The future of the food industry involves a major technology transformation with a variety of players delivering a new kind of experience to consumers
The food industry, especially fast foods and restaurants are poised for a major technology transformation that ranges from robotic services to electronic tongue that transmits taste across the Internet. Researchers at IBM Research have developed HyperTaste, a tool for chemical taste sensing. It acts as an “electronic tongue” – a sensor that analyses the chemical composition of liquids. McDonalds has forayed into the metaverse this year, to deliver a new kind of experience to its consumers. Ericsson’s R&D is already working on 6G that will usher the Internet of Senses that promises to engage the sense of touch and smell through the Internet.
The future of fast food involves a variety of players, such as global quick service restaurant (QSR chains) moving the industry forward (McDonald’s, Chipotle), tech leaders providing digital services (Google, Meta), and robotics manufacturers pairing software and hardware to automate operations (Hyundai, Nuro). Through strategic relationships, these companies will work together to create the future of fast food that expands beyond the boundaries of the brick-and-mortar restaurant. Beyond these players, companies throughout the restaurant and food service industry will be impacted by the future of fast food. Examples include food suppliers (Tyson Foods, JBS) and food service companies (Sodexo, Compass), as well as last-mile delivery companies (DoorDash, Deliveroo).
Social media listening and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies will radically transform the industry. A CD Insights report writes that the future, restaurants will be able to create and test new menu items in a faster, less wasteful, and more cost-efficient way. Combining AI tongues and social listening, restaurants can identify early trends as well as tweak recipes and menus to grow revenue.
AI to replicate how humans perceive taste
AI tongues and social listening are separate technologies that can work together to speed up R&D. AI tongues use sensors and artificial intelligence to replicate how humans will perceive a taste – allowing for rapid taste tests without relying on human subjects. Social listening technology taps into consumer sentiment conveyed in social media posts, online reviews, and other forms of digital content to generate actionable insights about what new ingredients, flavours, or habits might be gaining popularity.
By combining these solutions, restaurants can predict what new items will gain traction with consumers and hone recipes and flavours that are likely to appeal to a broad variety of tastes. Detecting these new consumer habits early on can also help restaurants adapt other considerations beyond taste, including opening hours, layout, and category offerings.
Rising costs of supplies, labour, and rent have put a squeeze on the restaurant industry’s already slim profit margins. To succeed in this challenging macroeconomic environment, investing in tech solutions that can boost profit margins, increase loyalty, and maximise productivity is more important than ever. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted diners’ habits: today, upwards of 80% of fast food is estimated to be consumed off-premises via drive-thru or delivery.
The Metaverse a digital channel for restaurants
This signals how the fast-food industry is changing and poses an opportunity for players to rethink how brick-and-mortar locations are being optimized to address consumer demand. In 2030, the metaverse will be a new digital channel for restaurants to offer engaging, interactive experiences that boost brand awareness and customer experience. In the metaverse, customers can step into a virtual restaurant to browse menus, meet friends, and even order real food that will then be delivered to their door.restaurants will be able to build virtual experiences, offer exclusive menu items or digital merchandise, and host virtual events for customers.
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