In this special edition of its 5 Things series, Food Management highlights five recent technology-related developments affecting the foodservice world.
Here’s your list for today:
- Chipotle tests AI kitchen assistant to make its distinct tortilla chips
Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced its latest digital innovation, Chippy, an autonomous kitchen assistant customized by tech firm Miso Robotics that leverages artificial intelligence to replicate the chain's exact recipe to make tortilla chips, including a dusting of salt and finish with a hint of fresh lime juice. "We are always exploring opportunities to enhance our employee and guest experience," says Chief Technology Officer Curt Garner. "Our goal is to drive efficiencies through collaborative robotics that will enable Chipotle's crew members to focus on other tasks in the restaurant.
Read more: Chipotle Tests AI Kitchen Assistant, Chippy
- Major restaurant tech firm enters senior living market
Restaurant technology firm QSR Automations is expanding into the senior living market after entering a partnership with one of the nation's leading providers of senior care to leverage its ConnectSmart platform to help senior living communities maximize efficiency in both front-of-house and back-of-house operations. ConnectSmart also can aid in timing to-go and delivery orders so they arrive at their destination the proper temperature, while its automated packing checklists ensure dishes arrive with all utensils and condiments while eliminating waste.
To justify its move, QSR Automations cites a senior living industry staffing survey conducted by Sodexo in August 2021 that showed a third of senior living facilities have already invested in online and off-premise ordering capabilities and technologies to improve labor and resource productivity, and an additional third plan to make similar investments in the future.
Read more: QSR Automations Breaks into the Senior Living Sector
- Lehigh student develops delivery app for campus eateries
Going to and from his room to the dining halls coupled with his desire to get food delivered to his late-night three-hour lab inspired Lehigh University student Philip Ho and a group of fellow students to create the Donkee dining hall food delivery app, which uses Lehigh students to deliver food to their fellow students. The Beta program launched on Feb. 27 for the first 100 users, allowing them to order food from campus dining venues Hawk’s Nest and Upper Court for a flat $2.99 delivery fee, with expansion to other dining halls and even some off-campus restaurants depending on the success of the launch.
Read more: First year to launch Donkee, a dining hall delivery app
- Declining costs, labor shortages driving restaurant automation
As the cost of technology has come down, automation and robotics have become more affordable to smaller operators even as the cost pressures of a labor shortage drive them to find alternatives. “Restaurants have been notorious laggards when it comes to technology, and they’ve done this predominantly because they’ve had access to extremely low labor costs,” notes Sam Zietz, CEO of tech firm Grubbrr, which sells free-standing kiosks that can take in-store orders and integrate those with online orders and a point-of-sale system. According to a recent NRA report, seven in 10 restaurant operators said they currently don’t have enough employees to support customer demand, while in the most recent CNBC|SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, 17% of respondents in the accommodation and food services industries cited labor shortage as the biggest risk to their business.
Read more: Big food automation is making its way to Main Street’s menu
- Completely driverless ride service coming to San Francisco
Alphabet Inc's Waymo unit has announced that it is ready to remove safety drivers from its autonomous vehicles in San Francisco, though without elaborating on the timeframe for launching fully driverless services. The company had started giving autonomous rides free of charge to a limited number of people in San Francisco last August with safety drivers on board, The planned driverless operation would mark "a major step on our path to deploying a fully autonomous commercial service," Waymo co-CEO Tekedra Mawakana said in a blog posting.
Read more: Alphabet Unit Waymo Launching Driverless Vehicle Services in San Francisco
Bonus: At Virginia Tech's Viva Market, convenience comes built in
Contact Mike Buzalka at [email protected]