Robots & Restaurants: Your Future on a Plate

Posted on 13/10/2017 · Posted in Food and Drink

This month, Shake Shack announced that they are starting to implement an employee-free ordering system in their Manhattan store. This is not the first place to have done something similar, numerous McDonald stores have made movements in this area, allowing people to pay and order without having to speak to an employee.

Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti commented to Eater.com: “We’re excited to lead with kiosk-only ordering, putting control of the Shake Shack experience in our guest’s hands, and an optimized kitchen with increased capacity for mobile orders and eventual delivery integration to support ongoing digital innovation.”

Such systems work well in ‘fast food’ establishments where ordering and paying quickly is crucial and queues are not uncommon. But it is not just fast food chains that are embracing technology. Restaurants such as Jamie’s Italian have introduced an app allowing customers to order and pay without a waiter.  Six Storeys, Soho also has an app involving a number of different ways for you to order food and drink without speaking to employees — or even leaving your desk.

Whilst this can sound wonderful for those times when you’re in a rush (or simply feeling anti-social!)  – no queues, no trying to catch a waiter’s eye and no fuss – doesn’t it take away from the overall experience when visiting a restaurant?

The culture surrounding hospitality has always been centred on interaction with customers – the personal experience. Machines can help a place run smoother, more efficiently, but it would be a sad day when it tries to replace everything else. Shake Shack seems to have applied this model with ‘hospitality champs’ (yes, real humans) who greet people and help with order placement.

Because let’s face it, it’s not all about the food and drink. Some restaurants are favourites because of the charming staff: the waitress who takes time to chat to you when your date is late, the chef who bends-over-backwards to accommodate your food intolerances with a personalised dish, the waiter who is helpful when your child is being fussy or screaming and gives you spot-on advice about what to order. It is all of these thoughtful, human things that make a dining experience special and inspire consumer loyalty.

And if we are honest, for all the cutting-edge technology, there will always be days when machines don’t work.