It’s food tech prediction week at The Spoon!
Each day we’ll publish five predictions for a specific area of the food tech universe, starting with restaurant tech.
The Ghost Kitchen Market Will See Growth in Hosted Models, Consolidation in Some Other Areas
The ghost kitchen and virtual restaurant markets were white-hot in 2021, with lots of venture funding pouring into a range of different concepts. However, one of the growing realizations about the ghost kitchen market is that while many of the offerings have had tech platform valuation multiples, a good number of them are facilities-based concepts that have cost economics closer to that of real estate business.
Because of this, I expect much of the action in 2022 will be in host kitchen concepts that leverage existing restaurant brands or create wholly new ones powered by social communities. The launch of TikTok Kitchen, powered by Virtual Dining Concepts’ and their host kitchen model, is one I’ll be watching closely to see if they can replicate the success they have with MrBeast Burger.
Finally, we can also expect to see some prominent players either exit or downscale their ambitions. Reef just announced they were closing one-third of their kitchens, likely in part due to the fallout from company’s continued health department certification problems. I expect we will see more of this in 2022.
Restaurants Will Deploy More AI, Automation & Cloud-Powered Labor to Offset Labor Challenges
Like many other restaurant chains, Checkers has struggled in recent years to find enough workers to cover the various shifts. Going forward, they won’t have to worry about that when it comes to manning the drive-thru as the company rolls out AI-powered voice bots to 267 of their restaurants.
This is only one example of how we’ll see restaurants embrace more technology to deal with what has become a permanent labor shortage in the restaurant space. Of course, automation and robotics will also be a part of the equation, but I think we’ll also see more restaurants find help through remote labor through platforms like Bite Ninja.
Restaurant Operators Will Jump Into Membership NFTs
Last week, we saw Gary Vaynerchuk and his team raise $14 million with the auction of membership tokens for their NFT restaurant set to open in the first half of 2023. With this success of Flyfish – and the rapidly rising prices of the the token in post-drop trading – I predict we’ll see lots of others try to use a similar template. Of course, many will fail, but I can see how NFTs could become a new way to finance restaurants in lieu of traditional financing for chefs with large followings.
Rethinking of Restaurant Concepts To Serve Off-Premise Driven Demand
The idea behind PizzaHQ is fairly simple: Utilize centralized kitchens powered by automation to feed a market where the vast majority of customers never expect to come into your restaurant. As off-premise continues to grow and real estate prices continue to rise, we can expect more new restaurant concepts that embrace different elements of dark kitchens, automation, contactless pickup, and more.
Digitizing of the Back of House
Restaurant kitchen operations can be messy and low-tech, but that is beginning to change as new digital platforms are enabling operators to better optimize their business. A number of startups are combining IoT, AI and software to bring about greater efficiencies in all aspects of a restaurant’s operations, enabling them to create the type of just-in-time models for food production that has existed in traditional manufacturing and other industries for decades.
Companies like Powerhouse Dynamics and their IoT-powered resource monitoring have been at it for a while, and now companies like Perfect Company are doing real-time monitoring of a kitchen to optimize labor allocation, ingredient portion sizing and other aspects of a kitchen’s operations. Other companies like Orbisk are employing machine vision to better help restaurants monitor and reduce food waste, and Miso Robotics and Hyphen are creating providing software and automation to help employees become more efficient.
Bonus Prediction: Data-Powered Personalization
As more customers engage with restaurants through apps, QR codes, and other digital formats, restaurants better understand who their customers are and what they like. While we may be a few years away from the age of truly personalized menus, I expect we’ll see increased restaurants harness all of the data they are gathering from restaurants to create better incentive programs to ensure better customer return rates and satisfaction.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow to hear our five predictions on food robotics for 2022.