Need to Optimize Your Restaurant Operations? Robotics and AI Can Help

Apr 24, 2022

The last two years have taken a toll on the restaurant industry. Operators have been forced to find ways to improve their operations, overcoming obstacles and challenges from the pandemic. We’ve heard the news about labor shortages that have impacted the ability to serve customers. According to recent data from the National Restaurant Association, four in five restaurants are understaffed.

Labor challenges, supply chain disruptions, and the continued growing demand for off-premise dining have brought robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to the forefront of many operators’ minds. Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic and associated challenges have accelerated this and forced operators to look at ways to automate and optimize their day-to-day business.

Recently, QSR Magazine shared an article about How Restaurants are Using Robotics and AI to Relieve Operations Headaches, highlighting ways robotics and AI can provide solutions to the problems restaurants face today. They share the example of Picnic, “a modular and configurable pizza assembly system…adopted by many restaurants to save time and money.”  The Picnic system can make up to 100 pizzas per hour with a single, unassisted operator.  Miso Robotics incorporates robots and AI in automating repetitive, back-of-house tasks, such as cleaning silverware and utensils. This technology helps provide impactful kitchen insights, aids in running more efficient kitchens, and frees up staff time.


robot tech


But beyond robots, what is artificial intelligence?  Simply, it is intelligence that didn’t happen naturally, but rather by a human to allow a computer to mimic human behavior.  Siri and Alexa are good examples of AI. They can answer questions when asked; however, they don’t get to know their users over time or learn the wants or anticipate the needs of their users. Machine learning takes AI up a notch.  This technology allows computers to take in information and use complex algorithms to learn from it to make predictions about events or human behavior based on historical patterns. Netflix and Spotify use machine learning to identify your likes over time and suggest new content you might enjoy.

So what are some of the benefits of using AI in an independent restaurant? Our friends at Pop Menu highlight several common uses of AI to optimize your restaurant operations.



  • AI Phone Answering – technology that can take messages, make reservations, guests to a waitlist, or even answer commonly asked questions, freeing up your staff to provide on-premise service and avoid missed calls.
  • Voice Ordering – Guests can use their smart devices to place restaurant orders on the go. This same technology can be implemented at self-service kiosks or drive-thrus, allowing guests to place orders verbally, without touching anything.
  • Self-Serve Options – this includes customizing menu items utilizing a kiosk, allowing the splitting of the check, and paying from tableside tablets or even their device.
  • Kiosks that Personalize Customer Experiences – KFC is experimenting with kiosks with facial recognition technology that can recognize repeat visitors and tailor their experience based on their past orders and preference. Commonly collected guest data from online orders and digital marketing can be used to provide personalized service, such as dish recommendations.


  • Integrated Inventory and Purchasing with your point of sale (POS) systems. AI-enabled software can track historical inventory and purchasing data and recommend quantities to order based on that data. It ensures you have enough inventory on hand and helps cut down on food waste.
  • Smarter Staffing and Scheduling – AI-enabled software tracks staffing and sales data to determine trends or patterns in busy and slow times. This data helps to schedule staff appropriately for the expected traffic and sales during each shift.
  • Optimized Delivery Processes – AI can help delivery drivers find the best and fastest routes for multiple deliveries, using map data to avoid traffic and other potential delays. AI can also keep customers aware of their order status by following along on a map or sending text notifications.
  • Data-based Insights and Predictions – McDonald’s started using predictive AI technologies in drive-thru orders. By looking at the data of what customers ordered and when they were able to anticipate busy periods and could predict popular item orders.  Stores using this technology reduced their wait times by 30 seconds on average.
  • Automated Marketing and Remarketing – many AI tools are available that use automation to send out marketing emails, social media posts, and targeted ads. AI marketing can also retarget recent guests, encouraging them to return for a visit.


AI technology in the restaurant industry will arguably be critical in moving the industry forward.  However, customers will expect some human interaction when dining – so it will be essential to find a balance between technology and human connections. While it may seem intimidating, AI technology is here to stay.