergens may dictate what people can eat, while other factors which are exerting a similar influence include plant-based or vegan lifestyles, and dietary choices such as consuming mainly paleo, keto, or low-GI consistent foods.
It is also widely acknowledged that customers across a range of industries have become accustomed to a high level of personalisation, meaning that they often expect to be able to add or remove extras such as sides and sauces.
Technology is expected to streamline some of these choices, offering them on touch screens before being seated, for example, or on digital menus that order directly to the kitchen. It is also thought that technology may allow for recommendations tailored to each individual customer.
Whether with touch screens, drive through speakers, or even virtual waiting staff, technology is expected to make the catering selection process smoother, sleeker, and more varied than ever.
Electronic innovations may mean that many catering preparation processes can be handled by automated machines and even robots in the future. Cafe X in the United States, for example, already makes use of robot baristas, and a robot pizzeria restaurant is also in the works.
Even if we are a long way off robot waiters, waitresses, and chefs, kitchen machinery is expected to become more intuitive and automated in the coming years.
Catering equipment maintenance can be a significant drain on business resources, including time and money. Self-maintaining equipment is already being tested and is expected to become more commonplace within the next few years.
Units are anticipated to be able to identify and diagnose their own electronic faults, and even take steps to solve them, such as shutting down or electronically ordering the part that they need. It will not be without it’s early teething problems, but could be a great innovation for the industry.
Food delivery apps and services have experienced phenomenal growth and success in the last decade. Apps like JustEat, Deliveroo, and UberEats cater to hundreds of millions of orders every year, with JustEat sending out 170 million orders over the last 12 months alone.
Technology is expected to affect catering deliveries not just through platforms such as new and established apps, but also with physical technology, like the use of drones and self-driving vehicles.
Customers should soon prepare themselves themselves for their order showing up without a human having been in the loop at all! It is hoped that this could cut costs, potentially reduce congestion in urban areas especially, and speed up the delivery process.
Technology is also expected to play a significant role in training the next generation of catering professionals.
Whether through online courses taken while at home, virtual reality, certification, or training in the use of the technology itself, teaching can often be best served by technology, where it can reach the widest number of people.
Technology used for educational purposes is expected to be a vital innovation for the catering industry. Training new catering professionals how to use the latest technologies, will help to harness the potential of technology to improve the customer experience in the near future.