It’s not just consumer-facing technology changing the modus operandi of the restaurant industry; suppliers are rolling out a range of new equipment that uses digital, app-based and other technologies to improve operations.
Companies at the NAFEM Show—a trade show taking place this week in Orlando where foodservice equipment manufacturers tout their latest and greatest for operators and buyers—are trying to turn attention to new pieces that incorporate tech as a way to make equipment smarter, adding an element of automation and eliminating some of the guesswork currently placed on both management and staff.
1. Serving up data
With more digital displays, touchscreens and other in-equipment mini-computers, restaurant tools are making for smarter operation. New beverage machines, dessert machines, fry-oil management equipment and more can help restaurant operators better understand how supplies are being used, and notify them electronically when supplies are running low. At the same time, suppliers are promising more insight into what each restaurant’s customers are actually buying, making for smarter long-term ordering.
Another perk: Operators with these tools will be able to track specific usage in real time and get alerts via an app, letting them know what employees are doing when they are not on the premises.
2. Cleaner and safer equipment
Many new and revamped offerings on the showroom floor are designed to make the restaurant safer for employees. No more toting vats of warm fryer oil or old-fashioned coffee machines that have the potential to leak the final few drips of scalding liquid onto an employee’s hand. Suppliers are delivering ways to eliminate these safety issues.
In addition to preventing staff injuries, new designs feature ways to reduce some food safety liabilities. Operators can manage—even remotely via an app connected to their equipment—when food, drinks or other supplies need to be changed, as well as when equipment needs regular maintenance or repairs.
It’s not just kiosk ordering growing in popularity in restaurant equipment. With grab-and-go catching on, suppliers are suggesting through new equipment that operators move more tools to the front of the house, allowing customers to serve themselves beverages, snacks, desserts and more.
The high-tech element: Much of the consumer-facing equipment presented at NAFEM featured touchscreens, similar to the choose-your-own-soda-flavor machines from the big vendors. As consumers have grown more accustomed to self-serve touchscreens in the restaurant space and beyond, suppliers are incorporating that technology into new foodservice equipment.
Many also include a payment element where consumers insert credit cards, cutting down on some of the necessary counter interaction needed in certain types of small-space concepts.