Technology has come to the restaurant industry. From artificially intelligent ordering kiosks to on-demand food delivery service, people are getting their restaurant food in new and unique ways. By all indications, the industry’s adoption of technology is not likely to slow down. That leads to an uncomfortable question: will the traditional restaurant soon be unrecognizable?
Restaurant dining was built on the concept of going out with family and friends to enjoy a good meal at a comfortable table. It was as much a social experience as it was nutritional. As such, restaurant owners and corporate chains alike have long put tremendous resources into creating the right ambiance. Now it seems like all of that is fading away.
In Pursuit of Corporate Profits
So, what is behind the push to bring technology to the restaurant sector? You could make the case that it is the pursuit of corporate profits. In a corporate environment, just making a profit is not enough. Revenues, profits, and margins all have to increase, each and every quarter, to keep stock prices growing. You can never stop looking for new ways to make money.
Unfortunately, there is only so much room for growth. When you hit the ceiling, you need to find ways to reduce costs to make up for what you cannot gain through growth. This is where technology comes into play. Almost all the new technologies being embraced by corporate restaurants are designed to do one thing: reduce labor costs.
Locally owned restaurants are less likely to embrace technology because they are not chasing shareholders. As long as ownership is making enough money to pay its bills and put a little money in the bank, all is well. How long such restaurants will continue to survive is anyone’s guess.
Eating Rather Than Dining
Corporate America has had another profound impact on the restaurant industry in that they have helped to facilitate a transition from dining to eating. Where dining is a social experience, eating is one of mere biology. And unfortunately, technology is turning the whole thing into a biological experience.
Think about your own dining experiences. How often have you found yourself more than frustrated because it was taking too long for your food to get to your table? In America, we want everything now. We expect fast food to be delivered in under 5 minutes. We expect fast casual in under 15. Few of us have the patience to dine at a formal restaurant where it could take 30 minutes or longer to be served.
The desire for wanting things now is partly behind the motivation for opening the Taqueria27 Mexican restaurant in Salt Lake City. According to its owners, one of the main priorities of Taqueria27 is to provide a welcoming atmosphere that encourages friends and families to sit down, linger, and enjoy the dining experience.
Another thing Taqueria27’s owners wanted to do was find neighborhood locations that encourage people to walk from their homes to the restaurants. Taqueria27 ownership does not want customers to have to drive clear across town for great Mexican food in a welcoming environment. So they are slowly opening neighborhood restaurants as their reach expands.
An Impersonal Dining Experience
There is no arguing that technology has afforded us plenty of great opportunities in recent years. Indeed, technology is not a bad thing in and of itself. However, it tends to create a less personal experience no matter what it touches. That is certainly true in the restaurant industry. Restaurant dining is slowly becoming more impersonal. Could it be that the traditional restaurant will soon be unrecognizable?