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As we’re fond of saying lately, last year’s pandemic-induced chaos accelerated the restaurant industry’s adoption of technology so much that about a decade’s worth of changes happened in the span of a couple months. Investor, restaurant tech guru, and friend of The Spoon Brita Rosenheim highlighted that point recently when she released her 2021 Restaurant Tech Ecosystem Map.
The map, while not exhaustive, includes a staggering number of companies across many areas of the restaurant business, from ordering and delivery tech to back-office tools, business intelligence, corporate catering and ghost kitchens. Even a casual glance shows just how enormous (or bloated, depending on your point of view) the restaurant tech sector has gotten over the last 18 months.
Brita has her own takeaways and predictions bundled with her map, and you should definitely read through them if you are interested in learning more about restaurant tech’s near-term trajectory. Here, I’ll add a few of my own thoughts to the mix, including:
Rise of the voice bot. This is one category that’s slowly but steadily grown a presence in the restaurant industry over the last few years. But excepting maybe Domino’s chatbot, widespread voice-tech implementations at restaurants are still rare, though that will likely change in the next couple of years. McDonald’s threw heat on this topic last month by announcing it is currently testing automated ordering via voice tech at 10 locations, and that it expects this technology to be in all of its locations within the next five years. Meanwhile, the current labor shortage has left restaurants scrambling to make their operations more efficient. If correctly executed, going fully autonomous with the order process could shave seconds off every individual customers’ order. And those seconds (and costs) add up fast.
The analytics opportunity. Marketing analytics for restaurants are another “it” category at the moment, if its slice of the restaurant tech pie above is any indication. In the words of Adam Brotman, CEO of Brightloom, online ordering tech has become “a commodity,” and that the next big frontier for restaurant tech is around analytics. When Brotman and I spoke a few months back, he explained that data — about customer preferences, transactions, order histories, etc. — is a huge opportunity for restaurants if they can figure out how to harness it. Seeing as that’s no small feat technically, a huge number of analytics and CRM companies have cropped up offering solutions to smaller businesses that can’t build these programs in-house. Expect more companies and much consolidation in this category.
Back-office bonanza. The sizable slice back-office tech gets in Brita’s market map reflects a trend we’ve written about before: that investment and interest in back-office tasks will continue to attract attention in the coming months. The back office was probably once the most “un-sexy” area of restaurant tech, since most of it has to do with digitizing invoices and schedules and helping businesses run payroll. One pandemic later, restaurants are trying to save on costs in as many areas as possible, and a surprisingly effective way to do that is through digitizing, centralizing, and streamlining some of these previously boring tasks. Like analytics, this category will see a wave of consolidation in the future, and in fact that is already happening.
As always, I welcome your thoughts on my thoughts, now and in the coming months as restaurant tech continues to evolve.
Local Kitchens Raises $25M for Its Virtual Food Hall Network – The ghost kitchen/virtual food hall, started by three ex-Doordash employees, has raised Series A funding roughly one year after launching.
Mobility Service Helbiz Opens Its First Ghost Kitchen – Italian-American mobility company Helbiz announced today it is launching its own ghost kitchen/food delivery/virtual restaurant business called Helbiz Kitchens.
Miso and Lancer Worldwide Aim to Automate Beverage Dispensing for QSRs – Miso announced a partnership with Lancer Worldwide, a global manufacturer of beverage dispensers, to develop an automated, intelligent system designed to speed up and organize drink orders.