In the food industry, where margins are slim, automation continues to make inroads in efforts to increase competitiveness through improved efficiency, productivity, and cost savings. Like other industries, the restaurants industry has been slow to adopt automation. But as wages remain stagnant, the effort to provide the same food without raising prices keeps food entrepreneurs hopping.
Automation is one of the top food restaurants trends for 2020, as reported by Food Engineering Magazine. In a recent poll, 22% of those responding reported installing automation systems. The benefits of automation in the food industry illustrate the reasons why food entrepreneurs see upgrading their systems as such an important way to increase competitiveness.
Automation can be found in every segment of commercial kitchen starting from cloud kitchen, QSRs, restaurants, catering companies and so on so forth.
Fast food restaurants leverage automation to create efficiency and improve productivity for everything from flipping hamburgers to frying chicken. Older automation merely helped workers by alerting them for cook times and temperatures. Improvements in robotics and sensors have made it possible to use machinery to take over more of the manual labor.
Innovations like Misty can combine several appliances like a convection oven, steamer, microwave and grill. Smart ovens can even have cameras inside for monitoring food as well as remote activation and even automatic temperature setting based on what’s placed inside of it.
Instead of sitting at the line, chefs stay in a control room to ensure everything continues to flow smoothly, make modifications in processes, and troubleshoot problems.
Even FMCG are getting into the game, using automated cooked food vending machine and expanding into new genre altogether.
As you know, quality is of incredible importance in the industry. You don’t want faulty or contaminated foods being served to the consumers because it can be detrimental. Food must always remain traceable and safe, and it’s difficult to guarantee a system that has so many working cogs.
Automation means precision, which improves and maintains standard operating processes. Decreasing and eliminating any sensory judgement is a huge cost saver. Profit margins are small. Improved productivity and efficiency stretch those margins a little further.
The costs of running a restaurant can be categorized as one-time fixed expenses and recurring expenses. Salaries fall into the latter category while infrastructure costs are a one-time expense and are easier to recover. Thus, each staff member has a recurring cost associated. On the other hand, the cost of installing a machine to take over simple tasks is a one-time expense.
Automating tasks in your kitchen doesn’t just reduce the skill levels required from your staff but also reduces the number of people required in your kitchen. Depending on the size of a restaurant, kitchens can employ as many as 10-14 people. This number can be reduced by ringing in machines to automate tasks.
For example, at Spyce, hot water jet streams clean woks after a dish is cooked. Thus, the need for a person who manually washes the dishes is no longer present.
The faster a restaurant can serve orders, the more people it can serve and the higher its profits. Machines can do things much faster than humans, thus, allowing restaurants to serve people faster and serve more people.
Spyce, a Boston based restaurant has already experienced the benefits of automation. The restaurant offers a variety of healthy salad bowls. They introduced a robotic assembly line in place of line chefs to complete their orders. With this change, they were able to bring the time taken to make a salad bowl down to a mere 3 minutes.
That’s not all, Spyce was also able to transfer part of its savings to its customers. They were able to sell their salad bowls at prices starting from $7.50. This is much cheaper than salad bowls sold at other restaurants.
It is believed that the employee turnover rate in the restaurant industry is among the highest. In some cases, it can reach as high as 80%. Every time you need to hire a new employee for your kitchen, a considerable number of resources needs to be spent on finding the right person and then training them. If the person leaves within a few weeks, all of those resources go to waste.
Technology has, again and again, proved itself the solution for food entrepreneurs who want to compete on a larger level. In this case, access to food automation technology might be just what entrepreneurs need to level up the game.
Automation in the food industry increases competitiveness by eliminating errors and waste, improving efficiency and productivity, and expanding profit margins. Cost savings can be diverted to R&D and other business improvements. Businesses can keep up with regulatory changes with less effort, decrease labor costs, and eliminate injury. When the kitchen sends out an undercooked dish or something that hasn’t been flavored properly, customers may send the dish back and ask for a do-over or a refund. This reduces the restaurant’s profit margin and eats into their operative costs.
However, the chances of this occurring for food cooked by robots are considerably lower. This is because the cooking is controlled by sensors. Hence, there is no worry about dishes being sent back to the kitchen and each order can be profitable.
Automation in restaurants should not be feared but embraced as a way to be more efficient and make more profits.