AI on the Menu: Using AI for Restaurant Operations

To streamline back-office and kitchen operations, many restaurants are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) technologies

Oct 11, 2023 - 12:13
AI on the Menu: Using AI for Restaurant Operations

While customers may not see what takes place behind the scenes, they certainly experience the result. When it comes to success, the priority for staff is speed and efficiency without sacrificing quality. From managing inventory to ensuring quick, consistent food preparation, restaurant operations play a crucial role in delivering a dining experience that draws repeat business. AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines, which are programmed to think and learn like humans.  

Its applications in the restaurant industry are far ranging and can greatly enhance the efficiency and productivity of operations. By automating repetitive or time-consuming tasks, analyzing data to predict future business, identifying upcoming tasks, and providing real-time business insights, AI can free restaurant staff to focus on more strategic and impactful activities, the ones that are customer-facing. 

Inventory management
AI can help automate inventory tracking, monitoring supply, predicting demand, and generating purchase orders.  

By analyzing historical data and considering various factors such as seasonality and customer preferences, AI systems can optimize inventory levels, minimize waste, and ensure that the right ingredients are always available. For example, an AI-powered system can automatically generate a purchase order for tomatoes when the inventory level drops below a certain threshold, saving time and reducing the risk of running out. It can also help with quality control by monitoring freshness based on date and setting use-by reminders.  

Food prep 
AI can assist in the kitchen by automating recipe scaling, monitoring and recording food temperatures, and running robotic food prep. By using computer vision and machine learning algorithms, AI systems can accurately measure and adjust ingredient quantities, monitor dish assembly and presentation, and ensure consistent quality. For example, an AI-powered system can use cameras to analyze if there’s enough supply on the makeline based on the number of customers in line, predicting instead of reacting to demand. It can walk kitchen staff through proper dish assembly too, as they build burgers or salads or plate entrees. 

Staff scheduling and management 
AI can help optimize staff schedules by analyzing historical data, predicting customer demand, and tracking employee availability and skill sets. By automating this process, AI systems can ensure that the right number of staff members with the right skills are scheduled for each shift, minimizing labor costs and maximizing productivity. For example, an AI-powered system can predict a surge in customer demand during weekends and automatically adjust the staff schedule accordingly, ensuring that the kitchen is adequately staffed. 

Internal AI assistants can also provide support to staff when management has to focus on customer needs out front. These assistants can provide reminders to staff about certain tasks throughout their shifts or they can answer questions on a range of topics as they arise. For example, a new employee can use the AI assistant to clarify the difference between two menu options or remind them of the steps for plating a particular item.  

Other aspects of AI to explore: 
While inventory management, food preparation, and staff management are key areas where AI can make a significant impact, other aspects of operations that can benefit from AI technologies as well. It can be used to analyze customer feedback and sentiment analysis to improve menu offerings and customer satisfaction. AI can help predict and remind staffers about equipment maintenance needs, reducing downtime, and extending equipment life. Additionally, AI-powered chatbots can assist in handling customer inquiries and reservations, freeing up staff to focus on more personalized interactions. 
As the restaurant industry continues to evolve, embracing AI can give establishments a competitive edge in delivering exceptional dining experiences.  

Next up, explore how AI is transforming the corporate/enterprise office for restaurant groups. From analyzing financial data to optimizing marketing campaigns, AI technologies are reshaping the way restaurant organizations operate at a strategic level. Discover how AI can help restaurant groups make data-driven decisions to drive business growth.