The growth of in-store technology at restaurants

Note from the editor

Before the pandemic, restaurants tapped in-store technology to reduce labor costs and create better marketing tools, but it wasn't as prevalent as off-premise solutions. That changed once the COVID-19 crisis hit. One in four foodservice retailers said their companies were early tech adopters at the end of 2020 compared to one in eight pre-pandemic, according to a Panasonic report. All of the respondents said the pandemic escalated urgency to adopt transformational technology. 

As dining rooms reopened following months-long closures, in-store technology has taken on a new purpose. Tabletop tech, such as tablets and QR codes, for example can allow guests to order and pay for their meals with little contact with their servers. Other operators are exploring high-tech air filtration and surface cleaning technologies to make diners more comfortable. 

It's not just the dining room that is getting a technology overhaul. Operators are adopting machine learning and predictive analytics to better understand their labor costs and improve scheduling. Smart technology in kitchens can alert managers if a freezer unit went out overnight. Robotics are also increasingly being used to work alongside employees at QSRs like White Castle and McDonald's.

This report covers key in-store innovations as restaurants continue to adapt, including:

  • How restaurants are leveraging contactless payment solutions at the table
  • Why many operators plan to deploy automation technology in the next few years
  • Increased adoption of digital menus and "transformational" tech during the pandemic
  • Why the cooking robotics segment is expected to be worth $322 million by 2028
  • Why QSR customers are preferring to interact with staff instead of technology

These are just a few of the ways restaurants are bringing technology into their stores. We hope you enjoy this deep dive on how technology is changing restaurant dining rooms and kitchens. 

Julie Littman Reporter

How restaurants are bringing tech to the table in 2021

Much of the industry's in-store tech investments have gone toward contactless payment solutions or tableside, but operators are also experimenting with cutting-edge air filtration.

• Published Jan. 28, 2021

88% of restaurants considering swapping to digital menus, survey says

Seventy-six percent of operators plan to continue offering contactless payment options this year as well, Square's Future of Restaurants 2021 report shows.

• Published Feb. 24, 2021

It's not just for drive-thrus: How AI can transform back of house

With heavy hitters like McDonald's and Yum Brands pushing forward with this cutting-edge technology, all restaurants should consider the impact it will have on behind-the-scenes operations.

• Published Oct. 16, 2019

Pandemic increased urgency to adopt 'transformational' tech, survey finds

One in four food services and food retailers believe they are an early adopter of technology compared to one in eight in 2019, according to Panasonic research published in December.

• Published Dec. 16, 2020

The cooking robotics space expected to be a $322M business by 2028, study says

The fast food industry is expected to see a 17% per year growth rate through 2028, the highest of any sector, according to Research Nester.

• Published Nov. 5, 2020

Study: QSR diners prefer engaging with staff over technology

Only 18% of consumers think that deploying labor-saving technology is one of the top three things restaurants can do to improve service, Big Red Rooster research finds.

• Published Aug. 31, 2021

Report: 50% of operators plan to deploy automation tech in 2 to 3 years

• Published Oct. 15, 2021

How technology is changing the diner experience

As dining rooms reopen following month-long closures, in-store technology has taken on a new purpose. From tablets and QR codes to predictive analytics and smart technology, restaurants are adopting transformational technology at a record fast pace.

included in this trendline
  • How artificial intelligence is transforming the back-of-house experience
  • Why the cooking robotics segment is expected to be worth $322 million by 2028
  • 88% of restaurants considering swapping to digital menus, survey says
Our Trendlines go deep on the biggest trends. These special reports, produced by our team of award-winning journalists, help business leaders understand how their industries are changing.
Davide Savenije Editor-in-Chief at Industry Dive.