Restaurant Technology Trends

In the past decade, the number of restaurant technologies available to owners has skyrocketed; things we didn’t even have words for a few years ago have now become the norm. With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, types of restaurant technology that assist with online ordering and contactless delivery, pick up, and in-person ordering are not just nice-to-haves anymore – they’re an essential part of generating revenue.

6 Restaurant Technology Trends for 2020

1. Ghost kitchens and an online ordering boom

Professional team. Cheerful young cooks preparing food together in a restaurant kitchen

With 60% of US diners ordering takeout or delivery at least once a week and 31% using online ordering or a mobile app, it’s no wonder that ghost kitchens have continued to pop up. Ghost kitchens—also known as dark kitchens, virtual kitchens, cloud kitchens, or headless restaurants—don’t have a storefront or seating for dine-in customers or takeout orders. They simply exist to fulfill online orders for delivery through a third-party service, and sometimes a single ghost kitchen can contain multiple “restaurants” in one. Additionally, a brick-and-mortar operation could run a second concept as a ghost restaurant out of their existing kitchen space.

Ghost restaurant concepts are going to continue to create more competition for your business. It’s not enough just to have great food and atmosphere if you want to keep up—an online ordering option is essential. 

2. Self-service kiosks

LA VILLE-AUX-DAMES, FRANCE - AUGUST 12, 2015: McDonald's restaurant interior. McDonald's is the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, founded in the United States.

Already employed in several major chains, expect to see more self-serve kiosks pop up in 2020. By reducing wait-time, and increasing the speed in which customers move through the line and through their meals, this restaurant technology trend will make fast food faster, ordering more precise, and leave customers more satisfied. Order customization, one area where human error still plays a role even on automated systems, so that will become less of a problem with self-ordering. (As an added bonus, people tend to spend more money when using a self-serve kiosk.)

More importantly, this new technology allows more staff to spend time in food preparation and delivery, and less time voiding mistyped orders. Plus, it’s an answer to a common problem most restaurateurs face: a major staffing shortage in the industry that’s only predicted to get worse

3. Voice assistant technology 

restaurant technology voice search

Quick service restaurants are starting to take cues from Alexa and Siri by implementing voice recognition software for ordering. While this trend is still in preliminary stages (it’s currently being tested out at McDonald’s drive-thrus in certain locations) it’s a natural progression in the mobile and online ordering trends. Voice technology can also be implemented at self-serve kiosks and in mobile ordering apps, making them even more of an on-the-go experience. 

Most smartphone users are familiar with the frustration of voice assistant technologies, so this has a long way to go before it becomes the norm, but it’s promising. Voice assistants will be especially helpful in ordering endlessly customizable foods like pizza, sandwiches, and burrito or poke bowls. Instead of having to scroll through and check off every add-in and customization, users will be able to pick up their phone and simply ask for a “large Italian sub on wheat bread, no cheese, extra peppers, add pickles.”

For more industry trends, download the Upserve State of the Restaurant Industry Report.

4. Biometrics payment technology

restaurant technology biometrics payments

We already use our fingerprints and faces to unlock our phones, why not use them for payments as well? While this is another restaurant technology trend that has a way to go, especially due to security concerns, it is already being tested in certain venues, like at Safeco Field in Seattle

But payments processing isn’t the only place biometrics will come into play in the restaurant industry; there are a number of BOH and restaurant management applications for it as well. Biometrics technology can be used for having employees clock in (preventing others from clocking in for them ahead of time), controlling who has access to computers or cash registers, and more.

5. Robot chefs and servers


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While it’s hard to say if a robot could ever replace a human chef, the concept has been gaining traction lately and it’s interesting to think about what mundane tasks a robot in the kitchen could take on, freeing up chefs and cooks for more creative or complex pursuits. Even if a fully-automated restaurant kitchen or 3D printed food ever does become the norm, robots are only able to perform the exact tasks programmed into them by humans, meaning we’ll never fully eliminate the need for a professional human chef.

As for FOH, using robotics and automation has become a hot topic among restaurant industry insiders and consumers alike, many of whom worry they’ll contribute to unemployment rates. Some companies, like Bear Technologies, are hoping their products can assist servers rather than take over their jobs. “Our goal is to automate the hard part of [restaurant] work, so employees focus more on customer service,” says John Ha, Bear Technologies’ co-founder and a restaurant owner himself.

6. Cloud-based POS systems

Cloud-based restaurant POS

Cloud-based restaurant POS systems are becoming increasingly popular versus old school legacy systems. Not only are cloud-based systems easier to install (no hard wiring!), the hardware is less expensive, and software upgrades are free and can be done remotely, saving restaurateurs thousands of dollars in start-up and maintenance costs. In addition to the savings, cloud-based POS systems just work better. The technology is newer, reporting is more robust, and many are equipped with an online mode that keeps the system running even during an internet outage. 

Arguably the most valuable restaurant technology tied to a cloud-based POS system is the ability to track sales, server performance, menu trends, and more. Armed with data that can help you make better decisions when it comes to menu planning, staffing, and sales will give you a leg up on competitors who are still lagging behind with a legacy system.

If you want to learn more about how a cloud-based POS system can help your restaurant, fill out the form below!

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The state of the restaurant industry is ever-evolving, but nothing could have prepared restaurant owners and operators for 2020. Download our State of the Restaurant Industry Report for 2020 menu, sales, and holiday trends, plus stories from restaurant owners who managed to grow sales despite the pandemic.

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Written by   |  
Stephanie is a Providence, RI native and eight-year food industry veteran. As Upserve's Content Marketing Coordinator she creates materials that help restaurateurs, managers, and service professionals succeed. When she's not writing, Stephanie is most likely traveling, cooking, or trying new restaurants.
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